My recent post on the importance of “trust” in relation to law firms (See my post of June 20, 2008.) spurred Andrew Shipley, Assistant General Counsel – Litigation for Northrop Grumman Corporation, to respond. He disagrees with my interpretation of the term as a paternalistic relationship between unequals. Shipley makes a good point and I quote his comment in its entirety below:
I couldn’t help but think that you may have colored the word “trust” in hues not contemplated by the clients who stated they valued what it stands for. The success of an attorney-client relationship, like any significant relationship in which confidences are exchanged, depends on a number of factors. While the ones you cite, “mutual respect” and “reliance,” certainly number among them, so does trust. I don’t believe the word connotes only asymmetrical relationships in which one is beholden to or dependent upon the other. I think the concept also applies to relationships between equals (aren’t successful marriages dependent to some extent on mutual trust as well as respect?). Simply put, I hire outside counsel I trust, as I believe they will act in my client’s best interests. That does not preclude a working relationship based on mutual respect and reliance. It does mean that if we hit any bumps in the road, we are more likely to work them out because of the trust we have in each other to do the right thing.