Lawyers and Leadership – Trust is more important now than ever

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Lawyers and Leadership – Trust is more important now than ever.

In November 2003, I (along with a few thousand of my closest colleagues) was sworn in as a lawyer licensed by the State of Texas. The swearing-in required that I recite the following:

I do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitutions of the United States, and of this state; that I will honestly demean myself in the practice of law; that I will discharge my duties to my clients to the best of my ability; and that I will conduct myself with integrity and civility in dealing and communicating with the court and all parties. So help me God.

Since that ceremonious event, I have pulled many a client’s wagon out of the legal ditch in an effort to honor that solemn vow. I have been relied upon for guidance, counsel, and get-it-right legal in some extremely challenging situations. With a general counsel practice focus, the range of challenges that come across my desk is a mile wide and, after nearly 15 years in this effort, a mile or more deep. It has never been “easy,” and if it were, I suppose no one would have a need to engage my services.

According to the Texas Lawyer’s Creed—which is designed to be read in the first person—“. . . I know that professionalism requires more than merely avoiding the violation of laws and rules.”

While the vow I took nearly 20 years ago specifically mentions core qualities of Honesty, Integrity, Civility, and Best of Ability, I attribute much of my success to essentially a word: Leadership.

Depending on the point of view, the quality of Leadership encompasses all other characteristics of professionalism and is a quality that must be continually honed and re-evaluated. There is no end to its development, and perfection is unattainable.

For the last 3,012 days (but, who’s counting…), I have served as outside General Counsel to the Promotional Products Association International (a publicly available fact). PPAI is a trade association with a board of leaders from across the U.S. and Canada and a membership base of near 15,000 that is innovative, creative, and entrepreneurial. On August 15-17, 2022, PPAI hosted its North American Leadership Conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I was fortunate to attend the event, and from the event, I took note of the few “nuggets” below the topic of innovation and leadership:

  • Innovation—Think differently about what’s right in front of you to create an advantage.
  • Stability breeds efficiency and complacency. Instability breeds resilience and innovation.
  • Sometimes we get so far in the weeds we miss opportunities. Step back and evaluate the forest.
  • Tune in to challenges that are heard over and over, and then thoughtfully dive into or approach them.
  • Look for immediate wins and long-term opportunities.
  • Reward behaviors, not outcomes.
  • Creating value at the speed-of-need is how you compete and win.
  • Nothing happens until something moves.
  • Lost money can be later found. Lost time is lost forever.
  • Your digital footprint could be your digital exhaust, choking others in the wake.
  • Experience that you provide is more important than the product itself.
  • Anticipate stakeholder needs.
  • Be holistic: we, not me, when building successful systems, business.
  • Trust more important now than ever.
  • Competence – reliable and capable, plus Character—integrity and benevolence.
  • Remain Nimble; Mobile – Understand rigid aspects of business and innovate for mobility.
  • Excellence is about the next 5 minutes. Demonstrate excellence with everything you do.
  • Control- or silo-mentality is for amateurs.
  • Personalization is an important currency.

Insights: Leadership is a journey. Through that journey, I have at times stood with arms raised in the shape of a V for victory, and I have fallen. But, I remain humble in successes, and I always get up in my failures. As a lawyer poised and seasoned to address a wide range of legal issues, trusted leadership is a key quality for discharging legal duties to the best of my ability. If I incorporate my personalization, experience, Honesty, Integrity, and Civility into every matter, no other attorney on the planet can duplicate that—those traits are mine, developed by me over nearly 20 years. That approach can and should be applied by every attorney, for themselves, and so that, as a profession, the common vow and Creed are continually fortified. The path of the bold leader—especially one who sits in the role of trusted consigliere—is usually riddled with tremendous hurdles and challenges. With continual honing of Leadership, Honesty, Integrity, and Civility, those professional hurdles can be cleared and the challenges overcome. So help me God.


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