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Law Firm Show Dogs — Different Breed of Cat

Have you ever watched a professional show dog in action? They’re a different breed of cat.

Even when not competing, they display a kind of presence that could not belong to any other type of creature. They know when they’re on show and when they’re not, and in either instance there’s very little difference in their demeanour or behavior. They’re the way they are by nature, polished by training.

Every firm has someone or a few someone’s who can or should be a “show dog” – and I mean “show dog” in the nicest way.

My definition of a law firm show dog is someone who is the embodiment of a firm’s brand who acts the part naturally and with grace. These are the folks who even when not called upon to do so but especially when they are, can be counted on to show up and show well.

Not every member of a law firm is, will or should be a show dog. Some of the best law firm show dogs are not those people who might immediately come to mind, such as founders, managing partners, senior lawyers, practice leaders, upper management, etc.

They are often the type of person – regardless of their role – who either by nature or training embodies the firm’s best traits and is comfortable demonstrating those qualities in the presence of other people.

Ideally, a firm should have a “show dog” person or two who can represent the firm overall. In addition, it’s helpful to identify people who can be called up to represent the firm based on office location, practice or industry.

By experience and habit – and sometimes just for fun – I will subconsciously observe and identify people who naturally are or could be groomed to be excellent law firm show dogs.

Among the qualities I look for are: engaged and active listening by asking questions and confirming what was said; unwavering focus on the individual with whom they’re conversing; an open, natural stance with quiet body language; and, a friendly demeanour indicative of interest in and curiousity about others.

None of these characteristics are overt and neither are they demonstratively showy. They are indicative of aptitudes and attitudes that are the underpinnings of nurturing relationships, which are foundational to business development. And that’s the whole point.

Heather Suttie is an internationally recognized legal market strategy and management consultant to leaders of premier law firms and legal service providers worldwide.

For 25 years, she has accelerated performance within law firms and legal service businesses — Global to Solo | BigLaw to NewLaw — by providing consultative direction on legal business strategy, market strategy, management strategy, and client strategy. The result is a distinctive one-of-one legal market position and sustained competitive advantage culminating in greater market share, revenue and profits.

Reach her at +1.416.964.9607 or

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