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How to Build Trust With Other Attorneys

The whole point of the attorney-client privilege is that clients should be able to trust lawyers with their secrets.

So why should it be hard for attorneys to trust other lawyers? Yet sometimes it seems impossible to have a trusting relationship, whether it is an opposing counsel, a partner, or an associate. 

But this article is about how to build trust with your legal colleagues. Of course, there are good reasons to distrust attorneys -- most people do anyway.

Cold, Ruthless

If you didn't believe the lawyers jokes, there is actually science to back up the unfavorable public perception of attorneys. According to a Princeton study, people respect lawyers about as much as they trust prostitutes.

"Lawyers are viewed as cold, ruthlessly efficient machines, of course," wrote Jesse Singal, reporting on the findings.

That's at least part of the reason it's hard to trust your lawyer-colleagues. But as the lawyer-shark joke goes, let's start by showing each other a little professional courtesy. Don't eat each other.

Tsedal Neeley, writing for the Harvard Business Review, says it takes different kinds of trust to work with others. It is especially so when you don't see them every day.

Swft Trust, Passable Trust

With some opposing counsel, for example, it is easy to trust them if you have worked together before. You may have just clicked, or simply paid for lunch.

That, Neeley says, is swift trust when: "People decide to trust one another immediately until proven otherwise -- often because they have no other choice."

Passable trust comes from secondary sources, often from a website like the State Bar, LinkedIn or a social media site. By reviewing others' comments, you learn about a lawyer's reputation.

You can start to trust an attorney if you see that clients and others do. You may not trust every lawyer, but you may also find good reasons to trust others.

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