You cannot become a ‘Trusted Advisor’ without a ‘Circle of Trust’


Today I spent a very enjoyable 12 minutes watching Simon Sinek’s latest TED Talk – “Why good leaders make you feel safe.”

If you haven’t seen it yet, I strongly recommend that you do. You can find it here – and there is every chance this will follow in the footsteps of other Sinek TED Talks and become a monster online hit.

Watching this, however, really hit home a significant message to me that will likely resonate with anyone involved in law firm business development, which is this:

your lawyer cannot become a trusted advisor [to clients] without their own circle of trust existing

Note that I’m not trying to say that your lawyer cannot be a success at what they do without a circle of trust. Nor am I trying to imply that they won’t be popular at what they do. What I do contend is that they will never attain the Holy Grail status of ‘Trusted Advisor‘ if they do not have their own circle of trust in place beforehand.

So what are the core traits normally found in a ‘Circle of Trust?’

The following are five that I have identified:

  1. Be transparent: it seems almost too obvious, but you cannot start to build a circle of trust if you are keeping things from people. Indeed, you need to be a little more than merely transparent, you should consider actually volunteering information.
  2. Be consistent: short-termism is a badge of honour in law firms. Any firm that has a 12-month plan is looking at things long-term in this day and age! And yet, many law firms are inconsistent in their message.
  3. If you have made a mistake, admit to it: not sure I’ve heard someone say “sorry” for a mistake they have made at work recently; but without it you cannot start to build a circle of trust.
  4. Honour your word: not much needs to be said really. If you are a lawyer and say you are going to do something, then do it. If you don’t, how can you possibly expect others to believe you on other issues?
  5. Be honest: lastly, just be honest with everyone. If you are specifically asked about something, don’t lie to save yourself a potentially difficult situation – be straight with the person. Sure they may not like the message, but they will respect you in the long run for telling it the way it is.

None of the above should be rocket science. And yet, in today’s world of professional services providers a lot of these traits seem to be absent. And for those of you who doubt this is true I only ask that you ask yourself a simply question:

have I found out something about my law firm from reading about it in the industry press or by talking to someone at a competitor firm?

If your answer to that question is “yes”, then very clearly your law firm has failed to meet even the most basic of ‘circle of trust’ thresholds – and on the basis, partners and lawyers at your firm cannot hope to gain ‘Trusted Advisor’ status.


About rws_01

I am a Business Development and Marketing professional with over 15 years’ experience working with leading professional services firms in Asia and Australia. All views and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.
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