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Can You Be a Great Lawyer Without Being a Great Person?

by Deb Knupp /

Judging by most of the lawyer jokes we’ve heard, the answer would seem to be “yes.”  In fact, there’s a long-standing notion in popular culture that the very best lawyers are often the very worst sort of people.

So it’s an interesting thought experiment to consider what things would be like if lawyers were known for having an operating system rooted in generosity.  

Sure, the lawyer jokes would be less funny.  But, beyond this, it’s not so far-fetched to consider a very different legal character. 

As standards for marketplace loyalty are now evolving, visionary law firm leaders are adopting a new view of profitability, one rooted in altruism.  Indeed, these lawyers know they’re facing three major areas of challenge:

  • Business development: making their firm a place where profitable clients want to buy
  • Recruiting and retention: making their firm a place where talented employees want to work
  • Leadership and sustainability: making their firm a place where inspired leaders want to serve a bigger purpose

The best strategies for meeting these challenges often come back to generosity.  For example, the best way to retain clients and develop new ones is to engage in authentic relationship building and problem solving that is “other-centered,” focused on their needs rather than your own.  And, similarly, one of the most effective recruiting tools for attracting talented young lawyers is communicating that your firm’s core values and codes of behavior are in sync with the inclusive and altruistic ethos of the millennial generation.

When law firm leaders put thought and energy into discerning causes that lead clients and employees to feel called to them – and the legal profession easily lends itself to such causes, like access to justice and other pro bono work – they’re moving towards a bottom line that is far richer than one measured only in profits per partner.

The law firms that will be market leaders in the future are those leveraging what we’ve come to call a “triple bottom line.”  It’s measured in profits, of course, but also in what it generates for people and the planet.

You can learn more about establishing and communicating your firm’s core values in our ebook, available here.  For a more in-depth conversation about understanding your firm’s triple bottom line, reach out via our contact form here.

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