Axioms for Efficient Firms #3: Dar La Cara

9 January, 2015

Nathan Morris

Nathan Morris


The Axioms for Efficient Firms are core values espoused by the founders of Filevine that they believe guide legal professionals to a more productive practice. For us, “Dar La Cara” carries a unique significance. Learn how this principle can help you in your law firm.


Dar = to give. La cara = one’s face.

Can your face be a gift?

We know that the human face has been stripped out of many social interactions — and sometimes we like it that way. More and more of us work from home and shop on-line (and head for the self-check-out aisle when we step inside a grocery store), and when it’s time to say something difficult to family or friends we put it out in an email. And at any rate, to get our fill of faces we can turn to the virtual world — there’s always Facebook, right?

When you “dar la cara” you take responsibility — usually for something you’d rather avoid. The opposite — “no dar la cara” — means to hide or conceal yourself.

It’s a wonderful convenience until it’s a problem. When something isn’t working right, when we have a complaint or a question, we’ll look for help only to be greeted with a machine.

Like most idiomatic phrases, “dar la cara” contains several meanings. Used idiomatically in Spanish, the phrase means to fess up, face up, face the music, face the facts. When you “dar la cara” you take responsibility — usually for something you’d rather avoid. The opposite — “no dar la cara” — means to hide or conceal yourself.

When you “dar la cara” for someone (“por alguín”), you stick up for them. You are on their side, you go to bat for them.

Why is it that in both English and Spanish, when we’re trying to talk about responsibility, we talk about faces? Maybe it’s because the face is our most advanced communication technology, our best tool for building relationships, empathy, and trust. The face is both powerful and vulnerable. Its sensitivity and nuance exists both in receiving messages (what we see and hear) and in transmitting them (what we speak, our facial expressions).

Dar la cara: To give your face. Do you feel like your face is a gift? Regardless what your features look like, if you’re seeing to the needs of a client, your face is several gifts in one. Your clients want to hear your answers and counsel, and be able to witness the expressions on your face when you give them. But they also want to know that they are seen and heard.

Face-to-face meetings are spaces that increase responsibility by allowing for responses. It is a space for immediate feedback, both verbally and nonverbally. It’s a platform which other kinds of communication can build on.

Do you make space for meeting with clients, co-workers or employees face-to-face? Though much of our communication can be effectively dealt with through email, phone calls, or texts, you might notice that the more complex the issue is, the more face-to-face meetings will save time, and increase the quality and efficiency of decision-making. Beyond that, you can consider face time to be your most effective advertisement.

Face-to-face meetings are spaces that increase responsibility by allowing for responses. It is a space for immediate feedback, both verbally and nonverbally. It’s a platform which other kinds of communication can build on.

Of course, this is only the case if you’re truly there when you’re there. If you find that you still spend much of your scheduled face-to-face time looking at screens, it might be a sign that you should do more preparation work beforehand, in order to not waste this precious time hunting down information on a computer. Beyond that, remember all the old tips for effective communication: show that you’re interested, avoid interrupting, and watch what you’re communicating nonverbally in addition to your words. You’ve taken the time to meet with someone — don’t let that backfire on you by talking over them, rolling your eyes, responding on auto-pilot while your mind churns another problem that interests you more, or otherwise failing to face up to another person.

But whatever your method, it begins with facing up to faces. Dar la cara — give your face, and see what gifts you receive in exchange.