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An Unexpected Gift at an Unexpected Time

If you are like me, most weeks you find and save an article or two about legal marketing and business development. This past week, while sifting through the stack, I was reminded of a scene from the movie Finding Forrester. Released in 2000, it is the story of an unlikely friendship between a reclusive writer and an African American high school student. In one scene, the writer, played by Sean Connery, is advising his young protégé on how to win the heart of a young woman at the boy’s new school. His advice: “An unexpected gift at an unexpected time.”

What tapped my memory of this scene was an excellent article published last year by Eric Dewey entitled “Rainmaker Success Explained.” In the article, Dewey detailed his six keys to rainmaker success, the result of “more than 20 years observing, coaching and researching” successful sales professionals and programs. Included among the keys, Dewey noted that top professionals are “selfless yet smart givers” who perform “random acts of kindness.”

I often coach professionals to “give before you get,” but Dewey expanded that advice to “give without the expectation of reciprocity.”

As I thought about this simple maxim, other examples came to mind.

In 2004, while I was CMO at Perkins Coie, the firm merged with the Phoenix-based firm of Brown & Bain. During the transition, I remember hearing many stories about the selfless acts of kindness Jack Brown bestowed on his clients. One memorable anecdote: Brown, who died in 2000, had made it a point to stop at airport bookstores and purchase multiple copies of the latest business books. Returning to the office, he would send the books—each with a personal note—to clients and friends. An unexpected gift at an unexpected time with no expectation of reciprocity.

Jason Miller, Director of Client Relations at the Seattle firm of Ryan, Swanson & Cleveland, takes a simple, creative approach to gift giving. Every Friday, Jason strides into a random partner’s office carrying a bottle of wine and asks, “Which of your clients will be receiving this bottle today?” What a simple yet memorable way to help his partners say “thinking of you” to a client or referral source in an unexpected but no doubt appreciated manner. It doesn’t need to be wine, of course. The point is the gift and the thought behind it.

More importantly for those of us working in law firms, the concept of giving is at the heart of establishing trust. In an August 2016 Inc.com article, author Jeff Haden summarized Harvard professor Amy Cuddy’s “10 Ways to Make a Great First Impression.” One of those traits: “Give before you receive—and assume you will never receive.” According to Cuddy, via Haden: “Never think about what you can get. Focus on what you can provide. Giving is the only way to establish a real connection and relationship.”

So whether it’s books, wine or a personal note, an unexpected gift—given in the spirit that seeks nothing in return—generates unexpected rewards in its wake.

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