We’ve had a number of blog posts on “the little things that make a big difference” in the way a law firm shows up in the community, but no tip has ever had the potential to have this much impact. It’s not an easy tip to implement, if it was—everybody would do it.
We have been in business for 17 years now. Our only clients have been estate planning lawyers and all the staff in their firms. Most Academy Member law firms are 1 to 5 attorneys with 3 to 12 staff people in size. Some are bigger, but the majority are smaller to medium-sized law firms with a driven focus on providing a service in their community that is above and beyond anything another firm of any size could possibly provide. One particular Member came to mind this morning. Charles Pyke from Stockbridge, Georgia just south of Atlanta. He is an extraordinary estate planning and entrepreneurial minded-attorney with an unbelievable team of attorneys and staff.
As he left a huge Atlanta firm and went out on his own, Charles joined the Academy in 1996 and implemented every program possible. Over the past 14 years he created the systems he needed to have to make his practice incredibly fulfilling and successful and still manages to go hunting with his young boys, run all over the country with their wrestling championships and maintain a great life as a family man.
I asked him one time how his law firm retreat went and his response is still with me.
In his Southern Gentleman accent he said, “Well Jennifer, the most amazing thing happened at this retreat – our entire staff decided that this is the year we will treat everyone we come in contact with as though they are a volunteer.” By that he meant that he and each staff person would treat every interaction with their clients and prospective clients as though they were there voluntarily and at any given time, may not come back. Their approach was simple: treat everyone with a positive attitude and respect that would demonstrate their true appreciation of that important relationship. This was also important to carry over in their daily contacts with vendors, delivery people and each other.
What I observed in the Academy staff was a wonderfully calm and dedicated response and desire to really make things happen for him and his team, often working harder for a solution than we already do… the very attitude it generated on our end was different than working with someone who makes demands and has a harsh or venting way of raising a question or issue to be resolved. Not only was this “volunteer approach” noticeable around issues or challenges they may have experienced along the way but just as noticeable when things went right. The level of appreciation and the way the staff in his office or Charles himself would take a moment to end a conversation with acknowledgment or just to send a note of thanks for some normal assistance we provided was a noteworthy experience for many of us.
Looking back at that brief conversation with Charles almost 10 years ago, the simple yet profound approach still rings true to me along with the good feelings it generated… and it set a precedent in his firm that is still alive and well today. It has now become an almost tangible “wow experience” for those who are fortunate enough to work with his office. It reminds me that walking the talk is an awareness that has to be reinforced every day through every interaction in order to keep it alive. It’s a tricky thing to pull off I’m sure, but the results are far-reaching and long-lasting.
A game worth playing, don’t you think?
Director, Member Services
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.