In recent years, IP Draughts has worked on several projects where, before his firm was involved, there had been difficulties. It might be technical difficulties with the work, or a lack of care in executing it, delays, poor relationships, bad communications, or misunderstandings. In some cases, it wasn’t obviously anyone’s fault – it’s just a fact of life that things can go wrong.
Taking over messy projects can be stressful. There are often pressures of time, attitudes may have hardened, and people are looking for a quick fix. Sometimes the problems have been caused by a sub-optimal approach by the client. It can be an uphill struggle to get people to trust and listen to you, and to change their approach to one that is methodical and sensible.
But there are rewards when the project is successfully completed, and people appreciate the efforts you have put into sorting out the mess.
Often, those efforts come down to a few points that may seem obvious in hindsight.
- the academic who is perplexed about why things are taking so long, and who can be “turned around” by following up quickly on emails, explaining what is happening, and demonstrating that you understand their frustrations and are trying to get things sorted.
- the executive who thinks “the lawyers” are creating complications, and who can be persuaded of your value when you do some creative drafting that addresses their concerns, or explain why an issue is difficult to resolve.
- the client who is doubtful about the value that lawyers bring, and who receives regular updates from you, and notes of advice that are written in a non-lawyerly way and are easy to digest and understand, while also being careful and well-considered.
Often, the qualities that help you get the job done, and help persuade people you are doing a good job, include the following:
- Technical quality. Consistently thinking through the legal, commercial and drafting issues, and providing work to a high technical standard.
- Empathy and communication. Listening to the client and demonstrating that you understand their priorities and concerns. Telling the client what you are going to do and then reliably doing it. Communicating in a clear and straightforward way. Treating people, on your side and the other side, in a consistent, reasonable manner.
- Diligence and thoughtfulness. Working hard to get the job completed in a reasonable timescale. Being focussed both on the immediate task in front of you, and the bigger picture of the client’s objectives.
Do these things a few times, and many clients will become loyal. In the last year, IP Draughts has received praise from clients for several people within his firm, after they have produced good work product in difficult circumstances. This has been very welcome, particularly after stressful negotiations.
Not all clients, of course. Some people just don’t care about legal issues, are not people-focussed, or have very specific requirements (e.g. they want the support of a legal rottweiller).
Zoom and Teams have helped to get things done. In past years, IP Draughts might have met perhaps 10-20% of the people he dealt with, and spoken by phone to most of the rest. In the last few weeks he has seen many more people than usual, typically having several video calls per day. He had a video call this week with someone he last met 10 years ago, and has been working with periodically throughout that time.
While not quite as good as meeting them face to face, a video call does help to establish trust and camaraderie. For our line of work, Zoom and Teams are fast becoming indispensible. So much so, that he now has 3 Zoom accounts – the firm’s account, a personal one, and a third for use in online training via UCL Laws.