Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Brick-in' it!

"Mirror, mirror on the wall is Samantha Brick the fairest of them all?".

Not if you believe the 10,000 comments on the Daily Mail website in reaction to her piece “why woman hate me for being beautiful”.

Ms Brick's response to the public outcry is that it proves she is right and is the subject of spiteful scorn for her beauty. 

You have to ask yourself how can a seemingly educated journalist can get it all so wrong. The public abhorrence of her piece is not a reaction to a beautiful woman speaking out against a society which judges her for her looks, as she claims is the case.  Nope, the public are appalled at the unashamed arrogance of the piece and at her for saying it.

It is clear that Ms Brick has little or no comprehension of the social mores that most of us seem to understand: boastfulness, swagger, cockiness, bumptiousness or, lets face it, conceit is a turn off rather than a turn on.  Whilst the Daily Mail will delight in the level of coverage this piece has got, and Ms Brick may even profit as an anti-heroine, most of us would not want to be seen in this way.

I am sure that, when not writing for the Daily Mail, Ms Brick is nothing like the public persona she has created. However, her complete lack of judgement and seeming focus on what and who she is, rather than how she fits in with others is a failing.

So, what has this to do with lawyers?  

Lawyers are often seen as Society's pariahs.  We all have heard jokes about how greedy or distrustful Lawyers are.  Whilst funny (we all need to be able to laugh at ourselves) they do not reflect the majority of people I come across on a day-to-day basis.

It is, however, a question of perception.  True or not, lawyers have a reputation that reputation has stuck. 

There is a fabulous web tool called wordle (I am sure most of you know it). If you drop in a body of text, it creates a word cloud which gives greater prominence to the most frequently featured words.  It can be an invaluable tool when assessing client feed back to enable you to identify themes, for example.

It is also useful to demonstrate the subliminal message contained in websites and marketing collateral.  A few years back, I used to have law firm clients undertake this exercise with their website text and marketing literature.  

The most frequently used word, in almost every case...?  "We".

And who hasn't been at those lunches where partners have insisted on telling a relentless chain of "war stories" detailing their legal prowess and cunning, failing completely to judge the mood or ask their client "what are you focusing on at the moment?" or "what keeps you awake at night?".

Most law firm website sites, still, focus on what they are about, what they are good at and what they offer.  Marketing literature and tender documents tend to be no better and sometimes worse.  Mercifully, however, the war stories seem to be dying out.

What we all need to remember and ensure we project is not, who and what we are, but what we can do for our clients.  Less "We" and more "You".  

Clients want to know how lawyers will help them, put their needs at the centre of consideration and deliver the right advice in a service-centric way. Its not about the law or how clever the lawyer is but about solving their issue or challenge as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Lawyers can learn from Ms Brick's (appalling) example.  People rarely judge us for who we are but for the who we project ourselves to be.

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