May/June 2020

The Thriving Lawyer

Why Trust is a Management Tool

Anne E. Collier
The way to make people trustworthy is to trust them. —Ernest Hemingway

If it were only as simple as that. How can a lawyer trust an associate he or she never worked with? Or had a bad experience with? “There’s too much at risk,” the lawyer justifies. Here’s the rub: If the lawyer doesn’t trust associates, the lawyer can’t grow a book of business. Who will do the work?

Trusting associates is necessary to serve clients. That said, no lawyer feels comfortable blindly trusting. Whether an associate can be trusted isn’t a reflection of character. Instead, it is a management issue. The skill of developing trustworthy associates is essential to a thriving practice.

When a lawyer trusts an associate, the benefits are immeasurable. The lawyer is less stressed because the work is getting done. The lawyer isn’t as likely to be frustrated by differences in work styles. The lawyer can fix problems quickly because the associate doesn’t hide mistakes or fear asking questions. They work efficiently and effectively together. Feedback is honest and timely. They are a powerful team focused on what matters: serving clients.

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