If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you. – Zig Ziegler


A number of things can cause one to land in a law firm leadership position; such as success in building a legal practice, ability to build consensus and advance initiatives or even political acumen. But two factors are essential if one is to seize the role and provide enduring leadership: trust and respect.

Neither is an automatic byproduct of the position.

Trust is earned when you do what you say you are going to do – when deeds match rhetoric, and align with the values of your organization. At a practical level, this means a few things must be accomplished.

  1. A leader must be prepared to put a stake in the ground, defining goals, timetables and specific actions
  2. These goals and action steps must be communicated (and re-communicated) to the firm
  3. The leader must maintain focus, and follow through on promised action, and then be certain the organization is aware of critical benchmarks and accomplishments
  4. Trust is earned by embracing responsibility when things go wrong and graciously distributing credit when they go well

To conduct ones self in a manner consistent with firm values presumes a crystal clear understanding of said values, and the commitment to conduct business in a manner consistent with these cultural cornerstones.

Gaining respect is an incremental process. It requires consistency as well as a measure of success in moving the organization forward. Practically speaking, this means:

  1. Establishing realistic as well as measurable objectives that are consistent with the aspirations of the firm
  2. Ensuring firm values are adhered to no matter the influence of the person in question
  3. Treating everyone with an equal level of dignity and respect no matter their role or performance
  4. Walking the talk, being the example for others

How do you see leaders earning trust and respect?