Attorney at Law Regional Edition — Inaugural
A Matter of Trust
In few professions is the element of trust as critical to the client relationship as it is in the legal profession. In fact, the sanctity of the attorney/client relationship is a cornerstone of American jurisprudence. However, the propensity to trust is not a condition that naturally exists in most people. All too often, life has taught us to be cautious and even suspicious of the motives of others. In regards to the legal professional, a few “bad apples” have created a negative perception, for some people, of the legal professional that must be recognized and addressed. Simply put, many people do not trust lawyers. While the vast majority of attorneys are highly ethical, trustworthy professionals; creating the perception of trust in your practice and in you personally should hold a prominent position in your business plan.
In his book “The Speed of Trust,” Stephen M.R. Covey states, “There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy, and civilization in the world-one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love. That one thing is trust.” Mr. Covey postulates that by understanding the DNA of trust, you can take definable positive action to establish the foundation of trust in your current and prospective clients. An attorney/client relationship based in trust can generate huge dividends in both productivity and your personal brand.
The concept of trust is based on congruency; that is, doing what you say you will do. We are all continuously being judged by others based on our congruency. Little things can make a big difference. Do we arrive for meetings at the time we say we will arrive? Do we reply to client calls and requests when we say we will? Do we walk-the-walk or just talk-the-talk? In some cases, being ten minutes late for an appointment is simply unavoidable, but when this happens you must recognize that, in your client’s mind, either consciously or unconsciously, your congruency has taken a hit. The same is true with that return phone call that was put off for two days. Sure, you apologize for the lateness of your action and your client politely replies “no problem,” but your congruency has taken another hit. Too many hits and you risk that this client will to lose confidence and trust in the entire working relationship.
Covey defines the building of trust as the product of “character” and “competence.” For a trusting relationship to exist, your client must trust in your character; that is, your integrity and your intent. They must see these character attributes displayed not only in their relationship with you but also in your relationship with others. The client must trust your competence; not just your capabilities but also your track record to deliver results. Why are some attorneys able to charge more for their services than others? As the level of trust in that lawyer’s character and competence rises, his fees become much less of a consideration in the working relationship.
Trust is something that every professional can proactively nurture, in fact, in “The Speed of Trust” Covey outlines 13 behaviors critical to building lasting trust. Your practice will grow stronger- faster, if you establish building trust as one of your practice’s core competencies.