“Perception is reality, but it’s the clients' perceptions that we have to address, not our own” - Read Geoff Wild's latest blog.
We instinctively believe that our professionalism as lawyers is a credit to us, and we are right - up to a point. The point here is not whether we should be unprofessional, but how our clients might sometimes perceive our 'professionalism'.
There is so much baggage that comes with the law. Perceptions are that lawyers are fabulously and undeservedly well-paid, that they tend to over-complicate matters, that they force otherwise amicable people to fight each other, that they prolong and procrastinate and are generally self-serving.
The risk in promoting 'professionalism' is that it has the same cachet as the professional foul in football. In addition, in many cases clients will misconstrue professionalism as meaning a lack of commercialism. For both reasons, care is needed.
The smart approach is to maintain the highest ethical and professional standards in your work, but do so as a matter of course and in the background. Then go about dispelling some of the myths that surround lawyers and roll up your sleeves to help your clients with the particular problems they face.
Most clients prefer a less stuffy approach (their interpretation of professionalism) whilst most lawyers favour professionalism. We need to be pragmatic - not pedantic.
It is another small example of how perception is reality and it is the clients' perceptions that we have to address, not our own.
Geoff Wild is chief executive of Invicta Law.