The Bar News

Building Your Law Firm’s Social Capital From the Inside Out

By Mark C. Palmer, Chief Counsel at the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism

What channels of trust have you built lately? Put another way, what social capital tracks have you put down to promote and maintain the delivery of your firm’s services?

Whether you’re the managing partner at a large firm or a solo practitioner, part of your job as a professional is being attentive to your social capital networks. This could include anyone from friends, neighbors and former classmates, to colleagues in civic organizations and legal associations. Your network also intersects with those of your employees; and together, your firm’s social capital provides the foundation for a business to thrive.

However, you cannot own your social capital or just go buy it (well, you can try). It requires an investment of time and effort without quick dividends.

The ebb and flow of your social capital assets—goodwill, trust, referrals, cooperation, support—requires constant attention. You must maintain what you have and nurture where you’re headed. For these resources to truly exist, they must come from authentic relationships born both within and outside your workplace.

Mentoring Unlocks Your Potential

Lawyers with valuable social capital can draw on these relationships to better serve their clients and their firm. Firms with high social capital serve their networks and their networks serve them, achieving goals with cooperative action based on genuine communication and trust.

Mentoring enhances communication between attorneys in a law firm setting, albeit associate to partner, associate to senior associate or otherwise. This two-way (reverse mentoring) channel of communication fosters personal relationships and mutual commitment to achieving organizational goals.

For example, mentoring enables firms to build a strong network of trust. Concerns can be conveyed and interests expressed in a more meaningful way. This often happens via one-on-one conversations, free from distraction. Experienced attorneys may find newer attorneys better suited to seek feedback and apply guidance. This trust, respect, and commitment across the workplace establishes the firm’s culture.

In addition, work-product delivered to clients is enhanced through open communication and a collaborative environment. Firms that embrace mentoring relationships will be better able to harness employee talents and facilitate the flow of novel ideas to address client needs. With mentoring being the seed of change, client relations can improve and revenues may reflect the same.

Finally, tomorrow’s leaders can be identified and nurtured through mentoring relationships. Partners who provide challenging assignments with guidance and feedback will develop requisite technical expertise in associates. Additionally, those partners will have an opportunity to examine and hone the mentee’s competencies for the betterment of the mentee and the firm. Such close relationships enhance employee retention and advancement, thus expediting succession planning and leadership transitions.

Discover the Benefits: Join the ISBA’s Mentoring Program

Social capital can increase firm revenue, efficiency, and the loyalty of employees and clients. However, social capital is the byproduct of your efforts to contribute to the success of others. That contribution IS mentoring. The generosity of the mentoring you share correlates with the social capital you earn.

Discover the benefits of mentoring for social capital at your firm with the Illinois State Bar Association’s mentoring program. The year-long, Illinois Supreme Court-approved program traces the five tenants of professional responsibility—professionalism, ethics, civility, diversity and inclusion, and mental health and substance abuse. Professional and personal friendships often develop, advancing the integrity of the practice of law and a sense of community among the bar. And this happens while you’re investing in your own social capital.

All licensed Illinois attorneys in their first five years of admission are eligible to participate as a mentee. Illinois attorneys with five years or more years of experience may serve as mentors.

The program is free to ISBA members. Upon completion of the program, participants are eligible to earn 6 hours of MCLE/PMCLE credit PLUS a certificate to attend a free ISBA CLE program.  

Applications are due by December 11, 2019. For more information and to apply, please visit: www.isba.org/mentoring/.

Mark C. Palmer serves as Chief Counsel under the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism to facilitate the promotion of professionalism, civility and integrity among our lawyers and judges. A frequent writer on legal ethics, legal tech and future law issues, he is a contributor to the 2Civility blog. Follow him @palmerlaw.

Posted on November 14, 2019 by Rhys Saunders
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