The dynamic between lawyer confidence and reputation

It's easy to make the connection between how confident you are and how persuasively you can make a point. When you've argued in front of a judge, jury, panel, or opposing counsel, you've probably experienced this confidence dynamic firsthand. When you feel confident, people see you as more effective, and you become more productive.

But have you considered how this dynamic plays out in other areas of your career and practice?

What legal consumers want

A noteworthy 46% of legal consumers list a lawyer's expertise as the top factor they consider when choosing which lawyer to hire, according to a Thomson Reuters survey of 2,000 legal consumers. Expertise was the No. 1 factor legal consumers considered in making their decisions, outranking cost, location, and even word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family.

But having the expertise and projecting expertise are two entirely different things. The difference between having expertise and having a reputation for expertise comes down to one thing: confidence.

Confidence is the foundation of your brand

Not only do your peers note expertise when evaluating the merit of your argument, but they also take your expertise into account when they decide what cases to refer your way. And referrals from fellow lawyers continue to be a major way in which customers first learn your name.

The reality is that brands are built on a perception of competence and confidence. Nobody ever says, “If you've been injured in a car accident, call us. We'll give it a decent try, and we might even be able to help you out depending on how things go."

What can you do about the confidence-reputation dynamic?

Considering the strong connection between confidence and reputation, you're probably asking yourself what you can do about it.

Well, there are two concrete steps every lawyer can take to increase their confidence in almost any situation.

1. Visualize your future success

Sometimes the sheer scope of your challenges can appear overwhelming, at least at first glance. It's important to keep perspective in mind in these cases.

Perspective helps you get your bearings, and getting your bearings calms the nerves. Whether it's game day, match day, a trial date, or a hearing date, having calm confidence has both tangible and intangible benefits.

The people around you – your clients, peers, and opponents – will notice when you know what you're walking into. This applies to the big picture, obviously. But don't discount the value of smaller details, like being able to advise a client where to park and knowing the best route to the courtroom. These little things add up under high pressure situations – unless you're prepared for them in advance.

Simply put, the act of visualizing and planning allows you to remove unknowns. And when you eliminate the uncertainty of an unknown, you remove another piece of doubt that can erode your confidence.

2. Don't just plan your approach; stress test it

Putting yourself through the paces and poking holes in your strategy is not exactly revolutionary advice. But it is important to test and evaluate your work early and often.

“Early and often" is key, as catching errors en masse near the end of your preparation can be demoralizing, whereas catching issues in draft form and dealing with them early in the process will feel energizing and confidence-boosting.

Start by bouncing your approach off a colleague when you can. They may be able to spot pitfalls you aren't seeing.

In addition to consulting with others, you can take advantage of legal technology that can help you detect and correct the weak spots in your strategy. With insight and a level of detail that was almost impossible before, tech advancements mean this is now a built-in part of your legal research workflow.

With Westlaw Edge Canada, you can count on KeyCite Overruling Risk to run the citations you're relying upon through the wringer. This type of quality control can be a real confidence booster, and it's among the reasons why Westlaw Edge is the standard for legal research.

The confidence balance: Adding confidence to your reputation without appearing arrogant

Now, true confidence, the sort that will build your brand, is earned through quality work. It cannot be faked, and it should be embraced. But keep in mind, nobody likes a blowhard. There are assertive yet mannerly ways you can put your confidence to work for your brand.

  • Interacting with clients Quite simply, don't be secretive. Show your clients why you are confident by sharing what you know and how you learned it. Demonstrating that you combine your personal insight with top-tier research to develop your strategy helps your clients feel informed and cared for. This sets the stage for a strong bond throughout the lawyer-client relationship and beyond.
  • Interacting with other lawyers Give credit where credit is due. When you have a win to celebrate, share the accolades. If it was a colleague who helped, heap praise upon them. If an insight paved the way to a breakthrough, celebrate the insight, as opposed to your ability to find it. Celebrating in a way that shares the success with others shows far more confidence than bragging about yourself.

The big picture

In closing, confidence really does matter to more than just your own mindset. There is an undeniable connection between your own sense of confidence and your professional reputation as a lawyer. Whether they show it or not, your peers, your clients, and the judges you appear before are all watching you and forming an opinion. Your confidence, the way you demonstrate it, and where it comes from will all have an intrinsic connection to how you are perceived.

At some point soon, someone will ask these people about lawyers they know. Make sure your name comes up for the right reasons.

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The standard for legal research