By now, most lawyers recognize that legal talent alone is not enough to achieve optimal success in the profession. Those who really “get it” understand that attorneys who create valuable and powerful relationships are the ones who gain the leading edge.
Nevertheless, some lawyers shy away from relationship building or don’t feel like they have what it takes to do it successfully. What many lawyers do not realize is that certain key skills and attributes that make them a great lawyer can also make them great relationship builders. Whether you shy away from relationship building or not, whether you are an introvert or extrovert, you can rely on the following 3 key skills and qualities that you probably already use while practicing law to build strong professional relationships.
1) Be Attentive to Detail and Put Your Legal Note-Taking Skills to Work.
Law school and law practice train lawyers to appreciate that “it’s all in the details,” so lawyers are typically very detail oriented. We understand that changing a single word in a contract can change the meaning of an entire agreement. We recognize that typos and errors in our briefs can make a judge lose confidence in our legal representation. We appreciate that a case can be won or lost on one key fact – one particular detail.
As attention to detail is important and valued in the practice of law, it is also a quality that you can rely on to build strong relationships. When you meet someone who could be a potentially important contact, you need to learn as much as possible about that person, which means really listening and paying attention to the details. All too often during networking conversations, people tend to focus on themselves and not enough on the other person. When you first meet that new contact, pay attention to what he or she says so that you can learn about that person, be able to notice anything you may have in common with him or her and specifically identify what you will want to follow up on to begin the relationship.
Put your legal note-taking skills to work when you get someone’s business card for the first time and use the card as a memory jogger. Right then and there while you’re talking to that new contact, jot down a few details about the substance of your conversation, what that person does, an upcoming trip he or she mentions, a personal fact or something you have in common with him or her and what you may want to follow up on so you don’t have to wrack your brain later when you conduct your initial follow-up outreach. By the time you do your first outreach, you will be positioned to prepare a personalized and thoughtful follow-up as opposed to a generalized, non-descript one.
2) Be Inquisitive.
In order to conduct a thorough fact-finding investigation in a case, lawyers need to be inquisitive. They need to be curious and ask a lot of questions. This curious and inquisitive nature that lawyers develop in depositions and witness interviews, for example, can serve them well when it comes to relationship building.
The key to building powerful, long lasting relationships for ultimate professional success is for each person to provide value to the other. Building that kind of relationship begins with a solid understanding of how the other person defines both personal and business value. It also helps to know more about the other person’s style. That way, you can accept his or her style, and even adapt so that the other person feels more comfortable with you.
In order to really understand an individual, you need to get to know as much as possible about that person over time, including his or her commitments, goals, aspirations, challenges, values, style, among a host of other things. This does not suggest that you interrogate your contacts or put them through the third degree! Rather, the more genuinely curious and interested you are in learning as much as you can about the other person, the better equipped you will be to strengthen the relationship. When you really understand a person, you are better able to know where and how you can provide value and that is key!
3) Have a Client-Centric Mentality.
By using a client-centric approach in their law practice, lawyers can meet not only their client’s expressed needs, but also their expectations. They listen closely to better appreciate the client perspective (and all that is on the client’s “plate”), speak in a language that the client understands, consider the client’s decision-making perspective, and know the client’s goals (even beyond the legal issues at hand), among other things.
Since mutually beneficial relationships are the strongest, your best approach is to adopt a “give to get” mentality with your key relationships. Give first and give often. By doing so over time, you will position yourself to be much more likely to get when you seek help or business. When you adopt a mentality similar to the client-centric approach with your key contacts, you will gain their trust and respect, communicate most effectively with them and better understand them so that ultimately they will be likely to want to go out of their way to help you when you want a key introduction, business or other support.
By leveraging these attributes, you will be well on your way to establishing strong and valuable relationships.
So who is one important person you can contact to begin building a strong relationship with today?