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Nothing, but nothing, beats accessibility, courtesy, responsiveness and reliability

Posted in Culture, Leadership, Legal Profession, Management, People Strategy, Personal Brand, Personal Effectiveness, Professional Service Firms (PSFs), Trust & Respect, Values

You can be the brightest spark in the office but if people can never get hold of you, or after they do you take ages to respond or are simply unreliable, no-one is ever sure you will do the job, professionally you are going to do yourself in.

Nothing beats being accessible, responsive and reliable. You can be the sharpest tool in the workshop, but if you can't be found, don't respond well when used or don't do the job you are called on to do, people will eventually tire of using you. The same applies to professionals. (Sean Larkan image - Old Dairy Gerringong - ©2012)

Nothing beats being accessible, responsive and reliable. You can be the sharpest tool in the shed, but if you can't be found, don't respond well when used or don't do the job you are called on to do, people will eventually tire of using you. The same applies to professionals. (Sean Larkan image - Old Dairy Gerringong - ©2012)

I know of one professional who is highly sought after due to his niche practice and ability. As a consequence he is very busy and time-poor. So busy in fact that he has an automated message responding to his emails, always, saying ‘sorry tied up doing x, y or z. Your enquiry is important, I will revert etc’ – unfortunately, you usually don’t get a response from him, not even later. You soon get the message, his work is more important than your enquiry or message. He has made himself inaccessible, is unresponsive and in your mind will probably not be reliable to deal with. In fact he also appears to be discourteous.

On the other hand we all know professionals who are busier than most, but who still manage to be remarkably accessible, courteous, responsive and reliable – some come to mind for me – Michael Katz, chairman of Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs, Rob Otty, Managing Director of Norton Rose RSA, Jordan Furlong my partner in Edge International, Giam Swiegers, National CEO of Deloitte, Australia, John Poulsen managing partner of Squire Sanders (formerly Minter Ellison, Perth), Roger Collins Chairman of Grant Thornton Australia and Derek Colenbrander CEO of CareFlight Australia.

One of the most enjoyable responsibilities I had as a former managing partner of large firms was to do a short introductory talk to new recently-joined lawyers. The discussion, which we tried to make interactive, commenced by asking what they felt they would need to do or be to succeed in a large firm environment. As one would expect coming from the brightest law school graduates, the responses were varied and fascinating. However, not many picked up on these seemingly obvious attributes: accessibility, responsiveness and reliability. It was possible to emphasise these, providing examples, without names, of lawyers who did not have the best university pass or who were not regarded as the best technical lawyers in their practice area, but who rose to greatness and built substantial practices, at least in part due to these characteristics. I also emphasised that a big part of their early success would depend on their courtesy to staff, mainly support staff.

Your personal brand:

Your personal reputation and brand is not what you think it is but what existing and potential clients and other referrers think it is. And clients and referrers love their professionals to be accessible, responsive, courteous and reliable. If they feel you are, your brand and reputation is going to soar in their eyes. They will go out of their way to refer you other work.

There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • you are showing them respect and care about their views and well-being;
  • you save them time as they never need to chase you up; you appreciate that their time is as precious as your time;
  • you will make them look good;
  • they can relax knowing their matter is being cared for; and
  • they will be more likely to trust you and your advice.

There are also benefits for you:

  • it takes the pressure off you;
  • you can concentrate on the matter at hand and not worry about letting someone down;
  • you can bring the best out of yourself;
  • your own confidence grows as you realise you are doing something which is the foundation of strong professional relationships and ultimately friendships – trust, respect and in time loyalty, which leads to a cast iron stream of referrals.

As we hear  so often from so many, it is often the simple, obvious things that make a difference. These are definitely those.

all the best, Sean Larkan, Partner, Edge International