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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 →

Clients come first

September 5, 2012

This September as you prepare your plan and budget for 2013 remember this: clients come first. In my coaching work with lawyers on business development the greatest focus is given to maximising the opportunities with existing clients. Clients deserve this attention for these reasons:

1. You have already done the work of bringing them into the firm. By developing and investing in the relationship you open the door to further engagements.
2. In collaboration with colleagues in other practice areas you may find opportunities to expand the client relationship to other areas of the firm.
3. Loyal clients will refer their contacts to you.

Here are the three main activities to engage in with your significant clients.

1. Visit your client’s place of work.
2. Schedule a feedback interview to learn what more you can be doing to support your client.
3. Engage in non-billable dialogue with your clients about their priorities, opportunities, and challenges. Knowing what is keeping them up a night will help you uncover needs that you may not currently be serving and can help you to be more valuable to your client.

Opening up opportunities for listening to your clients is at the heart of business development. This fall take your listening skills up a level. Don’t miss this article by Kare Anderson in Forbes about how to put your listening skills to work.

Posted in: Business Development, Client Relations | Permalink | No Comments →

The adeptly delivered thank you

December 21, 2011

The gift of thanks is precious.  This morning I had the opportunity to listen in on a thank you voicemail message from a client to a lawyer I know.  The lawyer had sent over a holiday gift basket to the company and a senior member of the executive called to express his thanks.  His voicemail message was truly inspiring and reminded me about how an adeptly delivered thank you takes little time to give and can bring great happiness to the recipient.  Here’s what he did:

  • He picked up the phone and made a call.
  • He spoke slowly and told a story about how the gift basket was received and how everyone on the team appreciated it.
  • He expressed sincere thanks.

The lawyer was delighted by the message.

In these pre-Christmas days many of us working in the legal sector are sending and receiving gifts.  Often times in the interest of expediency we will send a quick email of thanks and certainly that is sufficient to check the proper etiquette box.  I encourage you though to take just an extra moment and make a phone call instead.  Happiness is contagious.

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

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