Modern Law clearly believes in articles which help Law Firms to understand and develop a positive and engaging culture – but what does this actually mean. Being accessible? Frequent contact? Meeting and exceeding client expectations? Each of these boxes needs ticking. However, a positive culture which includes all these laudable goals must be encouraged from the top senior management by adopting effective communication skills which reflect an understanding of how various ‘customer-supplier’ chains within a law firm work – this covers face-to-face social skills, within the context of a total quality management view of providing continuously improving and excellent service. Complex professional relationships between, for example, lawyers, claimants, insurers, counsel and experts will all, at times, be adversely affected by negative tension, conflict and ineffective and argumentative adversarial behaviour. An understanding and skill in challenging this conflict is essential and includes:
- Seeing and managing mixed messages
- Explaining and resolving conflict
- Managing stress whilst mediating
- Being non-judgemental whilst labelling incongruity
- Not adding to angry and obstructive interventions
- Looking for win-win solutions
At any/all the stages of the legal trail, it is possible to use mutual acceptance and good will to generate fair solutions. In addition, good practices of ‘closing the loop’, providing further information, handling differences of opinion constructively are all part of a positive, engaging culture.
Consolidating law firms in 2017/18 will see the legal profession improving their processes and customer relationships in order to remain successful. The skill set needed for the law firm of the future will include advanced communication skills to promote positive engagement – both the contemporary client and law firm employee will expect nothing less.
Vulnerable clients will want easy and frequent access to their lawyers and claim process, plus a lawyer who can manage the stresses and strains of claim management. Ongoing argumentative and negative communication is hopefully a common cultural hurdle which is being overcome as law firms modernise – it is achieved by consistently promoting a style of interacting which recognises our clients and our colleagues needs for positivity and conflict resolution.
So. . . the next time someone writes you an angry, hyper-critical letter or shouts down the phone, shoot them!
Koch HCH, (Promoting a positive, engaging culture. Modern Law Magazine. March 2018).