I am not sure how many times I have read Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s book: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I am sure I have learned something valuable each time I have read it. In my first reading I learned that trustworthiness consists of character and competence.

I wonder how many clients really trust their lawyers? I decided early on that most clients don’t trust their lawyers and that I could use trustworthiness as a differentiator. You can also.

You may not know that Dr.Covey’s son, Stephen M. R. Covey wrote: The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything. A few years ago he and the book were featured in a Dallas Morning News Article: The son of Stephen Covey makes his own signature with one word: trust.

If you believe you can differentiate yourself from other lawyers by building trust, I recommend that you read the book. 

Like his dad, Covey asserts that both character and competence are vital to trust. The first wave of trust is self-trust, which includes:

  • integrity, 
  • intent, 
  • capabilities and 
  • results. 

The second wave is relationship trust. For lawyers this is about client relationships. There are a great number of character and competence behaviors. I will let you buy the book to get the complete list. I will merely discuss a few of the behaviors and describe the importance to lawyers.  

The first character based behavior is to “talk straight.”

What does that mean for you and your law practice? First and foremost it means telling a client when you are not the best lawyer to handle his matter. It might be outside your area of expertise, or someone might be able to handle it at a far lower cost. It is important that you convey to clients that we are putting their interest first and you can do it by talking straight with them.

One of the competence based behaviors is to deliver results. For you to do deliver results, you must first determine  what your client is seeking at the beginning of the engagement. Then, you have to “talk straight” with the client about his chances of obtaining the desired results.

If you tell your client he will be able to get the result he desires, then you must deliver. Getting results also includes meeting the agreed expectations on fee and monthly billing and meeting deadlines for work to be accomplished.  

Another character and competence behavior is to listen first. As lawyers you need to thoroughly understand your client’s problem before you start offering advice. In law school you were taught to speak, but not taught to listen. To build trust, you likely need to learn to listen better.

This book, like every other business book I read, does not have something on each and every page you can apply to your legal careers.

So, if time is an issue for you, I suggest you read it the way I read business books. I skim the book searching for what applies to me and my career and I highlight using my Kindle App on my iPad.