Conversations that change your career

Have you ever noticed that conversations change everything?

I mean, the events that matter most in your career might just possibly happen without a conversation preceding them…

…just as earthquakes happen…

…but even then, it’s usually by having conversations that we make sense of them.

And most things relating to a person’s career absolutely DO arise as a result of conversations.

Somebody says something => real change follows.

But it doesn’t often work out the way we might expect.

And the people involved in those conversations may not be the people we would choose.

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I’ve been working on a project about Conversations That Change Everything for a few years now, and approached people in many different walks of life, to hear their stories.

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Recently, I decided to ask senior and managing partners at major law firms for stories about conversations that were career changing.

(Why law firms? Because I worked as a legal journalist in my 20s, and gained a decent understanding of that particular world.)

So last week I started phoning lawyers.

I called out of the blue, slightly nervous that they might feel I was wasting their time, and slam the phone down on me.

(A fear I developed, many years ago, as a result of THIS formative experience.)

Happily, nobody did slam the phone down. They were all very polite.

So I told these busy, important people what I was doing, and asked for memories of the conversations that had the biggest effect on THEIR working lives.

It might have involved another lawyer, I said, or a client…

It might have been awkward, or quite the opposite.

Entirely up to you, I concluded.

Afterwards, I sent an email repeating what I’d said, and promising to follow up.

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I was delighted to receive the first answer this weekend. It came from Andrew Parsons, senior partner at Radcliffes Le Brasseur:

The first one was a conversation with our then office manager, Colonel Wilson, on the very first day I started. He reminded us that we would all be under stress at times and might react accordingly. He pointed out however that that was true of all staff so we should bear that in mind throughout our career, and our interactions with them. That was extremely good advice.

The second one was a conversation with the then senior partner had with me when I was an assistant solicitor. He pointed out that I may be confident in my approach to the law but I should be careful that that did not come across as arrogance. Again, very good advice.

The third one is a conversation I have had with many junior lawyers. I have reminded them that the delivery of a service to our clients is more than just dealing with the law. In fact as far as the client is concerned, the fact we know the law is a given. They cannot test that. The only thing they can usually measure is the way the service is delivered and it is therefore important to focus on that.

I believe these have all helped shape my career. Thinking about the effect on others of how we act is important. But the way the service is delivered and your interactions with your clients are key. Developing a long-term relationship is an important part of developing a solicitors practice.

I’m really chuffed about this.

I just love asking people about the conversations that have change their lives.

Usually, I can see a real spark in their eyes as they take themselves back to that special time.

In this case, since Andrew sent his stories by email, I couldn’t see his eyes.

So I’d like to go back and ask for more details at some point – face to face.

I’d like to ask: what did young Andrew make of the advice at the time?

And how do young lawyers respond to the advice he gives them?

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If I do go back, I will post something here.

But what about you?

If you’ve come through to this page, and you’ve read all the way down to here, there’s a good chance you’re a lawyer yourself.

Or else, like me, just a conversations nerd.

Either way, please leave a comment below. Tell me about one conversation that changed YOUR career.

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