Devoreaux Walton is president and founder of The Poise Pursuit, a Dallas-based etiquette and image consulting firm. Walton and her team deliver business etiquette and image styling services to clients around the world through training seminars, workshops and one-on-one consulting. Learn more at www.thepoisepursuit.com.
AALM: Tell us what motivated you to the professional development industry.
Walton: Success in business and in life is based on one thing – relationships. The way people foster and cultivate relationships is critical. We live in such a casual society, that today the mindset many people have is that it doesn’t matter what you wear, what you say, or what you do. I founded my etiquette and image consulting firm because I recognized a great need for people to be more approachable and appropriate in the workplace. I aspire to empower professionals with the skill set to navigate all situations with candor, culture and confidence.
AALM: What is the secret to an impressive first impression?
Walton: First impressions are made in less than seven seconds. Before a person can speak, often judgements are made about their educational achievements and work ethic. First impressions are important, but every impression is truly monumental. Each time you interact with someone, it’s an opportunity to exceed expectations or miss the mark. Impressions create your reputation. People are hired, fired and promoted based on their reputation. A few secrets to impressive impressions include making eye contact when engaging in discussion with others, maintaining confident posture with a straight spine and shoulders low and back instead of forward and hunched, and wearing appropriate attire for every occasion.
AALM: Why is etiquette important for attorneys?
Walton: People commonly interpret etiquette as table manners. Dining etiquette is in fact very important, especially when dining with prospective clients or dining during an interview. Etiquette, however, is far more than just proper dining principles. Etiquette is defined as the code of behavior required by good breeding to be observed in social or professional life. When I simplify the definition of etiquette, it is merely polite behavior. Etiquette is important for attorneys because your behavior stands to represent your character, which in turn, builds your reputation. This is true for all professionals, but attorneys have an obligation to a higher moral and ethical standard, as officers of the legal system.
AALM: What do you think is the most pressing concern for attorneys when interacting with clients?
Walton: The Golden Rule in life also applies to business. Simply put, consistently respecting others is crucial for career success. As an attorney, you should treat every person you interact with, from paralegals to prospective clients, with dignity and respect. People do business with those they know, like and trust. Attorneys need to consider the importance of their interactions. Every action and interaction represents your character, and serves to build your reputation. As a private practice attorney, respectful interactions are an even more pressing concern to always get right. You want to guard the reputation of your practice and yourself in a positive light, respecting others must come first.
AALM: How can attorneys best manage their reputations?
Walton: Reputation management is best accomplished proactively rather than reactively. I recommend attorneys decide what reputation they want to have and create a code of conduct for themselves. Many organizations have codes of conduct, attorneys should have them too. Civility should be the foundation of your code of conduct. We commonly see the rise of incivility in the legal profession, both online and offline. You can distinguish yourself as a person of high moral standards with ethical character by implementing your own code of conduct, and here is the key, consistently. Every time you step outside your home, you are representing the legal profession, your employer and yourself. You have the power to positively manage your reputation – you just need to take advantage of it.