Your Good Reputation: Common Courtesy

Business development is about relationships, first and foremost.  What goes around comes around. Treat people right or pay the consequences in missed opportunities, broken relationships, burned bridges, and bad word of mouth.

Reputation is complicated –it reflects people’s perceptions (sometimes inaccurate) of your expertise, integrity, influence, judgment, reliability, work ethic, breeding and character, among other things. A good one, once earned, is priceless; a bad one is very very difficult to live down.

Today’s Topic is Courtesy: A Few Simple Rules, Easily Observed, Easily Broken

Authentic courtesy is impressive. It is remembered. It shows more than the quality of your upbringing. It suggests self-confidence, integrity, humility, maturity and good sense.  And it is one of the things that makes people enjoy your company.


Discourtesy, whether intentional or unintentional, will eventually be interpreted (and, only if you’re lucky, excused) by colleagues, staff, adversaries, friends and other members of your existing or hoped for network as thoughtless, lazy, cocky, scatter-brained, mediocre, immature or just plain stupid. 

Once you make your mark and build a large and highly profitable client base–i.e., once you have influence and power in your firm and community– you might have the luxury of reverting to childishly rude and thoughtless behavior, if that grabs you.  But now is not the time to be careless with your career.  (That’s a sloth in the photo, by the way.  You know who you are!)

A few specifics below.  If these don’t come naturally to you now, take a moment to pull yourself together.  Then start over–you probably have some work to do on your reputation.

  • Return phone calls and respond to emails before the end of each day. I cannot emphasize this enough.  Ignore emails–no matter the source (short of spam), at your peril.
  • RSVP promptly to invitations and respond to reasonable (and sometimes unreasonable) requests.  Do not be the slacker. (Millennials: Don’t live up to the generational stereotypes.)  Do not make people chase you down.
  • Respect deadlines.   If you think you’re going to miss one, provide ample warning and a revised commitment.
  • If you must triage calls and emails, do so with caution. Clients (including the partners you work for) obviously come first. But everyone should be treated with courtesy–and that very much includes staff. 
  • If you’re participating in a social media business community, observe the rules of etiquette, and treat people with respect, even warmth–if this fits your personality.  (On Twitter, for example: Pay it forward.  Retweet, follow, favorite, attribute and acknowledge, thank RTs and #FollowFriday.  Keep self-promotion to a minimum.  On LinkedIn and, if used for relationship building, Facebook the “rules” are similar. Recognize the efforts and accomplishments of others by way of likes or comments.  Share the work and opinions of others where appropriate.  Always attribute and acknowledge.  Treat Connection and Friend requests with courtesy.)
Remember: Most people, however well behaved and well brought up, talk about other people.  Don’t give them something to talk about, other than your finer qualities and achievements.


You may also like:

  • “Way Too Busy” to Build a Career? (Making Time for…

    I can think of a million reasons why I don’t have the time to write this article. Pressing reasons. I’m “flat out”. Last week was “crazy” and it’s all I can do to catch up. I need some sleep. Did I already say that I’m “flat out”? I also have “a f…


  • Best Practices for Summer Associates: In Three Simple Charts

    A confession: I really really love charts. They help me think clearly. They entertain me. They keep things organized. So this year I offer all you summer associates my customarily blunt “best practices” advice in chart form. Three charts to be exact. Enjoy! And pass them on to the chart-less souls among your friends and family.


  • What Do Blogging and Vegas Have in Common?? ….Building a…

    It’s not as easy as it was for me–but much remains the same: Industry and skills specialization is still the fastest and smartest route to practice growth. Client contact, on the client’s turf, is still critical. Developing a reputation within your target industry or practice area still requires vastly more than a thorough understanding of the laws and regulations that affect it.


  • Managing for the Long Term? Invest in Your Associates

    Law firms must accept responsibility for the ways in which they have failed their associates, both young and seasoned, and their young partners, setting them up to be set adrift when, inevitably, client demand for high priced legal services began to fall off. As “Legal Rebel” Ed Reeser suggests, in so many words, in a terrific ABA Journal article I read just this morning, law firms need to get back into the “people business”.


post logo