Everyone knows that shared values matter greatly in interpersonal relationships – in fact, they may be one of the few absolute requirements for a successful and rewarding long term personal relationship. Most would also agree they matter within an organization, where individual values ultimately dictate company culture. I’d like to make the case for the importance of shared values in attorney-client relationships.
Both attorneys and clients come in many “shapes and sizes” when it comes to personalities, preferences, communication styles, etc. I’m not suggesting that these qualities need to be the same or even similar. In fact, one can argue that it’s healthy to the overall team to have varying skills, experiences and styles. However, I don’t believe that’s true when it comes to values. I believe shared values and value systems are essential to a long term successful relationship.
When speaking of values in the attorney-client context, I’m talking about those principles – business, ethical, etc. – that dictate both what we’re willing to do and not willing to do and how we’re willing to do it. For example, I’m not willing to lie or mislead, abuse or mistreat, or place unfair demands or blame on the other side to a negotiation. My value system inherently tells me that these are the wrong actions and behaviors to bring about a positive outcome for my clients. I am, however, willing to push myself and my team to the limits to zealously and aggressively represent my client’s interests. When clients share these values with me, we make a great team and can accomplish great things. If we don’t, it will ultimately lead to frustration and disappointment.
If you haven’t taken the time to explore whether you and your attorney (or you and your client) share the same essential values, you should. It can go a long way toward establishing the right relationship and building it so that you – as an attorney-client team – reach your maximum potential for the benefit of your business.