I had the opportunity to hear a panel of in-house counsel from Alex Lee, SAS and Replacements, Ltd. speak at the NCBA’s Corporate Counsel Section Annual Meeting last week. When the panel was discussing managing outside counsel, the words “trust” and “relationships” came up time and time again regarding how they selected which attorneys they send work. (They also stressed that they still hire individual lawyers, NOT firms.)
Among all the conversations around “value”, “alternative fee arrangements”, and other concerns surrounding the relationship between companies and their law firms, the point was clear – these general counsel want to do business with attorneys that they trust because they have a relationship with them.What can private practice attorneys do to begin cultivating these relationships?
- Start Early: In my last post, I stressed the importance of associate attorneys joining a young professionals group in their community or industry to start building relationships early on.
- Drop Your Agenda: Tony Hsieh of Zappos recently discussed his fascination with serendipity in an article with Business Insider. He discussed the importance of meeting as many people as you can and not worrying about extracting value from these people as soon as you meet them. Instead of figuring out how people can help you, ask questions to determine how you might help them, even with problems totally unrelated to your law practice. People will soon look to you as a resource – someone who can find the answer, or introduce them to a person who can solve their problem. Your practice will benefit.
- Practice Humility: “Humility doesn’t mean that we think less of ourselves; it just means that we think about ourselves less and others more.” (From a wonderful article by Mark Merrill that you can find here.) There is no better way to quickly establish trust and rapport than by putting your client first.
Are you making time in your schedule to be intentional about building trust with clients and prospects?