As a professional coach, it is an inherent part of the process to put the client first. More than that, I care about my clients and so it’s important for me that the client is also a reference point for the design and delivery of my services.
That’s why I was struck by the work of Live|Work. Reading Service Design for Business by Ben Reason, Lavrans Løvile and Melvin Brand Flu has brought many “a-ha” moments and much excitement to how I will continue to add value to my practice.
It dawned on me that my clients (lawyers) could also benefit from a service design approach. Quality of service is codified in the Rules of Professional Conduct: “[t]he quality of service required of a lawyer is service that is competent, timely, conscientious, diligent, efficient and civil” (r.3.2-1). Much is written about, and taught when it comes to, competence. “Lawyers are trained to provide excellent legal services; however, very few are trained to give excellent client service” (“Client Service: The New Normal in the Legal Industry
I’ve talked about this dissonance in my branding workshops. Lawyers must be more than just competent to distinguish themselves in this economy. The research is clear: 82% of clients look for both competence and warmth before engaging a service (The Human Brand: How We Relate to People, Products, and Companies(2013: Jossey-Bass™ – A Wiley Brand, San Francisco, California)).
Warmth is akin to one’s bedside manner. Are you kind, friendly, sincere, honest, and accommodating while delivering legal services to your clients? Not that you must be all these things, all at once. Each person will have their own warmth. The point is that you humanize the process for your clients.
I like Ian Hu’s take on this topic in a piece he wrote for Slaw. He talked about the one question he learned that made all the difference when meeting with prospective clients for the first time: “what’s your greatest concern?” He showed his warmth by being genuinely interested in the person’s worries.
How simple, yet profound. Putting the client first, often, doesn’t cost much. In fact, the opposite is bound to occur.
Marni Becker-Avin’s firm now retains more clients. Training their lawyers on client service and having a dedicated client service department are likely the reasons. About the latter, she says:
“Providing a safe place for clients to call if they have an issue provides the firm an opportunity to fix concerns before they evolve into big problems. In addition to stopping potential problems in their tracks, developing client loyalty and retention, expanding client relations, and aiding in evaluating employee performance, being client-centric also curtails receivable problems, helps to dismiss professional complaints, and lowers malpractice premiums.”
Successful lawyers are committed to client service. How will you build your client service skills in 2017?
Here are some questions for you to ponder and build upon:
What kinds of interactions do clients need before they retain me?
What information do clients need to know before retaining me? How does this information need to be delivered?
How do I define the lawyer-client relationship in a contract? Is it based solely on what I require, or do I also incorporate what is essential to the client?
Have I taken the time to understand the client’s needs, motivations and goals expressed at the outset of the relationship? Do I have the ability/processes/capabilities to integrate their preferences throughout the delivery of services?
Can I map out, with detail, the key interactions that clients have with my services/business? What insights do these mappings provide to simplify, renew and improve my services?
Can I map out the client’s overall experience with the legal system for a particular matter? Does doing so give me insight into how I want to position myself with future clients?
Lawyer Coach Paulette works with lawyers to excel at what they do.
This article was originally posted on AWAL!