EXPERT WITNESS: (continued)


(continued) ...

As with smaller law firms, groups of four or five musicians remain a staple for various economic and other pragmatic reasons. Big Bands flourished throughout the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, and World War II. However, most of the survivors fragmented into smaller quartets and quintets. This fragmentation occurred during the affluent 1950s as their main audiences, composed of post-World War II Baby-Boomers, grew up. Often, this audience then married and moved to suburbia. Smaller nightclubs began to replace popular dance halls, such as the Savoy, the Palomar, and other major ballrooms of the preceding decades. In order to eke out a living, most groups reduced to a size that could squeeze comfortably onto small stages in the basement bars of Greenwich Village in New York City and Baker's Keyboard Lounge in Detroit, among other places where their denizens have gathered.

The era of the late 1960s and early 1970s rode upon the wave composed of post-World War II Boomers through the Golden Age of Rock. Along with the electric guitar, the sound de rigueur of the day was the Hammond B-3 organ. Although this instrument weighed 310 pounds, it was a reasonable load for four or five musicians to carry upward on three flights of stairs to a gig. (On a personal note: though gravity was on the side of my bandmates and me (Dr. Sase), the trek downward after midnight and after several kegs of beer remains a greater challenge.) As synthesizers and even more electronic instruments have emerged over Generations X, Y, and Z, groups of four or five musicians have remained fairly consistent for reasons of both musical sound and the same economics faced by quartets and quintets across the centuries.

For the exemplary group in our ongoing discussion, we will focus on the quintet. This model reflects the economic, organizational, and group dynamics of firms. The first issue that we will explore focuses on the group dynamics and power/authority structure within the group. There can be as many types of structures and dynamics as there are kinds of human beings. However, we will consider the two extreme models between which the spectrum extends.

A Circle of Fifths (Not a Drinking Game)

We can envision the group structure as a Wheel dominated by one authority. This person is the primary decision-maker at the top point, with the other four members positioned outward and below. Similar to the "face person" in a law firm, this central figure often starts as a "solopreneur" who composes or selects the music of the repertoire. S/he finds the gigs, does the promotion, and performs the music on his/her own. As with any business or profession, to emerge as a sole proprietor requires an above-average combination of self-starting; risk-taking; determination; perseverance; and a bull-headed, never-give-up, never-surrender attitude. When this solopreneur decides to expand, s/he tends to search for and draw in others who will accept and follow a pre-established vision. As many observers have noted over the decades, the Rolling Stones just would be a better-than-average blues band without Mick Jagger. However, it took the vision, presence, and charisma of Jagger to carry the Stones to their pinnacle in the duopoly of British Rock, which they share with the Beatles. (Some musical purists would add that the guitar skills and rock 'n' roll authenticity of Keith Richards have remained important to the success of the Stones.)

The structural form of a five-pointed star focuses decision-making on one central and multi-faceted individual. For example, Mick Jagger can sing, dance, and play harmonica and rhythm guitar. However, Jagger's disciplined background as a military brat and a student of Economics equipped him with other useful skills and knowledge. This Dominated-Quintet structure provides superiority of speed and efficiency in decision-making and other managerial functions. A focus on one superior talent may limit the group with respect to complex problem-solving. This structure, developed around a Type-A personality, tends to be more effective for solving simple problems rapidly. We observe this model in many bands as well as in law firms and other small-business organizations.

Traditionally, this centralized model characterizes a group with one "master" surrounded by very competent journeymen and apprentices. The Eighteenth-Century Scottish Economist Adam Smith considered a large company to be one with twenty-five persons: one master, a handful of journeymen, and the rest as apprentices. A current example of Smith's observation is the Rolling Stones, with Mick Jagger as "His Satanic Majesty."

As with most great artists in the fields of painting, sculpture, and writing, music masters have not done all of the work by themselves. However, their names live on because they took risks, got the commissions, and signed the finished work. This analogy carries over into law firms and most other forms of traditional professions, businesses, and trades.

In its pure form, all five members of the quintet have legal rights, economic responsibilities, shared risk, and decision-making authority as equal partners. In this regard, they constitute a band of solopreneurs, be they attorneys or musicians. Under the laws of a general partnership, members are treated as such unless formal exceptions appear in writing (often in the form of a Limited Liability Company or closely held corporation). Strength and balance exist in the number of members, each of whom brings their talents to the table. However, an inherent weakness also exists within this configuration. If one or more of these partners leave, are fired, or pass away, the structure ceases to exist. Comparable parties may replace these individuals. However, the partnership then becomes an entirely new entity-different musicians, a different sound. The Stones went through a similar experience after the firing and death of founding member Brian Jones and the departure of original bassist Bill Wyman, both of whom were replaced by musicians such as Mick Taylor and Ronnie Wood.

The second model of group structure and behavior that we will consider is the Decentralized Quintet. The communication, power, and decision-making flow among all five members, both separately and collectively. In the model of the Decentralized Quintet, communication flows equally throughout. In contrast to a dominated quintet, creative flows within this decentralized all-channel model have a rich complexity. The flows move back and forth in parity between any two members of the circle. In subgroups of three members, three channels flow, while within sets of four, six channels exist. Within a decentralized quintet of five members, ten interactive channels exist between members. Each of these ten channels flows between any two members of the group.

When such a unit functions in relative equilibrium, greater satisfaction occurs within the group experience. As a result, the members exist more cohesively than they would otherwise. Furthermore, because of the depth and scope of talent, knowledge, and skill brought together in parity, the interflow of communication, power, and decision-making lends greater accuracy to solving complex problems.

In the field of music, the Beatles probably functioned as a Decentralized All-Channel group to some degree. However, George Martin possessed much greater musical and industry knowledge than the four lads from Liverpool. As a skilled professional arranger/producer/engineer, he non-obtrusively exerted his power and control in a present but detached manner that did not dominate the creative process. Martin just added his touch and helped to shape the sound. On the other hand, when Yoko Ono made her presence known within the band, all Hell broke loose as the equilibrium of group dynamics tipped abruptly.

Group Dynamics, Rhythm, Pitch, and Harmony

The process of problem-solving and decision-making has been studied extensively for more than a century. This body of work remains particularly applicable to the decentralized all-channel group. Once we work within and understand the dynamics of a small group, we can explore challenges, make decisions, and implement the solutions more effectively. In this section, we will explore the ideas put forth and popularized by John Dewey, who was an American philosopher, educational reformer, and functional psychologist in the last quarter of the 19th Century and the first half of the 20th Century. Also, we will consider the work of B. Aubrey Fisher, a late 20th -Century American author and educator who is recognized as an authority on human communication and small-group decision-making.

Let us consider persons who know one another already. When they come together as a group in order to confront a problem or a challenge, they need to renew their communication. In doing so, they express attitudes with equanimity as they reduce the tensions that have developed since previous gatherings. Depending upon the general chemistry of the group and the frequency of meetings, this time of retrieval may vary. However, the objective is to regain a climate in which clear interpretation and agreement can occur as the group members open up with one another and peacefully form and express opinions. Once the atmosphere has calmed and stabilized, the group can move forward to identify the problem or challenge and to discuss it with the stated objective of discovering the reason for its existence.

Next, the group begins to analyze aspects of the problem/challenge as observed and felt from the given perspective of dynamics, rhythm, pitch, and degree of harmony that exists within the group. During this phase of group interaction, each member addresses the issues from his/her perspective as the group collectively allows an increasing and balanced participation within the mix. Without this level of consciousness, the group session can collapse into a useless, bland unison of agreement or into the domination by one or two of the members. The objective at this stage of the process is to reach a general level of consonance without eliminating a healthy element of dissonance.

This element of dissonance remains essential in the emergence of the spread and balance necessary to reach a workable group consensus. Furthermore, criteria may emerge organically or can be introduced in order to identify the goals of the final decision. Analogous to the process of editing and developing a final mix of a recorded musical performance, this emergent phase in the group process may take the longest length of time to develop. With a final goal laid out on the table, the group may take the resulting freedom to voice, to test, and to discuss many possible solutions and sub-solutions. Through this process of trial and error, the group can find and select one or many solutions as the criteria for achieving its final goal.

During this phase of the work session, the group notices their task and its arrangement as it works to find the form within the substance of its process. Though uncertainty may increase during the criteria-selection process, member responses quiet in favor of a compromise solution; after all, time is money. The group tends to reach a level of unanimity through this process of give and take. Toward an emergent harmony, the group transcends the factionality that existed earlier during a conflictive stage.

This lengthy period, in which one or a set of solutions are adapted and implemented as the final criteria, tends to dissolve into the final phase of mutual reinforcement. Throughout this phase, members seek to review their final decisions through the range of their respective viewpoints. More commonly today, a quintet in any field may take its final work to a Mastermind Group or other support system in order to elicit feedback, comments, and more objective input. These finalizing actions help the group to develop greater solidarity within, as further approval and accord reinforce the final decision.

“It’s Butter, Baby!”

In this episode, we have explored the dynamics of group size. We considered how communication, authority, and decision-making could be affected in terms of the economic maxim that time is money—a maxim most relevant to both music and law. In our next episode, we will explore the major functional areas that all small groups must organize and manage in order to remain viable economically. Therefore, we will delineate the responsibilities of a small group into those of Production, Transportation, Properties, Marketing, and Management and discuss the sub-functions in each area generally. As we will see, all of these areas relate to both music groups and law firms, especially when the members “play a gig” out of town. This delineation of tasks will form our outline for the ongoing discussion over successive

I (Dr. Sase) have known several trial attorneys who are or have been working musicians at some stage of their lives. The greater takeaway of this series may be in the edification of those who have created small practices, have considered building a small practice, or have clients with small professional practices or businesses. To all of our audience, we say, “Rock on!”

Our Seasonal Wish

We hope that this discussion of human ideals edifies our readers and provides a valuable resource for the end of this year and the beginning of the next. We thank the staff of the Legal News for hosting this column for twenty-one years. Finally, we wish joyful holidays as well as a healthy and prosperous New Year to our readership.
Dr. John F. Sase teaches Economics at Wayne State University and has practiced Forensic and Investigative Economics for twenty years. He earned a combined M.A. in Economics and an MBA at the University of Detroit, followed by a Ph.D. in Economics from Wayne State University. He is a graduate of the University of Detroit Jesuit High School (

Gerard J. Senick is a freelance writer, editor, and musician. He earned his degree in English at the University of Detroit and was a supervisory editor at Gale Research Company (now Cengage) for over twenty years. Currently, he edits books for publication (

Julie G. Sase is a copyeditor, parent coach, and empath. She earned her degree in English at Marygrove College and her graduate certificate in Parent Coaching from Seattle Pacific University. Ms. Sase coaches clients, writes articles, and edits copy (