Grit bolsters team performance, ABA report shows

Lawyers in general, and female lawyers in particular, place a high value on being part of high-performing teams and they say those experiences often play a big role in their future career choices, according to a new report called “Leveraging Grit and Growth Mindset to Drive Team Success” from the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession.

The report is an outgrowth of the Grit Project, a commission initiative launched in 2014 to educate female lawyers about the science behind the grit and growth mindset, two traits that successful female lawyers have in common.

The report expands the grit concept and explores how to create legal gritty “super teams,” defined as teams that collectively exhibit a desire to work hard, learn and improve; are resilient in the face of setbacks; and display a strong sense of priorities and purpose. 

These teams are most likely to produce top-notch results for clients while also improving morale and firm culture, said lead “Grit” researcher Milana L. Hogan, author of the report and chief talent officer for Sullivan & Cromwell. 

“We looked at teams that are thriving to try and find out what we can learn from them. And we know that most lawyers work on teams most of the time.”

After analyzing data collected from a diverse group of more than 500 lawyers through a survey, focus groups and interviews, the findings show:

• 97% of respondents agreed that when working on gritty teams, the quality of work produced was excellent.

• Almost three times the number of respondents say they had a “very positive” experience on a gritty team or growth mindset-oriented team.

• 65 % of male respondents and 71% of female respondents described positive team experiences as “extremely” or “very” influential contributing factors to overall job satisfaction.

The report also offers a detailed five-prong model that team leaders can use to promote a grit and growth-oriented mindset. Strategies include carefully matching the interests of individual team members to specific tasks, keeping the project goal “front and center” at all times and cultivating a “safe space” to facilitate converting mistakes into learning opportunities.

To view the report, visit