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In Defense of Others-Centeredness

On Behalf of | Aug 23, 2017 | Firm News

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Google the topic “lawyer marketing” or “improving your law practice” and you will get 2,640,000 results in .61 seconds. And no doubt, there is probably some good information buried in those 2,640,000 results. However, what is not contained in these search results (in at least the first 6 pages of results) is the concept of “other-centeredness.” In this edition of The Bassett Bulletin, I will discuss the concept of other-centeredness and how it really should be the foundation of a successful – – and impactful – – legal career.

Defining Other-Centeredness

What is other-centeredness? Probably the easiest way to define other-centeredness is to say that it is the opposite of being self-centered. For instance, someone who thinks that the universe revolves around them would be considered self-centered. On the other hand, a person who realizes that the world does not revolve around them – – and that they are a very, very small part of a very, very big world – – could be considered other-centered.

For purposes of this blog, we will define other-centeredness as a world view that focuses first on being of service to others. It is a way of viewing the world around you by always asking questions like, “What can I do to help this person?” or, “How can I use my talents to make this situation better?”

How can this concept or outlook be woven in to the practice of law? And why would someone bother to do this (after all, your life seems pretty fine the way it is right now)?

Integrating Other-Centeredness in the Practice of Law

I have come to believe that we, as lawyers, are, at the end of the day, problem solvers. Think about all the phone calls, e-mails, and letters that you get in your practice. All of them represent some sort of problem/challenge/dilemma that needs your attention.

Put another way, how many of you, as practicing lawyers, have clients that only call you with good news? Or have clients that write you e-mails and letters where they are simply telling you how well everything is going and really do not need your help? That’s exactly my point. It never happens.

So if we are problem solvers, then I think we need to be the type of people to which others are drawn to help them. And I think that we get there only when we view our interactions and relationships from the perspective of the person with whom we are dealing. That probably sounds fairly vague. So how do you do it?

Here are some thoughts. Try not beginning sentences with “I.” Try ending more of your sentences in question marks rather than periods. Make it a point to talk thirty percent of the time and listen seventy percent of the time. And after you have really listened to somebody (and that means letting them talk and not responding with your own stories), sincerely ask them, “What can I do to help you?” And then listen some more. You would be amazed at the things people will tell you.

You may be thinking great, this is how you become other-centered, but why would I want to do this as a practicing lawyer?

The Reason Why Impactful Lawyers Tend to be Other-Centered

As I stated above, we, as lawyers, are problem solvers. And we can’t solve problems if we are always talking about ourselves. We can’t solve problems if we are simply waiting for the other person to stop talking so that we can tell our story. We can’t solve problems if we are always trying to tell people how smart we are, or where we’ve been, or all the people whom we know.

To be a lawyer that truly helps people, we have to put ourselves in their shoes. I read one time that the best way for a lawyer to become more empathic is to have been sued himself or herself or been involved in a grievance process. The world takes on a whole new perspective after you have been through what your potential clients are going through. You can begin to sympathize with them. You can begin to let them talk. You can begin to listen rather than simply tell them what you know and what they need to do.

And when people (potential clients?) begin to recognize you as somebody that is truly other-centered, they will be drawn to you. Remember, these people are hiring lawyers because they need help. Not because they need to know how smart you are. If they believe deep down that you care about them, and your actions confirm this, you will have more business than you can shake a stick at. I do not care whether you are a criminal defense attorney, a Plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer, an insurance defense attorney, or a family law attorney.


According to Google, there are 2,640,000 ways to improve your law practice. Most of them are probably fairly effective.

But if you want to be an impactful lawyer, that makes a true difference in other people’s lives, I will submit to you that this happens – – more often than not – – when your world view is one of other-centeredness. Because we are problem solvers, clients need to know and truly believe that we their best interests at heart. They need to feel that the relationship is about them – – and not about us telling them what they need to do and spouting off about all that we know.

Being an other-centered lawyer, in my opinion, will lead to an abundance of clients. More importantly, however, other-centered people tend to make the world a better place. And you don’t need to research Google to know that ‘s true.


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