Need More Professional Credibility? Volunteer for Something

By Damian Turco posted Mon December 30,2013 02:04 PM

As an active member of the MBA, including Vice Chair of the Law Practice Management Section Council, and owner of my own plaintiff personal injury law firm, Mass Injury Firm, P.C., it is safe to say that I've given considerable thought to the  importance of professional credibility. No matter how you cut it, professional credibility is essential to your success.  That goes for attorneys of all backgrounds and levels of experience. Professional credibility is generally difficult and time-consuming to acquire, yet easy to lose quickly.  As both individual attorneys and members of the legal community, we should all be striving to gain more professional credibility.

There are many reasons we need it.  We want our colleagues, adversaries, referral sources, and judges to take us seriously as professionals. We want both clients and prospective clients to view us with  the credibility to hire us and to keep us on as their respective trusted counsel.  Perhaps most importantly of all, we want the general public to view us as an essential and important part of our society. We want to be viewed as problem solvers, solution finders, and the group to which the public will look to resolve the most complex of issues. Individual and collective credibility is something which we will always want more. Yet, despite all our good work, we still don't seem to have stellar credibility with the general public.

I'm not suggesting our knowledge and ability lacks credibility. That may be the case for our newest lawyers, but that's primarily due to the short period of time in which they've been licensed. To those folks, don't worry. The guidance provided in this article will help you as well.  The general public views lawyers as an educated and intelligent group. Where we lack is in trustworthyness and genuinely wanting a greater good for the greater public. It's more a matter of lack of heart than lack of mind. Most of that perception is unmerited, but some of it is likely derived out of true bad behavior of a small percentage of our colleagues. There will always be a few bad apples and it will always be popular to jokingly apply the bad behavior to the rest of the tree.  But, we win the consumer perception battle when we show the public, first hand, that we are actually the good guys (and women).

What we could all really use more of is the opportunity to gain professional credibility quickly and on a mass scale. Volunteering for worthy causes is the answer.

Volunteering for a worthy cause is the quickest, most effective means of building professional credibility for which I am aware. Volunteering even just a few hours of your time will distinguish you from many if not most of your colleagues. In the process, you'll help further an important cause and you'll get recognition for members of that group and potentially others.  Once you are involved with a group, it's relatively easy to elevate yourself to a position of leadership. Good causes are generally welcoming to new volunteers. They want you to get involved and become a leader. 

Once you've committed to volunteering for word because, the most important step is selecting a cause that will bring you the most benefit. That benefit may be a personal feeling of contribution or notoriety associated with your practice area or some other benefit. Choose wisely.  A real estate attorney, for example, may be seeking to contribute time to worthy cause to both get a feeling of personal satisfaction of helping others and to gain some notoriety with the charitable organization associated with his or her practice area. Perhaps Habitat for Humanity would be a good fit for that lawyer. For a disability attorney, perhaps helping out at a homeless shelter, such as the Pine Street Inn or St. Francis House, would bring the same benefit. For a family law attorney, maybe the strongest fit is in counseling victims of domestic violence in a local domestic violence shelter.  Here is a domestic violence shelter directory if you have an interest there. If you're in a practice area in which your business largely comes from other attorneys, may be volunteering at the Bar Association is right for you.  Whatever your decision, but meaningful thought into making it.

If at least part of the reason that you're now volunteering for a worthy cause is to gain professional credibility, be sure to communicate your involvement to all those who matter.  summarize your involvement on your website, on lawyer directories, and through social media. Publicize noteworthy accomplishments achieved within that organization. Every time you've accomplished something, you have something new and important to talk about. All the better you can relate what you've done to your practice area in your communication.

Before I wrap up, all make this final comment. There is a difference between donating money and donating your time. There is a difference in both the ease of the action and in the ordinary consumer perception. We are in a profession in which the general public simply assumes we have far more financial resources than they. In many instances the public would be wrong, but as a whole, we do make an above average income. The issue is that as a result, we don't get as much credit for our contributions of money, although it's typically desperately needed, particularly these days. Clearly, we get far more credit with the general public when we get our hands dirty and volunteer our time. If you contribute money to a worthy cause please continue to do so. While you write the check, consider the personal impact you can have and the professional credibility and satisfaction you'll gain by donating your time. 

Hopefully this article has inspired you to do more good in the world. Best of luck and happy New Year! 

Damian J. Turco
Boston Personal Injury Lawyer
Mass Injury Firm, P.C.
(866) 995-6663

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