Cultivating Loyalty

At this year’s recent Legal Marketing Association conference, those in attendance had the good fortune of hearing keynote speaker James Kane wax masterful about the subject for which he is a well-known authority: loyalty. Kane, whom you may remember from a post earlier this year discussing the importance of language as a gateway or barrier to relationships, is considered to be the “world’s foremost expert on what makes someone truly loyal.”

We had the opportunity to ask him a few questions, including why he cares so much about loyalty, and why others should as well. What he shared with us was the story of his father, a small-town podiatrist who worked alone in a two-room office, fielding his own phone calls, and handling all aspects of patient care directly. According to Kane, it was the relationships his father had with his patients that fascinated him. He explains, “He didn’t have time to go to conferences, read all the new medical journals, or keep up with the latest medical procedures and techniques. And he had no office support at all. On the surface, these are all things we think people want from their doctors: the highest level of expertise, all the latest technologies and gadgets. But my dad didn’t have any of those things. Yet his patients were very loyal to him, not just for years, but for decades.”

Kane attributes his father’s success to the very human relationships his father built with his patients. He offers, “What my father had was this incredible ability to make each of his patients feel very special and important. His life and practice taught me, at a very early age, that relationships aren’t built on competency. Strong and loyal relationships come from something much more fundamental; much more human.”

How can we apply this as lawyers? Certainly lawyers are highly intelligent and knowledgeable professionals, and that’s not a bad thing. But is it possible we overestimate education and substantive experience, while overlooking more emotional factors like relationships and caring? If the spirit of generosity moves us to focus more on connecting with our clients as people first, and lawyers second, isn’t increased loyalty likely to be the result?

What do you think? How have you cultivated loyalty within your firm? Share your experiences below.