Savvy business people know their clients want services
and products they can trust—that do what they purport
to do. They also want to know they can, with reason, trust
the producers of the product and/or deliverer of the services.
After all, business is conducted via relationship and
trust is the key ingredient to the health of those relationships.
The provider of services and products are not seeking
one-time users. They are seeking relationships with
people who will return again, and again, and again.
Therefore, business results and long-term relationships
require trust that lasts over time.
A law practice is essentially a service business, delivering
to clients a reliable, trustworthy means to resolve
the problems brought to them by their clients. Building
a successful law practice requires trust to exist in
all aspects of the practice and among the people in
When trust is present, people collaborate with one
another, they pitch in and help one another out, there
is a sharing of information and knowledge. People take
greater pride in what they do and share in the responsibility
for the performance of the practice. When you place
trust in your employees you are inviting then to maximize
their contribution to the successful resolution of each
Trust provides the foundation for healthy sustainable
client and employee relationships and leads to the desired
growth of you law practice. Building and maintaining
trust requires your attention. Yet many attorneys ponder:
what does trust mean and how do we build it?
What is trust?
Trust is a highly complex and emotionally provocative
topic that means different things to different people.
And that is a big part of the problem! Through extensive
research and work in over 87 organizations in 19 different
industries, Drs. Dennis and Michelle Reina concluded
that trust is transactional in nature;
it is reciprocal; you have to give it to get it, and
it is developed incrementally over time (Trust &
Betrayal in the Workplace: Building Effective Relationships
in Your Organization, Berrett-Koehler, 1999).
The Reina’s define three elements or types of
trust: Contractual Trust, the trust of character;
Communication Trust, the trust of disclosure;
and Competence Trust, the trust of capability.
Contractual Trust focuses on performance behaviors
such as how well people keep their agreements, how clear
expectations and boundaries are, and how consistent
people are in their behavior toward one another.
2) Communication Trust deals with behaviors
that indicate how well people share pertinent job information,
how freely they admit mistakes, give and receive constructive
feedback, and speak directly to people when they have
an issue with them.
3) Competence Trust focuses on behaviors regarding
how well people acknowledge other people’s skills
and abilities, include them in decisions that affect
their jobs, and their lives and how often they help
people learn new skills.
Because trust means different things to different people,
the Transactional Trust ModelTM puts people on the same
page. The Model gives people a common language, a shared
understanding of what trust means, and the performance
behaviors that build it.
How do you build trust?
Where do you start? The following steps can help you
begin to build trust in your team or organization.
1) Make the Business Case for Trust.
Review the core business needs of your firm
- Ask: What is essential for your practice to be successful?
What would high levels of trust look like? What would
we have that we don’t have now?
- Review desired results such as: attracting new
clients, retaining the ones you have, the internal
collaboration necessary between internal members of
your firm to provide outstanding client service.
- Take a serious look at the Transactional Trust
behaviors and determine how these behaviors need to
be implemented to produce strong results.
2) Raise the Awareness and Consciousness of
Trust. Ask people: What does trust mean to
you? What are the specific behaviors that build trust?
How are those behaviors connected to the
work you need to perform every day? How are the behaviors
that build trust connected to the needs of the practice
and your clients?
3) Build a Shared Language and Common Understanding
of Trust. Share the Transactional Trust Model™
, the three elements of Transactional Trust, and the
behaviors that build them. Map out how the behaviors
that build Contractual Trust, Communication Trust, Competence
Trust are connected to the needs of this practice and
the needs of the individuals performing the work?
4) Establish a Baseline Measurement of Trust.
Assess the level of Transactional Trust that exists
in your firm. Are you meeting your desired results?
If yes, identify where there is a foundation of trust
and build upon it. If not, determine the behaviors that
are breaking trust and address them.
Remember, business is conducted via relationships
and trust is the foundation of effective relationships.
To pay attention to trust in relationships is to pay
attention to the performance of your practice.
Michelle L. Reina, Ph.D. works with
business leaders who want to build trust in their organizations,
is a principal of Chagnon & Reina Associates, Inc.,
the Trust Building Experts®, consults and speaks
all over the country, is the co-author of Trust
& Betrayal in the Workplace: Building Effective
Relationships in Your Organization (1999, Berrett-Koehler
Publishers).You can contact Michelle at email@example.com;
Jane E. Smith, Esq. is an attorney,
a Certified Member of the Reina Trust Network. She founded
and runs LISIMBA Consulting Services, Inc. and specializes
in cross-cultural work, facilitating Trust Building
in various business settings. She has written and spoken
on cross-cultural issues for many years, as part of
her work to build collaborative, trusting relationships,
nationally and internationally, in business settings.
You can contact Jane at firstname.lastname@example.org;