My favorite quote is one my dad may have authored:  “I can’t stub my toe hard enough to make it hurt you!”  Despite the difficulty we all have in learning from the mistakes of others, I occasionally share my “Rules of the Road” with law firm sales and marketing professionals to help them avoid mistakes I have made along the way.  While the moniker “Rules of the Road” is mine, I learned many of these lessons from a mentor, Merrill Gerstner, former IBMer and president of Performance Communications Inc., where I worked early in my career.  I’ve added to Merrill’s original list each time I’ve significantly stubbed my toe in the unique operating environment of a private law firm.

That said, here are the first five of my “Rules of the Road”. These five rules deal with internal communications issues, while the balance – to be shared in a future post — primarily concern work flow and project management decisions:

1.  Always tell the truth.  Don’t cover up.  Don’t run.  Don’t hide.  Answer questions simply and squarely.  Don’t assume what the questioner is after. 

2.  If there is going to be a problem that I have to get involved with, I want to know about it long before I get a call.  No surprises.

3.  Never gossip or take sides or play favorites.  We deal only with business facts, not with personalities.

4.  Remember that the economic bond of partnership transcends all else.  If you talk to one partner you are talking to them all.

5.  Never write or say anything about a person that you would not say to his/her face.  If you have to start a sentence with the words:  “Please don’t tell so and so…..” you should not speak the words that follow.  Exception:  You and I can speak with one another in the strictest confidence.  Breaking of this bond is fatal. 

5a.  Avoid writing whenever possible.  Avoid voice messages when possible.  Try to do it live and in person or on the phone.  Don’t leave unnecessary audit trails.  Try not to use the cc line on e-mails and memos.  If it’s worth someone knowing something, it’s worth having their name on the “to” line.  Too often, “cc’s” look like “cya’s.”  And, too often they create endless responses, counter-responses, etc. — wasting our precious time.

In my next post, I will address the balance of my “Rules of the Road” — rules that might just help a law firm marketer somewhere avoid stubbing his or her toe with a mistake that’s already been made.

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