Clients want their lawyers to earn their business, which often translates into first earning their trust and respect. Clients will trust and respect a lawyer who not only protects them and stands up for their rights but also is a confidant and trusted ally.
In law school, we were taught that ultimately lawyers were paid to think. The left-brain analytical skills we would employ when arguing a case or writing a brief were the most important service we could offer our clients. This is true in part. But in today’s market, clients want and expect much more.
In a recent interview, Gregory Haas, the CEO of a large telecommunications company in the Midwest, expressed the same sentiment: “I want a lawyer to help me think through the problems,” he said. “But he must also take the time and effort to learn about my business and to understand the challenges we face in the marketplace. I want a lawyer who will have the courage to talk straight to me. And when things get tough, I need to know this person is both prepared and committed to help us through the storm.”
It’s not uncommon for lawyers to argue that what distinguishes one firm from another should be its legal expertise—the quality of its work. The reality, however, is that most clients assume their lawyers possess the requisite experience and technical skills to effectively and competently represent them. They assume the legal work will be performed in a timely, professional manner.
Clients not only assume that these professional services will be provided, but they also want certain other things from their lawyers. Clients want their phone calls to be returned promptly. They want promises kept. They want to be kept informed. They want their lawyer to help them understand the issues. And perhaps most importantly, clients want to be respected.
So what distinguishes one lawyer from another? It comes down to service. Defining service, however, is not easy, because so much depends on the needs and wants of particular clients. Defining service from the client’s viewpoint rather than the lawyer’s is just the starting point. Turning the notion of service into a pervasive reality within your firm is an entirely different matter.
Turning quality service into a reality in a firm means transforming the firm’s culture and values at every level. It means setting greater standards of performance for everyone in the firm—not just the lawyers. It also means learning to think in new ways.
This article is an excerpt from Marketing the Legal Mind (LMG Press) by Henry Dahut. Henry Dahut is the founder of www.GotTrouble.com, a law and financial trouble portal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.henrydahut.com.
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