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November 25, 2019

The other Rule 11: Treat each co-worker like your best client.

Clients want to be part of that. Watching and enjoying the "well-oiled" team is an image which sticks in the client mind, memory and senses. They will want more.

The 12 Rules of Client Service. The rules themselves have stayed the same. However, we keep adding to our expansions, takes, riffs and explanations on them (which follow each of the 12 rules themselves), and will continue to do so. The second to last rule is Rule 11: Treat each co-worker like he or she is your best client. What's this Rule 11 all about?

Three things mainly, and much of this is personal and a confession.

First, in our workplaces, we need great people and we need to treat them with respect--not just buttering up. No, they are never as important as clients. But we do need to give employees prompt feedback--the good and the bad. Above all, we want them to grow and be happy.

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Two smiling women during my associate days. Neither ever worked for me.

Second, I have a short fuse. I am focused on what I am doing, and I am not always perfectly nice. To bad guys. To good guys. To people I admire, respect, like and love. And since 1981, I have had approximately 25 secretaries. Half of the 20 who didn't work out thought I was crazy, and the other half, well, I learned the hard way. Big Sally, one of my first assistants in the ASAE building on 15th and Eye Streets, once threw a Washington, D.C. yellow pages book at me that crashed into the wall a foot from my head, destroying several plants, another lawyer's dictaphone and worst of all cracking the frame on my "Hunter Thompson for Sheriff" wall poster which I hung on the wall outside my office. Both of us were to blame--but repairing the relationship took months. It should have never happened. Big Sally was not my first choice as an assistant, a partner hired her and assigned her to me, and I was a 32-year-old lawyer under enormous pressures to advance a large client's agenda and prove myself and my firm in the DC court systems--but she had her own distractions in life. And I needed her. Whatever I said to her in those 3 angry seconds about my dissatisfaction with her work or work ethic cost me a lot. More recently, I had a huge "disconnect" problem with just about every "Generation Y hire"--a thoughtful and talented part of the US workforce with strong and quite sane ideas about the place of work in their lives--who walked through our doors. But I am getting there. I am making progress.

Third, "Rule 11" is a client rule, too. Clients love to form partnerships with law, accounting, consulting firms and service providers of all manner with genuinely functional workplaces. They love work communities where the professionals are demanding but love what they do and solve problems together as a team of happy, focused people who stretch--but respect--one another. It's fun for them to watch, and fun to watch them watch you. Clients want to be part of that. Watching the "well-oiled" team is an image which sticks in the client mind. We have a GC with a transactional and mergers and acquisition background who has a history of popping in us for trials in two cities. He once spent the better part of a month camped out with us in Pennsylvania. He likes to be around us. If we have a trial going on, and he has time, he might head for it. If he heads for a courtroom, he may stay only for an hour. But he thinks it's damn fun to be around us. His eyes light up during strategy sessions when we can include him. And you even sense he wants to pop up from his seat and take on a few witnesses himself... If a client can experience your people working together in that kind of focused but loose harmony, it's contagious.

A client will want more of it. It's that last string in the major chord of a truly joyous place to work and grow.

Posted by JD Hull at November 25, 2019 12:45 AM


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