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March 10, 2006

Rule 11: Treat Each Co-Worker Like He or She Is Your Best Client.

Rule 11 of 12: Treat Each Co-Worker Like He or She Your Best Client. (See Rules 1-6 here and at the links Rules 7, 8, 9, and 10.)

People are every business's most important asset.

So here are three things about Rule 11--my personal new non-litigation "Rule 11":

First, in our workplaces, we need great people and we need to treat them with respect--not just buttering up. We need to give them prompt feedback--the good and the bad. Above all, we need them to grow and be happy.

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, DC yellow pages book at me that crashed into the wall a foot from my head, destroying several plants, another lawyer's dictaphone and cracking the frame on my "Hunter Thompson for Sheriff" wall poster which I hung on the wall outside my office (the partners were too straight to know what it really was). 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. And more recently, I had a huge "disconnect" problem with just about every "Generation X" 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 have made progress. 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/acquisition background who regularly pops in on us from his office in another city during our trials for his company--both in the courtroom and conference room. He isn't just checking up on the progress of trial--he thinks it's damn fun to be around us. His eyes light up during strategy sessions. 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. They will want more. It's that last string in the major chord of a truly joyous place to work and grow.

Posted by JD Hull at March 10, 2006 02:56 PM


Dan, you really should write an article on brand perception. What you're writing about in this article is all about something that I really believe in, now that I have spent three years in a marketing firm focused on online brand promotion and brand protectionL: it's all about brand!

The maintenance of brand repution.

It is especially important for people in the business of law and politcs. If your brand is corrupted, it could be a death blow.

And since you need to maintain brand reputation everywhere -- not just with clients -- you need to always consider everything as brand.

You can't have the blissed out sexy team at your firm if the internal brand perception is bad.

Too many firms are like unhealthy families, they're all about, "please be nice during Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner." They put all their energies into the extended family brand deception than into really working the hard work or repairing brand.

People too often think that repairing brand is just spin spin spin.

But when you have lost prestige and your brand is corrupt, then you have lost trust.

It us infinately easier to keep trust than it is to rebuild it.

Did that make any sense?

Posted by: Chris Abraham at March 11, 2006 09:00 AM

I find the "12-steps" refreshing to read. I have made a living over most of the last 20 years trying to change the way lawyers work with (and think about) clients. In "The Essential Little Book of Great Lawyering" i created a similar list of the difference between "good" lawyers and "great" lawyers. A review in Marketing For Lawyers summarized a few of the points as follows:

"What I like about this book, other
than the fact that you can throw it in
your briefcase or purse, is the fact that
Jim has encapsulated the essence of
great lawyering by showing the right
methodology to greatness — and the
mistakes that can be made on the
path to success. Here, as described by
Jim, are a couple of the characteristics
of great lawyers:
• Good lawyers return phone calls
with reasonable promptness —
great lawyers are always available
and accessible to their clients.
Great lawyers just don’t respond
when their phones ring — they
make other peoples’ phones ring.
• Good lawyers are reasonably comfortable
in most settings — great
lawyers project confidence, not
arrogance, in any setting. Good
lawyers attend meetings — great
lawyers arrive early and are fully
prepared. Good lawyers are present
at meetings — great lawyers
are a real presence at the meeting.
• Good lawyers accept feedback
when clients offer it — great
lawyers seek meaningful feedback
from clients and act upon it."

The goal of my book is to eliminate lawyer jokes, as clients' expectations are exceeded. JD Hull is contributing to that effort...

Posted by: Jim Durham at January 28, 2009 10:19 AM

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