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

social capitalWhat 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

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 Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism’s mentoring program. The year-long 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 of experience may serve as mentors. As you venture to increase your social capital, explore how the Court’s mentoring program can help you achieve that goal.

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Mark C. Palmer

Mark C. Palmer

As Professionalism Counsel, Mark leads professionalism programming through the statewide mentoring program, collaborating with stakeholders from Galena to Cairo. Mark also supports the development and delivery of educational programming to lawyers and in law schools. When not in the office, you will likely find Mark and his wife busy raising their twin daughters, enjoying his passion of traveling and eating around the world, and training for his next half marathon.
Mark C. Palmer

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