The Giving Lawyer

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“Giving can be every bit as powerful as it is dangerous.” – Adam Grant, Give and Take 

There’s a tendency to focus on incivility in the legal profession. Recently, the Joseph Groia v. The Law Society of Upper Canada, 2015 ONSC 686 decision was released. In that decision, Justice Nordheimer wrote that to “put simply, while there is an ongoing need for the carrot of both education and peer pressure to promote civility within the legal profession, there will also be the occasional need for the use of a stick.”

Education and peer pressure are not the only incentives for being civil. I would encourage lawyers to strive beyond civility and perhaps towards giving.

In Give and Take, Adam Grant outlines the power of giving and the destructive nature of taking. Grant divides people into three groups: takers, matchers, and givers. “When people get burned by takers they punish them by gossiping…Gossip represents a widespread low-cost form of punishment.” Conversely, givers gain by virtue of the way they interact with other people. Givers create norms that favour reciprocity. “When they truly need help givers can reconnect with dormant ties, receiving novel assistance from forgotten but trusted sources.”

Grant argues that if your interactions are ruled by generosity then your rewards will follow suit. “Since many people think like matchers, when working in groups it’s very common for them to keep track of each other’s credits and debits. Therefore, people act generously in groups where they earn credits … Matchers grant bonuses to givers. Conversely, they impose a tax on takers.”

It must be noted that the benefits of giving only accumulate if you are genuine. Otherwise, people will see through it as manipulative.

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