Apologies for the lack of posting during what has been a rather hectic period of conferencing here at the ILN! I am finally back in the office, though rather jet-lagged, and so you will see more posts as I digest some of what we learned at both the Association of International Law Firm Networks (AILFN) conference last week, and our own ILN European Regional Conference in Budapest. I always enjoy seeing my lawyers get together.

In the meantime, take a look at this post from rainmaking expert and trainer, Jaimie Field, from last week, focusing on the importance of the apology (incidentally, I’m a big fan).

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(Originally posted at Legal Ink Magazine)

With all due respect to Sir Elton John for usurping his song title, why is it so difficult for some people to apologize?

Recently, someone posted a message to private legal social media forum, of which I am a member, which violated the policies of the forum. That person was respectfully called out by other members of the forum and it was requested that the person not post a message of that ilk in the future.  Instead of apologizing, the person, whose original post caused a controversy, used excuses, rationalizations, and a defensive stance to justify their actions; this did not sit well with others in the group.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I, too, had made a mistake in this forum by posting something which was against the terms of service about a year ago. However, my response was a sincere apology and a promise never to do it again.)

Why does this matter to Rainmakers?

Remember the old adage: People do business with people they know, like and trust.

How much trust does this person have in the group now?   What is the likelihood that people in the group will refer business?

No one likes making mistakes. However, as human beings, we are inherently not perfect. You know that you should own up to your mistakes and say “I’m sorry”. Yet, this seems to be the hardest thing for many people to do.

Why?

Many people feel that if they apologize:

  • They will be perceived as weak;
  • People will lose respect for them;
  • They will feel shame and embarrassment.

As attorneys, some of us have the hardest time apologizing. This is because we were actually trained to be “perfect”. We are trained to dot every “I” and cross every “t”. Perfectionism is an intrinsic quality many attorneys have, and most of the time it’s an admirable quality. You will work hard to make sure that you are representing your clients and solving whatever issues they have. But when perfectionism becomes the need to be perceived as right all of the time, even when you have made a mistake, this is when the characteristic is not so commendable.

And while many studies have shown that perfectionism and the pressure to be flawless is one of the reasons that attorneys have some of the highest rates of depression of any profession, I am not here to discuss that aspect.

I am discussing the need to learn that:

  1. No one, not even you, is perfect,
  2. We all make mistakes, and
  3. That a sincere apology is a great Rainmakers’ tool when you do make that mistake.

Credibility and trust are two of your most prized assets as a Rainmaker. How can you be considered credible if, when you make a mistake, you don’t take responsibility? Will your clients trust you?
The words: “I’m sorry”, when used correctly can be incredibly powerful for growing your book of business. Yet, not if they are empty words or words that are used when another phrase would have sufficed. For example, how many times have you lightly bumped into someone and the phrase “I’m sorry” automatically issues forth? I was one of those people. Someone graciously pointed out to me that I was apologizing for things for which I had no need to apologize. Now, instead of the knee-jerk “I’m sorry” in that situation, I say “pardon me” or “excuse me”.

A heartfelt and sincere apology can actually enhance your reputation amongst your clients. Even for the small things. If you cannot keep a promise that you made to a client or prospect, like calling back when you said you would, genuinely apologize without giving excuses. The excuses are unnecessary. It will build trust with them and they will like you even more.

Remember (as always) people do business with people they know, like and trust. And from this viewpoint, an attorney cannot afford to ignore his/her mistakes and avoid apologizing.

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Photo of Lindsay Griffiths Lindsay Griffiths

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. She is a dynamic, influential international executive and marketing thought leader with a passion for relationship development and authoring impactful content. Griffiths is a driven, strategic leader who implements creative initiatives to achieve the…

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. She is a dynamic, influential international executive and marketing thought leader with a passion for relationship development and authoring impactful content. Griffiths is a driven, strategic leader who implements creative initiatives to achieve the goals of a global professional services network. She manages all major aspects of the Network, including recruitment, member retention, and providing exceptional client service to an international membership base.

In her role as Executive Director, Griffiths manages a mix of international programs, engages a diverse global community, and develops an international membership base. She leads the development and successful implementation of major organizational initiatives, manages interpersonal relationships, and possesses executive presence with audiences of internal and external stakeholders. Griffiths excels at project management, organization, and planning, writes and speaks with influence and authority, and works independently while demonstrating flexibility in thinking, especially in challenging situations. She also adapts to diverse and dynamic environments with constant assessment and recalibration.

JD Supra Readers Choice Top Author 2019

In 2021, the ILN was honored as Global Law Firm Network of the Year by The Lawyer European Awards, and in 2016 and 2017, they were shortlisted as Global Law Firm Network of the Year. Since 2011, the Network has been listed as a Chambers & Partners Leading Law Firm Network, recently increasing this ranking to be included in the top two percent of law firm networks globally, as well as adding two regional rankings. She was awarded “Thought Leader of the Year” by the Legal Marketing Association’s New York chapter in 2014 for her substantive contributions to the industry and was included in Clio’s list of “34 People in Legal You Should Follow on Twitter.” She was also chosen for the American Bar Association Journal’s inaugural Web 100‘s Best Law Blogs, where judge Ivy Grey said “This blog is outstanding, thoughtful, and useful.” Ms. Griffiths was recently chosen as a Top Author by JD Supra in their 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards, for the level of engagement and visibility she attained with readers on the topic of marketing & business development. She has been the author of Zen & the Art of Legal Networking since February of 2009.