Edge International


Building Trust: The Inviolable Rule

Building Trust: The Inviolable Rule

With all the attention given to the external forces bringing about change and impacting the legal profession, we sometimes forget how much of successful legal services business is still about human relationships and building trust. Trust is the key building block for so many different areas and interactions in law firms: one that impacts just about every aspect of our existence and our success or failure. Look at any successful firm and you will find they have managed to build trust in some or most of the ways highlighted below. Often it is by accident; ideally it is also by design.

Trust is something we can all understand: we know how we feel when we trust an organisation. We will sometimes ‘buy now and ask questions later’. We will assume their product or service, and even what they say about it, is tried and tested and is good. We will refer others to that organisation. We will be loyal to it. We may even suggest to a bright young star that they should apply to work for that organisation. In some respects it becomes an organisation that in our mind doesn’t have many if any substitutes.

There are very few so–called “black and white” or inviolable rules in the areas of leadership and management of a law firm – one, however, is this underpinning, foundational role of trust. As leaders and managers, we ignore it at our peril.

Let’s consider some areas within our professional businesses where trust is this central element:

The challenge in addressing something like trust, particularly as it impacts so many different areas of a firm, is to get this message through to everyone in the firm beyond intellectually, and make it stick. It is important that everyone in the firm understands this. After all, every interaction they have with others, and how they go about their work, impacts trust in one or more of the ways mentioned above.

This will require a convincing argument, and moving people at the firm beyond the usual casual ‘Yeah I get that. It’s obvious, and I will bear it in mind’ attitude. Somehow they need to be moved to actually do something about it. Otherwise it continues to be one of those important things that everyone agrees on, but little gets done about it.

How do you address this from a practical perspective? Some examples:

The benefits can be immense:

So it is worth discussing all the implications of building trust with partners and staff, building their understanding around this, and getting their active involvement and support. No-one in the firm should ever again under-estimate the central and far-reaching importance of trust.