James E. Brill 2015-09-30 02:10:18
Note to Self Taking the time to write about the meaningful work and thoughtful attitude of others is a great reminder to praise your own team—and their efforts to serve the profession and the public. For 36 years, Dixie Dixon has devoted her career to helping me develop and maintain my solo law practice. On her most recent anniversary as my assistant/secretary/paralegal, we paused to celebrate by sharing a meal. We went to one of the most popular Italian restaurants in Houston, which is known for not only its great food but also its friendly and enthusiastic waitstaff. As soon as we were seated, our server appeared with her contagious smile, and from that moment until we left, she treated us as though we were the only people in the restaurant— anticipating our needs and appearing at the right times—and by the end of the meal, we were like longtime friends. I have frequently thought about and talked about writing to business owners to relate praise for positive experiences I have had with their employees. Unfortunately, the employees do not benefit from our merely noticing how well they did. So this time, I actually did more. This time I sent a handwritten note to the owner in appreciation of our server, Megan D. A couple of weeks went by and, to my surprise, here was the handwritten response: “Thank you very much for your very kind words! I read your letter at my staff meeting and they all loved it, especially Megan D.! I loved it the most. It’s all about the team.” Let me ask you this. Do you and all of the members of your staff work like a team? Or do you only talk like a team? Do you even do that? Or do you really believe that in your practice, it is all about you and that you got where you are all by yourself? My license, like yours, states that I am an attorney and counselor at law. I try to serve as an example and to demonstrate that we are available to help clients not only with their legal matters but also with their related personal issues, such as whether to stay in that big house, which retirement community to consider, or who should help them with their income tax returns. These matters could lead to legal services, but our goal is to help in every way we can. Believe it or not, quite a few clients take the time and make the effort to write notes to us. Most of them have lost a loved one and were in the deep woods trying to find their way back to normal. To their credit, the folks who have been a part of my staff for five, 19, 28, and 36 years have had empathy for all of our clients and have gone out of their way to reach out to them. When we are fortunate enough to get a note from a client, we share the praises. These notes are the report cards of my law practice and are great substitutes for routine employee evaluations. Although most are addressed to me, many mention Dixie as well. She is a former NFL cheerleader and has that same level of enthusiasm for our clients. Recently, she was the primary contact for an out-of-state executor who glowingly wrote, “She has guided me along and made sure that I was very comfortable and informed. ... I feel as if I have gained new friends in Houston.” In her own way, Dixie made that client feel the same way that we felt at the restaurant. These are the moments that sweeten the sometimes bitter taste we endure from the acrimony of unpleasant adversaries; the moments when we are so proud that we have done something special for a client; the moments when we recognize and appreciate the talents and contributions made by everyone affiliated with our practice; and the moments when we truly realize that we, as lawyers, exist solely to make a difference for our clients. It is interesting how my short note to say “thank you” for great service at a restaurant resulted in a response about a team—and that response led me to thinking about my own team. In the future, I’m going to write more notes. How about you? JAMES E. BRILL is a 1957 University of Texas School of Law graduate and a solo practitioner from Houston whose practice emphasizes probate, estate planning, and real estate. He has been the principal author of every edition of Texas Probate System and is a recipient of the Presidents’ Award from the State Bar of Texas.
Published by State Bar of Texas. View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://mydigimag.rrd.com/article/SoloSmall+Firm/2283518/274824/article.html.