The practice of law requires relationships with stakeholders at diverse levels; understanding how to efficiently manage these relationships is vital to being a successful lawyer, as technical knowledge alone is not adequate to enable proper communication between lawyers and their clients, colleagues, or connections.
Understanding the behaviour of yourself and others can help lawyers become more persuasive and supportive, while also improving leadership qualities and interactions with employees or bosses.
Law firms must build solid relationships with their clients in order to achieve the best legal results, but, just as importantly, to ensure that clients will come back to their firm, and recommend them to other businesses in the future.
If you believe you, or your law firm need to improve your human relationships this post will advise you on a few main points worth considering.
One of the main issues we face in our dealings with other people, be they clients, colleagues, or friends, is overcoming difference.
Difference may be as simple as a favourite colour, or as complex as cultural difference, but either way it can cause a huge challenge when faced with negotiations if we fail to understand that ‘our way’ isn’t the ‘only way’.
Learning to appreciate difference can take time and patience, but there are many training courses that can help with particular issues such as, analysis of behavioural traits and communication, or culture difference and business ethics.
Taking the time to listen to varying perspectives, showing empathy and understanding, can advance relationships, promote knowledge, and improve interactions.
Effective listening – being present, and actively paying attention to others, is sometimes enough to make the speaker feel valued, appreciated and understood.
It shows them that you consider their perspective to be valuable enough to spend time on, and allows you to understand their emotions, thoughts, or wants. It also allows you to check your understanding through the asking of appropriate questions.
Responses are then tailored to the individual, and situation, rather than offering a standard response.
Verifying you have understood the intention, or message, is an excellent way to show you have listened, understood and reflected upon what has been said.
Communication isn’t just about talking and listening.
True communication occurs when someone has fully engaged with what has been said, both directly and indirectly with body language, and through thoughtful, considerate debates and discussions.
Failure to communicate your ideas, intentions, thoughts, feelings, perspectives, and so on, can lead to misunderstandings between lawyers and their clients, colleagues, or partners. And in reverse, can lead to a lawyer who is unclear on their client’s wishes or problems.
Lawyers are constantly required to give feedback/advice in one form or another be it, explaining the potential outcome of a case to clients, discussing negotiations with colleagues, or advising trainees on their roles within the firm, the ability to give (and take) constructive feedback is vital in improving your relationship with others.
Feedback can help you grow as an individual through examination of your personal challenges, and understanding how others’ see you.
You may not wish to take on-board what everyone says about you (and it is probably wisest not to) but it can definitely highlight flaws, areas for work, and give you a valuable change of perspective.
People will not remember exactly what you have said to them, but they are likely to remember the effect you had on them – how you made them feel in a given situation.
The ability to empathise with others is a trait that lawyers should develop early on in their career as it gives them the ability to connect with people, interpret their emotions, develop trust, and offer effective support, advice, or compassion in the majority of situations.
Clients will feel more comfortable with a lawyer who can empathise with the challenges they face, and who shows consideration for their needs, wants, and requirements.
Every relationship we have can teach us something about ourselves and others. Use interactions to try out active listening skills, be open and honest whenever possible, take time to treat others as you would like to be treated, and attempt to understand different perspectives and cultures, as this will allow you to improve your relationships be they at work, home, or socially.