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Getting Ahead with Gratitude

(originally published in the newsletter of the LMA Capital Chapter)

With the holiday season upon us, law firms’ thoughts turn to the logistics of sending holiday cards and brainstorming the hottest client gifts. And, while these touch points show clients that your attorneys appreciate their business, why not consider taking it a step further and expressing gratitude for the professional opportunities your clients provide? Psychology Today defines gratitude as “an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has — as opposed to, say, a consumer-oriented emphasis on what one wants or needs.”

How does this relate to the practice of law?

Part of my job involves writing attorney biographies, a process that generally starts with a phone interview. In these interviews, I like to find out what motivates attorneys in their profession. I’ve only had one or two attorneys, of hundreds, mention compensation when asked what they love about their work. Just the other day, a litigator told me that he is rewarded by having the opportunity to be persuasive. Another told me that he enjoys the complex problem solving that he gets to exercise in contract matters. In short, they are motivated and rewarded by doing the kind of work that intellectually stimulates them or lets them put their skills to the test. And who do they have to thank for this? Their clients.

It’s important for attorneys to realize that without good clients, there wouldn’t be any “good” work. It goes beyond making a list of the firm’s top 20 revenue-generating clients. It’s about realizing that without clients to bring attorneys challenging (and also profitable) matters, the legal work that attorneys thank clients for each year wouldn’t be so worthwhile.

But why does this matter?

Are there any practical business reasons for an attorney to let clients know they are grateful for the work?

Just going through the exercise of thinking about what you are grateful for can help to strengthen relationships and improve your outlook.  Offering clients an authentic “thank you” will help strengthen bonds between sources of work and the attorney. In a Fortune magazine article titled, “Why Gratitude is Good for Business Year-Round,” marketing professor Betsy Bugg Holloway noted that gratitude “is a precursor to develop trust.” The article goes on to state, “trust itself is an extremely powerful driver for loyalty, no matter the type of relationship. Just the same, gratitude is only valuable when it comes across as genuine.” Further, Psychology Today notes that studies show that “grateful thinking—and especially expression of it to others—is associated with increased levels of energy, optimism, and empathy.” What could be a better way to start the New Year?

So as we enter the holiday season, think about what the attorneys at your firm can do in the coming year to show clients that they are grateful for the work they send to your firm. It might be what Forbes dubbed a “gratitude call,” it could mean taking a referral source out to lunch and telling her how much her efforts are appreciated, or it might include sending a gift for a birthday or seminal event. However you approach it, thinking in terms of gratitude is a win-win for both attorneys and their clients, and that’s a bottom line worth pursuing.