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Listening can be more important than having a solution

listeningAs lawyers, it’s absolutely essential that we meet our clients’ needs and desires. This should be obvious, but all too often lawyers forget to think about what the client really wants. Here’s a classic example: the general counsel of a large organization told me yesterday over lunch about a meeting she’d had the day before with her (previously!) favored law firm for a certain project. Apparently they began their pitch by telling her how the project would be run and who would run it, without displaying the smallest understanding of the in-house team, or, more importantly, the in-house politics that would have to be dealt with during the course of the deal. Their proposal was disappointing because they had failed to take this information into account.

The second law firm competing for the project used their allotted pitch time to ask questions, listen, and account for information, and then asked if they could provide their final proposal as a follow up to the meeting’s discussion. The general counsel was more than happy to accept the request, and was delighted when their proposal actually met the organization’s specific needs and desires for the project.

Sometimes, as lawyers, we think we ought to know all the answers - and that our clients expect us to rush in with our expert advice. The truth is that, in common with most relationships, they usually first want us to understand their needs. In short, it can be simpler than we think.

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