I saw a great movie over the weekend, The King’s Speech. Don’t worry, this isn’t a movie review. You can read some of those here. The movie recounts the true story of King George VI (Elizabeth II’s father) — who suffered from a debilitating stutter — and his speech therapist, Lionel Logue, on the eve of World War II. There’s a repeated line/theme through the movie: For the relationship between the King and Mr. Logue, a commoner, to work, they must have a trusted relationship as equals.

Part of Lionel’s technique was ‘I’m treating you, the man, not you the King’ and he insisted on that level of equality,” explains [Geoffrey] Rush [who portrays Lionel Logue]. “A lot of the therapy was getting the Duke of York and, subsequently as he became, George VI to drop that royal mask and find out who he was as a person.” “What will I call you?” “Your Royal Highness, then ‘sir’ after that.” “How about ‘Bertie?'” “Only my family uses that.” “In here it’s better if we’re equals.” “If we were equals, I wouldn’t be here. I’d be at home with my wife and no one would give a damn.”

I get this. So much of the time, the resistance between legal marketer and lawyer has to do with the disparity of our roles:

  • Lawyer v. marketer
  • Partner v. staff
  • Baby boomer v. Generation X

But, it is true. For the relationship between us to work, there has to be a sense of equality between our roles. We are not adversaries. When I am coaching an attorney, editing a blog post, disagreeing on a position, promoting a contrary one, there has to be a level of trust between us for this whole thing to be successful. It starts with building that initial trust through little things. It continues through our professionalism, and treating one another with respect. It comes with our personal integrity – doing what we say we will do; meeting our commitments to one another. And it is ALWAYS a two-way street. As Bertie and Lionel were able to find a common ground between them to achieve their goal — providing the King his voice, which inspired the people during World War II —  so must we. Photo courtesy of The King’s Speech.