Be a Trusted Advisor

Published on January 26, 2018

Becoming a successful IP practitioner requires becoming a trusted advisor – a person who others can rely upon to be competent, honest, loyal and kind. Even the most brilliant IP lawyer, patent and/or trademark agent will not be able to attract and maintain clients if they are not trusted by their clients. To earn and maintain clients’ trust, an IP practitioner must be trustworthy and credible when interacting with clients, bosses, partners, associates, support staff, examiners, judges, court staff, opposing counsel and everyone else with whom the practitioner interacts.

Studies have shown that “[e]mployees in high-trust organizations are more productive, have more energy at work, collaborate better with their colleagues, and stay with their employers longer than people working at low-trust companies. They also suffer less chronic stress and are happier with their lives, and these factors fuel stronger performance.”[1]This rings true because it takes more energy to deal with someone you do not trust – you are more vigilant about every interaction with that person, and this leaves you with less energy for more productive endeavours. Thus, being trustworthy and fostering a culture of trust can improve your bottom lineand make work and life more joyful.

Trust must be earned over time by consistently acting honourably and with integrity, even if it is not the easiest path to take. Given the importance of trust, it is worth reflecting on whether you can be trusted and where you can improve. Here are some tips on how to earn trust:

  • Have integrity: Be dependable - Do what you promise to do, meet deadlines and be on time for meetings. If you are unable to do so, notify those affected as soon as possible and be honest about the reasons. Be secure in who you are - Someone whose core values shift frequently will be perceived as inauthentic and untrustworthy. Be honest - Do not be afraid to show vulnerability by seeking help and admitting when you have made a mistake.
  • Genuinely care about the goals of others: To gain trust, you need to be able to deliver what your clients and other stakeholders want. Be observant, keep channels of communication open and try to determine their motivations, goals and strategies. Ask open-ended questions and listen with an open mind. Show respect for differing views – avoid responding defensively or dismissively. Support your clients and teammates in meeting their goals.
  • Set clear and realistic expectations: Doing this will reduce others’ insecurity and increase your credibility by providing them with something against which to measure your actions. Be clear and honest from the outset about what you think is achievable.
  • Place trust in others: One way to earn others’ trust is to place more trust in them. Others will not trust you if they think you do not trust them. While you should not blindly trust others, it is worth balancing the risks against the potential benefits.

Jennifer Ko
Husky Injection Molding Systems
On behalf of the Young Practitioners Committee

[1]Paul J. Zak, “The Neuroscience of Trust”, Harvard Business Review (January – February 2017) 84-90.