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The civil in civil litigation

October 19, 2012

Here’s the plain simple truth: effective client advocates act with integrity. Resorting to tricks, deceptions, abusive language, bullying, last minute tactics and the like does not make you a great lawyer. It actually means you are a [insert four letter word here].

Thank you to Marie Henein, for her call for civility at the Bar, in her contribution to Precedent Magazine’s Big Ideas section:

“While civility is an important aspect of advocacy, professionalism and credibility, it does not make you less of a fighter, less fearless or less vigorous an advocate. When Winston Churchill sent a letter to the Japanese ambassador announcing war upon Japan, he ended it with: “I have the honour to be, with high consideration, Sir, Your obedient servant.” When criticized, Churchill said this about his unfailing civility even in the midst of a war: “Some people did not like this ceremonial style. But after all, when you have to kill a man, it costs nothing to be polite.” Fight and vigorous advocacy are not anathema to civility.”

I regularly hear from litigators about the painful machinations and bullying behavior of opposing counsel. The litigators I knows are lawyers lawyers. They are highly skilled advocates and are respected by the judiciary and their colleagues. They get to the best result for their clients while treating opposing counsel with civility. They are civil litigators in both senses of the word. Regrettably they are at risk of being outnumbered by the bullies.

I applaud Henein for her article and recommend to the legal bloggers, writers, educators, and practitioners that we continue speaking out for the benefits of civility and the ills of bullying tactics.

Next time a client tells you they are looking for a bulldog remember this:

“According to the American Kennel Club (AKC) a Bulldog’s “disposition should be equable and kind, resolute and courageous (not vicious or aggressive), and demeanor should be pacific and dignified. These attributes should be countenanced by the expression and behavior.”

The prize winning bulldogs are dignified and resolute. The snarling and snapping members of the breed are neutered.

Posted in: Client Relations, Leadership | Permalink | No Comments →

Vancouver team heads to Mundiavocat

May 30, 2012

To thrive in legal practice it helps to have a regular exercise routine. And it doesn’t have to be a boring trip to the gym three times a week. There are many great ways to maintain and boost your energy.  One recent example is Mundiavocat, an international soccer tournament that brings together over 1,500 lawyers and more than 70 football teams from the Bars of five continents. The tournament takes place every two years.  This year the players are meeting in Croatia from June 1 to June 10.

Don’t think this is some amateur tournament.  These players take it seriously and train rigorously. Have a listen to Vancouver team captain Kinji Bouchier from Lawson Lundell speaking with CBC’s Rick Cluff on the early edition this morning.  Go team Vancouver!

Posted in: Goals, Leadership | Permalink | No Comments →

The personality attributes of top rainmakers

February 6, 2012

What does it take to be a great business developer? What does it take to attract clients? In law firms I find there is often this image floating around of the rainmaker as a smooth talking, assertive and maybe even aggressive promoter. In my personal experience the great rainmakers are quite different from this. As I write this post I have one rainmaker in mind. He is the consummate professional. He is a quiet, soft spoken man of a few words. He has a sharp business mind that his clients appreciate. Although mentorship may not be his favorite thing he has become very good at it, and he delegates a great deal of work to his team, not because he enjoys supervising but because it is good for the lawyers under him and opens up room in his practice for more work to flow in.

To all you lawyers reading this post let me tell you, you just might have what it takes to be a good if not excellent rainmaker. Last year a Harvard Business Review’s blog by Steve W. Martin listed the top characteristics of the best salespeople and they read like a description of the many lawyers I have the pleasure of working with:

Modesty: Top sales people score medium to high for modesty and humility and are team players. I have worked with so many lawyers who have told me they didn’t go to law school to become a salesperson, and that they hate promoting themselves. Well here is the surprising news – that sentiment is shared by some of the best sales people out there.

Conscientiousness: Top sales people are highly conscientious about their work and are strongly motivated by duty and responsibility. Again, doesn’t this sound like most of the lawyers you know?

Achievement Orientation: Top sales people are very goal oriented and track their performance against their goals. The legal profession is full of modest and conscientious professionals but far fewer are achievement oriented. I have seen how the drive for accuracy and perfection, coupled with an aversion to risk can override the focus on achieving outcomes. The good news is that by developing a process for goal setting and progress tracking in your legal practice you acquire the benefits of this ‘achievement orientation”.

Reader take note: I point out these traits because it is helpful to remember that the myth of the rainmaker often obscures the reality about what it takes to be a trusted professional and have the capacity to bring in business for yourself and your colleagues. In many cases I find that simply working to develop new habits such as setting goals and tracking performance can get you from mediocre performance to good in a short period of time. The key is that the values of hard work, discipline, humility and duty are assets as much for business development as they are for your legal practice.

Posted in: Business Development, Leadership | Permalink | No Comments →

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