I qualified in 1990 when Berwins was already four years old.
There are so many things that were different then - and my fellow bloggers will expand on these – but a recent team meeting pulled one of them into sharp focus.
The residential team is made up of members of differing ages and career stages. From the 19 year old apprentice to the – ahem – over- 21 year olds.
How do we address clients when we are speaking to them? Is familiarity in tune with our ethos of friendliness and accessibility, or is it just over-familiar and a bit grating?
Is the job status of the addressor relevant? Is there one rule for directors and another for junior lawyers and support staff? Are you happier with your bank manager addressing you by your first name than the cashier? Or both? Or neither?
Age is certainly a factor; my mother-in-law would not have appreciated some ‘youngster ‘ (a variable concept – a youngster could be anyone aged between 4 and 50) addressing her by her first name on first acquaintance. My grandma and her best and life-long friend were Mrs Dyson and Mrs Searby to each other throughout their adult lives.
30 years ago business life was more formal; as an articled clerk I wouldn’t have expected to call a client by their first name; nowadays the lines are more blurred and we have to be sensitive to clients’ wishes and sensibilities.
So when today’s junior staff ask me for guidance, it’s not that simple. Err towards the formal and wait to be invited to use first names is our golden rule – what’s yours?
Written by Carolynn Peace of Berwins Solicitors.