Generosity, the act of giving more than is necessary or expected, unfortunately is not a word often associated with the legal profession, though I know countless generous lawyers. Yet, I have found authentic generosity to be one the most effective strategies for building a book of business because it builds trust, the secret sauce of any relationship.
In the legal world, wherein we are always trying to prevent or solve problems, we as lawyers can forget that the client may be a business, but they’re also a person. And people value authentic generosity. Asking clients, “How can I help you as a person?” can build trust and cause them to remember us.
Early in my career I was blessed to have a mentor with a generous spirit, Bonnie Redding. She held a higher opinion of me than I did myself, and her vision for me was more than I thought possible. She constantly challenged me to grow, and when I started believing some of what she kept telling me about who I could be, my career took off.
Bonnie helped me become a better lawyer, but more importantly, a better person. When someone impacts your life at that level you never forget. Sadly, she passed away in 1995. To this day I hold her near and dear to my heart and do my best to share her lesson of generosity. I often fail to adhere to her standard, but at least I try. Every day.
Give When You’re Feeling Full
When I feel full of positivity, I find it easier to create trusting relationships. I’ve noticed that when I feel full, I rarely get offended because I don’t get triggered easily. I can be more honest because I’m not afraid of how it might affect the relationship. I don’t put up walls because I’m not trying to protect myself. Feeling full is intuitive. You’ll know it when you feel it, and people will respond to it by trusting you more. My dear friend Dr. Tahir Bhatti calls that feeling of fullness – grace. I love that word.
When you give your full self to others—because you’re coming from a place of fullness rather than scarcity—people sense that feeling and reciprocate it or pass it on to someone else. Earning trust is the fastest way to become a better lawyer and the kind of person people want to be around.
Be Generous To Yourself
Take care of your mind, body and spirit. Eat right. Exercise regularly. Get enough sleep. Drink plenty of water. Develop your mind by reading books and listening to podcasts that help you grow as a human being. Develop a spiritual practice to replenish yourself. For some, this may mean going to church on a regular basis. For others, it can involve walking along the beach, practicing yoga or mediation, listening to music, developing a hobby such as painting or gardening – anything that nourishes your body and soul.
True generosity doesn’t seek reciprocity. When you do something for someone else without expecting anything in return, it feels good. However, it can be easy to overgive, especially when feeling abundant. So be selective with your generosity. Don’t give it to people who can’t understand or appreciate it because then it becomes negative rather than positive. Be generous to people who are generous to you in return. Some may not reciprocate your generosity because they aren’t in a position to give. But they will never forget you.
Most of all, don’t expect to become a paragon of generosity overnight because it takes practice. When working with clients, tune into radio station WIFU (what’s in it for you) rather than WIFM (what’s in it for me). Your heart must be open to receive the overflow, but WIFU has better music. Its rhythm is there every day if you just tap into it!
P.S. – I also teach a workshop to help attorneys practice the growth mindset principles on a daily basis. I would love to see you there.
Janice P. Brown
Founder and President Beyond Law / Principal Meyers Nave