In the first in a series of articles, Geoff Wild considers how clients assess their lawyers.
“When judging value and the effectiveness of the service we give, clients often assess us on very different qualities to those we value most highly ourselves.”
Most of us have heard of Pareto and the 80:20 rule. Traditionally, lawyers have perceived that they should split their working day between legal work (80%) and people work (20%), when actually, in our opinion, the focus should be the other way around. In concentrating too much on processing legal work and not enough on building understanding of and relationships with clients, law firms are in danger of losing focus on quality of service, customer care and adding value.
Legal skills or people skills?
The vast majority of clients prefer people skills to legal skills. Conversely, only a minority of lawyers typically value people skills more highly than legal skills. These entirely opposite views held by lawyers and their clients on the relative importance of people skills are highly pertinent.
When clients instruct lawyers, they invariably have no doubt that their chosen law firm can do the legal work. They do not comprehend that a particular legal expertise will be beyond the wit of any qualified lawyer. All clients make the assumption that their lawyers will not fail because of a lack of knowledge of the law.
Furthermore, whilst a client will realise that law firms fees vary considerably, they will have no real notion of comparative value in the legal expertise of the different lawyers.
What the client is able to judge, and what they will understand very well, is a sense of service, of care, of communication and of empathy. As the client is able to make a judgment in respect of these things, they are also much more likely to attribute a sense of value in respect of them. At the end of the day a client simply wants to be made to feel important, however mundane the problem may be. Whenever we are the customers, isn’t this exactly what we want too?
This may be common sense, but it is commonly absent in many law firms. It shows that as lawyers we often fail to appreciate what our customers are likely to value most of all. If anything, we are more likely to value legal expertise, which is the one thing that clients are unable to value particularly highly.
This is not to say that legal expertise is unimportant (very often it is obviously essential). The point is that when judging value and the effectiveness of the service we give, clients often assess us on very different qualities to those we value most highly ourselves.
Worth bearing in mind ...
Geoff Wild is chief executive of Invicta Law.