Communication and the importance of trust between lawyers and clients
Every day we have opportunities to communicate with people as part of our professional and personal lives. We aim to develop relationships based on respect and trust. Neither are established quickly, and can be instantly destroyed. Now let’s say you are a lawyer facing roadblocks of bad stereotypes and lawyer jokes on a daily basis. Establishing trust as a lawyer requires patience and professionalism, as well as ethical and moral integrity.
Building trust is a process and relies in many ways on communication. Unfortunately, for lawyers, communication is also a common complaint either due to too much communication on a ticking clock (no one likes to pay for you to read an email) or late or confusing communication. Communication issues cover a range of pitfalls. Responsiveness. Listening skills. Keeping the client informed. Over lawyering. Being clear and concise. Transparency. All of these contribute to how a client feels about you. Can they trust you? Does “client service” matter to you like it does to them?
Closed-off communications and business practices can lead to an environment of uneasiness and even resentment. When communication is poor, your clients tend to fill in the gaps…often with less than favorable assumptions, leading to misunderstandings and mistrust.
Clients want their lawyers to be reachable and available. They want to know that you are there for them when they want to talk. They want their lawyers, especially in business, to field questions, hear opinions and ideas, or listen to concerns. It’s not only about being reachable – you should be reaching out to your clients as soon as possible when there is information to share. Providing the best client service, the kind that builds trust, requires knowing about their business and industry and the issues that can make an impact. By offering specific advice, being a deal enabler (instead of a deal killer) and proactively flagging issues, clients will feel better about trusting you with their business.
Outsourced general counsel just may be the answer for your business. An important connection is made when your outsourced general counsel is present and entrenched in what’s actually happening at the company day-to-day. This is part of what makes a real difference in how Auxana outsourced general counsel engage with clients. By killing the billable hour, an outsourced general counsel can be proactive about being a part of the executive team and spending time getting to know the company structure, culture, and pain points. From getting to know the team personally to being on hand for an impromptu strategy session, having your outsourced general counsel present now and then can reap multiple benefits.
It’s also a good way to get the rest of the team, and maybe your board and partners, to view your outsourced general counsel as part of the company. Ultimately, you want your team to know they have this trusted resource available, which can provide a lot of peace of mind.
Speaking of trust, through a partnership with Kevin Black, Forbes Leadership Coach, Auxana created The Trust Initiative, a scientifically-based analysis that identifies natural strengths and behaviors within teams. By utilizing the Trust Initiative, we are able to have open, lively communications where everyone feels safe to share their input and opinions.
The initiative starts with the concept that, to be frank, there is a certain stereotype attached to the legal profession (E.g. they bill clients for every word written and every second used of their time). Auxana by its very nature has already disrupted that concept, through the empowerment and utilization of outsourced general counsel model and killing the billable hour. The Trust Initiative helps bring that disruption to the next level, by way of what we like to call, a “behavioral profile”. This profile not only reveals the strengths and natural inclinations of the attorney, but it also helps ensure that the attorney is compatible with the company hiring them for legal counsel.
If you have ever gone through an executive recruitment process, then you probably understand what we mean when we say “behavioral profile.” Companies also perform these on existing executives to gain insights into management and leadership styles and techniques and how to improve company culture.
For example, some attorneys are very deliberate and methodical in their work, while others are inclined to a faster pace and require more independence. We want to tell the attorney, “Here are your natural strengths, these are the qualities that make you fantastic, here are the environmental factors which elicit your strengths, and these are the types that inhibit them.” Then we want to flip the recruiting process on its head and provide this information up front to companies that are researching and engaging with our exclusive community of outsourced General Counsel. We provide an actual PDF output from the trust initiative process that you can share on your Auxana profile as well as on your own external sites.
The overall goal is to promote better working relationships and better performance, for both the attorney and the business. The Trust Initiative helps companies hire legal counsel who best support their goals and business culture. On the other side of that coin, the attorneys are more satisfied, comfortable, and happy in their role, because their strengths are being championed.
It’s important that attorneys realize that just because they have been (or currently are) in a specific role, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a great fit for their natural inclinations as a human being. One of the biggest benefits that the Trust Initiative can offer is self-awareness. After completing the behavioral survey and a brief bit of homework about their motivators (E.g. job security, recognition, being part of a team, etc.), Kevin is able to create a behavioral profile that not only helps reveal an individual’s natural strengths, but also helps to shed light on any behavioral masks they might be wearing, even unknowingly, like communication skills.
Our goal is to offer the most beneficial legal partnerships to Auxana’s business users as well. In this way, the attorney’s behavioral profile also provides invaluable information to business leadership. What matters to the decision-makers? What are their expectations of their legal counsel? Do they expect a team player, or an autonomous leader? Is the company fast-paced, or do they operate more slowly and deliberately?
With these details in mind, business leadership can utilize the Auxana platform to not only find outsourced general counsels who specialize in the type of business counsel they require, but who are also a great fit for their company’s culture, objectives, and vision. Beyond simply hiring legal counsel, the organization has the opportunity to enlist a culturally-compatible legal partner, and this compatibility has the potential to evolve into a long-term, favorable partnership for everyone.
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