JW Way Fundamental #9: Leave your ego at the door. “At all times, stay focused on serving the needs of the client, and our firm, rather than on serving your ego. Remember – it’s about the client and our firm, not you!”
All humans have ego. It is an essential ingredient in all successful people. The challenge is when one’s own ego needs are undermining their goals and objectives. My observation is that attorneys are particularly susceptible to this malady.
Let’s start with a few simple, but all too familiar scenarios. The attorney who is going to “out lawyer” opposing counsel and show that attorney who is smarter, better, and tougher. This often results in protracting the issues and more expensive legal fees. It takes more time and effort to prove you are “right”. Often, it stimulates opposing counsel’s ego to prove he/she is right. This shifts the focus from how to resolve the issues in an efficient matter for your client’s benefit (what both attorneys should be focused on), to proving who is “right”. The attorney focused on out lawyering opposing counsel is often going to miss settlement opportunities because he/she is focused on their needs rather than the best interests of the client.
The “I have to be right” syndrome is not limited to legal matters. We’ve all seen friends, spouses, parents/children, and partners damage their relationship and often accomplish nothing in the quest to prove they were right. The I have to be right ego driven person is often missing the big cost that comes with being right—the damage done to the relationship. A long time ago I heard the saying, “would you rather be right or get along?” Is it better to have a great relationship with your co-worker, spouse, friend, opposing counsel or client, rather than needing to prove to them you are right? Oftentimes, you cannot have both.
I think this Fundamental could be rewritten to say- at all times, stay focused on achieving your goals, rather than on serving your ego. No matter the circumstances, we should focus on what’s important, and enhancing one’s ego is rarely what’s important!