Archive for the ‘Lawyers’ Category

“Trust Me.” Every lawyer’s need for personal credibility

Monday, February 15th, 2016

Atticus Finch, in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, effectively captures the ideal of personal credibility. “It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.  You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” A skilled lawyer, Finch takes on an impossible case, exposes the prosecution’s star witness to be a liar and gracefully illustrates to the jury why race should not be a factor in their deliberations. Despite the unfair conviction and subsequent lynching of his client, Atticus Finch maintains his personal credibility. This ability is fundamental to being a successful lawyer.

The essence of personal credibility

Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Personal credibility requires both trustworthiness and expertise. Trustworthiness includes an established reliability, which generally comes from telling the truth. Expertise includes credentials, certifications, or quality of prior experience. Personal credibility is the power to inspire belief. Personal credibility can be enhanced by personal dynamism (charisma) and physical attractiveness. Credibility means what you say is capable of being believed. Credibility means what you do inspires belief and confidence. Each action must be underpinned by authenticity. In other words, only promise what you can deliver.

Creating personal credibility

Sandy Allgeier, in her book, The Personal Credibility Factor: How to Get It, Keep It, and Get It Back (If You’ve Lost It), emphasizes that personal credibility is “about respect, trust, and being believable.” In other words, credibility is about actions. What you do forms other people’s opinions of you, shapes their relationships with you, and helps them decide whether to trust and respect you. “Our impressions, thoughts, and opinions are constantly being formed and reformed, most often in our subconscious. For this reason, it is what people do that determines our belief, respect, and trust in them – it is what we all do that determines personal credibility.” Keep your commitments. Return phone calls. Meet deadlines, especially those promised to others. Clients will appreciate your attention to small details like personalized emails or handwritten notes.

Communicating with credibility

Personal credibility is enhanced through consistent verbal and nonverbal communication. Credibility can be lost if you don’t keep your word, whether you have communicated it in writing or verbally. Listen and think before you speak. Effective listening can be one of your most influential tools. Observe and be very attentive to body language and nonverbal signals. Remember to be yourself. Joining the right clubs, travelling in the right circles, and attending high-profile events may cause you to try and be someone you are not. Instead, develop an expertise in a given area and be willing to share acquired knowledge with others.

Marketing with credibility

Client development is all about persuading people to like and trust you. Potential clients want personal credibility when retaining a lawyer. Professionalism plays a key role. Make sure your image and appearances, from presentations to business cards to Web pages, convey excellence and credibility. Do your research and know how to deploy personal details that will strike a chord with potential clients. Use personal history to find common interests. Sharing critical details such as school affiliations, your hometown, or even a common personal achievement helps create personal credibility.

Winning with credibility

Successful trial lawyers know that when delivering their opening statement, their personal credibility is on the line. You are telling the jury what you believe the evidence will show. In many ways, it is a promise you make to the jury. By closing arguments, you can tell the jury, based on the evidence presented, you kept your promise and your opponent did not. Jurors look to lawyers to tell how a case is progressing. If you are confident, well-prepared and well-organized you will create immediate credibility with jurors. Jurors will assume you would not have taken a case that didn’t have merit. As long as you maintain personal credibility, regardless of the circumstances, you will successfully influence jurors.

Ambrose Bierce, the famous American writer of the late 19th century, observed the following about character and credibility: “In each human heart are a tiger, a pig, an ass and a nightingale. Diversity of character is due to their unequal activity.” To create the personal credibility necessary to be successful, every lawyer would do well to keep their tiger and nightingale in balance with their pig and ass.

Face To Face is Best

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

Behind the Digital Curtain. Why face to face communication is still the best.

The giant green head dominates the cavernous room. Sparks flash from the eyes and flames shoot up from the ground. Every booming word overwhelms the four individuals, meekly cowering before the scene. “The Great and Powerful Oz has spoken. You must bring me the witch’s broom. Now go!” In mortal fear, the Cowardly Lion bolts down the hall and leaps through a window. The Tin Man is reduced to a “clinking, clanking, clattering collection of kaligenous junk”.  However, in spite of all his theatrics, the real Wizard of Oz was simply a person hiding behind technology.  Are you doing the same?

 Face to face communication preferred

Why should you bother working on interpersonal skills when most communication is by telephone, text message and e-mail? “Because face-to-face communication remains the most powerful human interaction,” says Kathleen Begley, Ed.D., author of  “Face-to-Face Communication, Making Human Connections in a Technology-Driven World.” “As wonderful as electronic devices are, they can never fully replace the intimacy and immediacy of people conversing in the same room.” This was supported in a 2009 survey by the IABC Research Foundation where both tech-savvy Millennials and older Baby Boomers said they prefer face-to-face communication as the primary way to build relationships in the workplace.

Positive career impact

The standard 8-hour job has been replaced by 24-hour accessibility. Organizations hand out cell phones, laptops and PDAs to employees so they can “telework” without even coming in to the office. Everyone is connected through e-mail, text messaging, smart phones, and Podcasts. Is mastery of all these tools really the best way to advance your career? Not according to a 2007 survey of 1,320 executives by recruiting firm Korn/Ferry International, where teleworkers were less likely to advance in their careers than people who went to work each day. Executives want face time. It’s difficult to promote people who are out of sight because they become out of mind. Not to mention many situations, often involving conflicts, high priority, or large amounts of money, that require people to sit down in the same room and share information. So while we all spend more hours working, if we don’t get the face time we may be missing out on career opportunities.

Digital etiquette

Communication may have changed since 1922 when Emily Post wrote “Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home,” but politeness, kindness, respect and discretion are still important. For example the simple thank you note may have been enhanced by technology. While certain situations still may require a hand written note, e-mail is acceptable for most others. I routinely use short email thank you notes to follow up with contacts, keep my name “top of mind” with prospective clients and extend network opportunities. Here’s a few other digital Rules of Etiquette collected from a recent issue of Wired magazine: (1) Provide subjects for all emails. (2) Don’t follow more people on Twitter than follow you. (3) No more than 20 tweets in 24 hours. (4) Don’t type “BRB”. Just go and come back. (5) Never apologize for a lame tweet or blog post. (6) If your call drops, call back. (7) Ditch the Bluetooth earpiece if you’re not actually using it. (8) Don’t work all the time.

Anger management

A simple rule of thumb before responding to an email that makes you angry is, “Would you say it in person?” If not, don’t send it. Email can be a problematic communication tool because people do not have the benefit of body language and voice tone. Many experts suggest that body language alone makes up for as much as 80% of communication. Personally when an email hits my hot button, I force myself to wait 24 hours before sending a response. I may draft a hot response but never send it. Always offer to meet the person and talk face to face. Emails back and forth frequently make a bad situation worse. Never use offensive language in emails. Try to use an “I” statement as opposed to accusatory language. For example “I felt confused by your remarks,” instead of “You are a @@#$$@#$$.” Ask for clarification instead of jumping the gun.

The last laugh

Humor that works in person or even by phone sometimes doesn’t work well online because the human contact that puts things into context is missing. With digital media, be careful how you use sarcasm, satire, potentially inappropriate humor or anything else which might be misconstrued. Remember that anything you post or send in an e-mail or even text message can be forever copied, stored or forwarded and re-read and end up places you never imagined. When committing something to writing in the digital age, be sure it is something that you really want to say because it could potentially end up going to a much wider audience in the future.

P2P the critical link in B2B

According to CTIA, the Wireless Association, in 2007 Americans sent close to 50 billion text messages per month. In 2008 that more than doubled to 110 billion text messages per month. However only face to face communication provides the opportunity to judge information through facial expression, body language and tone of voice. That is why people-to-people (P2P) communication skills remain a primary career success factor in the business-to-business (B2B) world. Don’t rely solely on technology to share information, communicate ideas and grow relationships.

Remember, for personal career success, technology is just another tool and not your latest BFF.