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The Person-Centred Law Firm – Why Choosing to Care Gives You a Competitive Advantage

The Person-Centred Law Firm – Why Choosing to Care Gives You a Competitive Advantage

“People are incredibly important”, Hans von der Linde, Formerly Global Counsel Downstream SHELL International

We talked to Nick Marson, founder at Leading by Coaching, and this year's speaker at the Plenary Session in Frankfurt. Nick answers central questions about his session and his person-centred approach.

How can you benefit from 'Leading by Coaching'?

Leading by Coaching is about better quality conversations that produce better quality outcomes. The focus is on the person, not the task. How do you make them feel? All your conversations should have a meaning and a purpose. By combining human needs with the business environment, you can achieve better communication and interaction. You should always remember clients may be business people, but first and foremost, they are human beings. We know, human beings want to feel witnessed, understood and appreciated. In the end, the client will prefer a lawyer who meets their emotional needs, a lawyer that creates trust and develops a strong personal relationship with the client. Intimacy creates dependency. Sincerely caring is a strong differentiator. Legal advice can be replicated but every relationship is uniquely valuable. Highly personalising your service gives you an unfair competitive advantage. Be Super Relational, not just Super Transactional!

What can we expect from the plenary session?

Challenge! I intend to disrupt your thinking and challenge your assumptions. I want to challenge you to go beyond your personal boundaries. To help you go beyond what is stopping you being more successful. My session will be as interactive as possible. All participants should feel part of the session and should be inspired to reflect. Specifically, I would like them to think about the key questions: How well do you know your clients? Who are your primary clients, and what do they really want? Do you deliver what the client really wants? Do you really understand them? How thoughtful and resourceful are you? Please bear in mind, it is essential to reconsider your current opinion!

Next, participants should rethink the added value for their clients: What is the one additional value add your client will appreciate the most? Do you know where your clients are going? Are you going with them? Are you helping them get there more quickly? Are you proactive? To keep your clients, you must grow with them. Build a shared agenda, a true partnership.

At the end of the session, I will invite everyone to think about their service delivery and to recognise the things in their firm that make a difference. What enhancements would your clients make in your firm if you would only ask them? Be the champion for change in your firm. Decide on one desired change for one client and make it happen. Step up and show some leadership. Support your colleagues. Lead by having everyday coaching conversations.

Why is it important to know your client’s emotional drivers?

Because this is the only way to change your actions, attitude and commitment. You must understand your client and your client's business, you must listen deeply and empathetically, and, most importantly, you must choose to care! Developing your business acumen and situational knowledge will help you understand what your clients need to do differently. Only then can you help them to be more innovative.

Why is change so important? And why is it so difficult to commit to it?

If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance a whole lot less! Change is necessary for the creation of new and relevant added value. Leaders must adopt an open mindset for such challenges. Self-complacency, on the other hand, is the deadliest sin in business. The moment you are complacent, you are starting to neglect your clients and, therefore, your business. The right attitude is everything.

I agree that change is a challenging process because the brain is designed to avoid change. By nature, our brain will always predict the safest way forward. It will always be limited to its existing knowledge and to what has worked so far. Now, leaders must be aware of this and work towards their vision. Change is no longer an option; it is a necessity.

Who is the person in 'the Person-Centred Law Firm'?

The 'person' is not just the client but each and everyone in the firm. The working culture of the firm and how people are treated shapes the client experience. It impacts the firm's attitude, actions and commitment. That is why a good leader asks: How do I treat my colleagues in the law firm? How can I nurture and develop today’s talent into tomorrow’s leaders? Here, too, a competitive advantage can exist or be created. Leaders who rely on the power of their position, rather than their moral example, stifle creativity and inhibit innovation. I believe, person-centred law firms with a caring culture will be the ultimate winners. They will attract the best staff and the best clients.

'Competitive advantage lies in its people and culture.' How can a law firm identify and benefit from this competitive advantage?

The value of a law firm lies in its relationships and the delivery of personal service. As we know, organisations and business conditions are evolving. Smaller law firms have an advantage here because they can adapt much faster. They are more agile than the global firms. The crucial factor for small and medium-sized law firms will be to adapt their winning strategies to compete successfully with large businesses. Focussing on deeper and wider relationships will be their “killer app”. To provide an overview of the rapidly changing role of the company lawyer and the opportunities for firms finding a competitive advantage, I will present the LOOKING GLASS REPORT 2019 findings.

Do you think that people are more important than technology?

Yes. That is indeed a law firm's competitive advantage: its people and culture. Of course, technology is capable of achieving a great deal, and it will be able to do even more in the future. Only it cannot replicate human relationships. That is why people are incredibly important. People add positive emotions and are a catalyst of change, leading by coaching one conversation at a time.

In law firms, it is the quality of the relationships that matter, which affects the quality of the advice. And listening is the key skill. Listening to the person not just their words. Who are they? What do they want? How can I uniquely help them? Being comfortable in the silences in your conversations with clients, so they can hear themselves. So, they can think about their thinking and produce the insights that will power innovation. Knowledge wants to talk but wisdom wants to listen.

Of course, technology will take the lead in some areas, changing or replacing business processes in the legal sector. However, at the leadership level, technology will never replace people. Remember, you can replicate the technology, but you cannot replicate relationships!

“A technology-based law firm isn’t going to replace the person-centred law firm any time soon.” Alan Murphy, Managing Partner Eversheds-Sutherland Ireland

Take a look at the schedule for Nick's session in Frankfurt!

About Leading by Coaching
We are professional coaches passionate about:

  • Coaching you to develop your signature leadership presence;
  • Training you to be a better coach by having better quality conversations
  • Consulting with your firm to help develop its person-centred culture

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