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Respect your clients – don’t patronize them – and expect the same from your law firm partners

You build strong trust and respect with your clients if you never make them feel dumb. They may do something or ask something that seems so basic to you, but never make them feel silly. That alienates them; it patronizes them. This rock-solid advice came from a panelist at the most recent SuperConference, Marti Wronski, General Counsel of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Posts on this blog have criticized corporate lawyers who look down on their clients or intimidate the non-lawyers among them (See my post of Oct. 24, 2005: a risk if you explain a lawsuit’s costs and ask a client to sign off; April 15, 2006: listen to clients, don’t patronize them by rushing ahead; May 8, 2007: lawyers can intimidate non-lawyers; and Dec. 10, 2007: “hold the hand” of executives demeans them.).

You don’t like it when some high and mighty partner trots out the “I know more than you” routine, so don’t do the same with your colleagues. A few times I have called out patronizing attitudes of some law firm partners (See my post of Oct. 30, 2006: condescension by law firm partners; Nov. 19, 2005: another patronizing British comment about law departments; June 9, 2007: UK views about the relative stress inside and outside; Aug. 4, 2008: disparagement of inside counsel; and June 15, 2008: some reluctance to offer instruction since it may come across as patronizing.). More broadly, I dislike patronizing, disparaging remarks about in-house (See my post of June 9, 2007: superior minds at law firms; and Oct. 12, 2006: “little merit to a full-service law department”.).

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