Coaching lawyers has taught me that authenticity elicits trust and respect
Imagine going to a farmers’ market where you’d like to buy apples. You go from stall to stall, and you notice that all the apples are similar. They all look the same, smell the same, and feel just as firm. They’re also the same type. How do you decide from which stall to buy?
The farmers start coming to you, trying to convince you to buy their apples.
“We’ve been around for three decades,” one says.
“We grow the best-looking apples,” says another.
“Our apples are amazing because we say they’re amazing,” says the third.
None of these points are helpful to you. Unable to figure out what sets one farmer’s apples apart from another, you decide to buy the cheapest ones and call it a day.
This dilemma is what your clients face every day. Whether they’re a general counsel, an entrepreneur, or a young couple looking to buy their first home — they are faced with a veritable bazaar of sameness.
“Our firm has been around for the four decades.”
“We’re completely client-centric!”
“Look at all these awards we’ve won!”
From a client’s perspective, these are empty platitudes that mean little.
Most attempts at branding by law firms and lawyers themselves don’t help potential clients choose you.
Modern-day algorithms don’t help either. It isn’t easy to stand apart in a sea of everyone attempting the same things.
For example, how often have you written LinkedIn posts that never get read or made blog posts that take forever to rank on Google? For some lawyers, that strategy works — but they are in the minority.
In the face of such competition, how do you stand out?
More than ever, authenticity is the defining edge that helps you attract clients and makes for a more rewarding legal career with greater happiness and fulfillment. It is the ultimate brand, and it is something that others cannot replicate.
Sharing your authentic self is the last and only edge you have left.
I’ve seen this first-hand and with dozens of lawyers worldwide that we’ve coached. Hard-won experience has taught us that even the shrewdest entrepreneur first buys on emotion and then justifies with logic. Authenticity is the currency that elicits trust and respect from others.
There are three elements to this new era of the authentic lawyer.
You lead with an abundance mindset
When you work with scarcity and believe that the pie of opportunities is limited, you will struggle with being yourself. You will put up a front that people can see through. Undoubtedly, you’ve met someone pushy and desperate in the past for your business. No amount of slick flattery and small talk will make you want to buy from them (at least not without buyer’s remorse).
When you let go of this belief, it opens you to be fully present and conscious of serving the other person. This approach builds goodwill in subtle and profound ways. Authenticity makes this possible because you know you’re not competing with anyone else. After all, no one can emulate your brand.
You share your story
Potential clients these days often come to you well into the buying process. They’ve usually done their diligence and read up on you and your firm well in advance. What will be their frame of reference before they come to you?
I’ve experienced the power of sharing my story. LinkedIn has been my medium. When opportunities, ideas, and people come to me, they are already acquainted with who I am. They know my passion, my perspectives, and my opinions. As a result, they come in with the feeling like they already know me. Building trust and rapport becomes significantly easier. They see me as a trusted advisor who will guide them with honesty, not as some outsourced help. This feeling makes all the difference in retaining clients.
This approach was not some strategic decision I made to get more business. I started doing it because I genuinely wanted to change law’s culture, and more business has been just a happy coincidence.
Nearly everyone else who has taken to sharing their story has seen a similar result. It can be a bit scary, but start wherever you are and keep pushing yourself a bit more every day. The worst that can happen is that no one will read what you write.
You become a connector
Algorithms aren’t smart enough to connect ideas, people, and opportunities. Being authentic means regularly thinking about how you can help others.
I often encourage other lawyers to reach out to contacts they haven’t spoken with in a while to catch up. During those conversations, I am always trying to understand the most important things for their work. I use technology and systems to help me keep track, and then I keep my eyes open for anything or anyone that can help them out.
Every time you come across an idea, a book, an article, or a person that can help your connection, get into the habit of making that connection. Sometimes, it doesn’t even have anything to do with a professional context.
When people start seeing that you’ve got their best interests at heart, you become the center of your network. Ideas and opportunities start flowing through you, and referrals come to you with ease.
These are simple principles, but applying them can be life-changing. I hope we can change the law’s culture with these simple practices and bring about this new era of the authentic lawyer.