Denver Bar Association
November 2005
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Is Your “Way” Getting in Your Way?

by Brigid O'Connor

Brigid O'Connor


Brigid O’Connor, MBA, of At Ease, LLC, is a public speaker who helps professionals communicate with efficiency and purpose. For other helpful articles visit



However you choose to define success; your demeanor affects whether you achieve it. Services marketing research demonstrates that your audiences — partners in your firm, clients, potential clients, support staff — look for clues as to your worth. They don’t seek these clues solely in the fount of knowledge you bring to the table. Rather, they dig for evidence in the nooks and crannies of your deportment. The clues they find comprise your image, and image influences whether clients find you magnetic, partners find you promotable, or support staff find you tolerable. More than just an amorphous concept, image is an integral business tool that can help you achieve professional goals.

When asked why lawyers don’t succeed, professionals working in Denver’s legal community (including firm partners, marketing directors and executive directors) agreed that bringing in business is key in today’s market. Many also believe that business tact and the ability to form productive relationships with internal and external clients are essential. Certainly the latter affects one’s ability to achieve the former, and whether you can succeed at either depends on your "way." If you’ve honed your image in the areas of visibility, presentation, knowledge and service, you’ll have more appeal to both clients and internal audiences.

Visibility, Knowledge, Presentation and Service

Research shows that when people judge you they analyze four areas. You can take simple steps to ensure that findings in each area work for you, not against you.

Are you visible?

Despite the fact that time is scarce, do you take time to be "felt" inside and outside the office? According to the "Toughest Case Is Making Partner" from an August issue of The National Law Journal, strategic self-promotion can catapult you forward. (Take care, though, because overdoing this can appear boastful rather than being strategic.)

To augment your visibility you can:

Share — Circulate applicable articles, summarize and distribute information from pertinent continuing education courses and e-mail colleagues links to informative websites.

Write — Write about what you know and submit the articles to trade publications or to your firm’s newsletter. Circulate the outcome to key people.

Raise your Hand — When a volunteer is sought for a
project, or a committee needs someone to present the findings, be that person.

Visibility also improves when you:

• Get involved in the community through volunteering;

• Participate in professional associations such as the Denver Bar Association;

• Attend networking functions; and

• Cultivate a media presence by positioning yourself as an expert source for local journalists.

Do people know what you know?

As others calculate your worth, knowledge is an obvious asset. But it isn’t just about having it; it’s about communicating that you have it. People need to understand the depths of your knowledge. You need to speak with authority and substantiate opinions and advice with proof points — not just in the courtroom but in all rooms of your business life. Again, be careful not to cross the line into boastfulness, but communicate the extent of your education and experience in conversations and via less subtle channels such as bylined articles, biographies and public-speaking introductions.


This image quadrant offers people the most easily accessible clues to your credibility and professionalism. Consider this exercise: In your office take the seat the clients use. What do you see? All of it says something about you. Also consider your fax cover sheets, e-mail correspondence, business card, phone messages, memos and letters. They all speak volumes about you; so do your public speaking ability, posture, attire and facial expression.


Superior client service is integral to a productive image. To augment perceptions of your service:

Clarify expectations — Demonstrate that you know the value of service by asking clients what they want from the client-attorney relationship. During the life of the relationship, periodically ask if expectations are being met.

Listen — You can likely size up the facts of a client’s situation quickly and tell the client what to do. But don’t skip the service step that mandates acknowledging the related emotions.

Responsiveness — Time starvation is no excuse for delayed response. Return calls and e-mails the same day, even if you are just telling the client you’re working on it.

Hone your visibility, knowledge, presentation and service to good effect and you’ll be well on your way to success without your "way" getting in the way.


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