Lots of lawyers claim to be “results-focused.” Clients want good results, after all, and marketing yourself as one “focused” on delivering them has got to be a lot better (to clients, anyway) than being “timesheet-focused.” However, I think many lawyers who focus only on the result are hurting their clients (and their own practices). Let me explain:
Most clients get just one “result” in their matter: it could be a divorce, a home purchase, or a settlement check. Until that moment — which can take months or years to achieve — they wait. They get bills. They attend hearings. They read letters and go to meetings. But they don’t know for certain what’s coming in their case until it finally arrives.
So what do clients focus on every day while awaiting their result? They focus on the quality of their experience: Does their lawyer return their calls? Does he validate their parking or give them a hot cup of coffee while they wait in his waiting room? Does he communicate everything he’s doing on their case and bill them fairly?
And because they don’t have any “results” to share with others, they share their experience instead:
Bill: ”How’s your case coming?”
Wendy: ”Not sure. I’m still hoping to hit the jackpot, but my attorney is an ass and never calls me back.”
So what’s an attorney to do? Start by focusing on something more than just the quality of your clients’ results. Focus on their quality of their experience as well.
1. Looking at the chart above, realize that for every client, there are two distinct parts of their legal matter:
2. Ask some of your former clients (or pull some old files and do this yourself) to map out on the grid above how they felt about your representation, making certain their “Experience” measure is for everything that came between hiring you and their result.
3. Unless everything is in the upper right quadrant, get to work.
If you’re a lawyer who delivers a great experience — even with the occasional bad result — you’re likely to see more repeat and referral business from your former clients than some ”results-focused” lawyers who consistently get great results but make their clients miserable in the process.
As 2008 draws to a close, it is natural to think about New Year’s resolutions.* We think about our businesses, our clients and ourselves and resolve to do better next year. If you’d like some help, or just some inspiration, here are Ten Resolutions for the New Year. Enjoy:
1. Resolve to be better to everyone. Start with yourself.
2. Resolve to choose your customers as carefully as friends, knowing that you’ll work best when they’re one in the same.
3. Resolve to know your business better. Recognize that being good at what you do is unimportant if you’re not good at being in the business you’re in.
4. Resolve to stop doing the things your customers don’t pay you to do, unless you love doing them so much, you’d do them for free. Because you are.
5. Resolve to value your life by the things you experience instead of the things you possess.
6. Resolve to eliminate the things in your life that wake you up in the middle of the night — unless you’re married to them, or they need to go outside for a walk.
7. Resolve to become more useful to your customers. Stop thinking about what they expect from you, and focus instead on what they don’t expect from you.
8. Resolve to help the people who work with you (and for you) become better at what they do. Give them what they need to excel at their jobs, and you’ll find you’re more likely to excel at yours.
9. Resolve to understand the difference between what you do for clients and how long you take to do it. They care about the former, and can’t understand why you charge for the latter.
10. Resolve to do the work you long to do, instead of the work you’ve been doing for too long. Follow your passions, honor your principles and strive to add value to every relationship you’re in. “Next Year” begins now. Get started on making it great!
I’d love your input, and feel free to add your resolutions in the comments. If you enjoyed these, check out my other posts in the series: Ten Rules for Law Students, Ten Rules for the New Economy, Ten Rules for New Solos, Ten Rules of Legal Innovation, Ten Rules of Legal Technology, Ten Rules of Hourly Billing and Ten New Rules of Legal Marketing.
Also, if you’d like to get more ideas like these in real time, follow me on Twitter.
You have just enough time to send out Thanksgiving cards to your clients this year. Why Thanksgiving cards instead of other holiday cards? Here are a few reasons from this 2008 post:
I’ve always thought the idea from this post was a powerful way to understand the gift of time and what you can accomplish in a year: Resolve to Count Cards, using this this incredibly powerful exercise I first ran across in 2006. From an article in the now-defunct Worthwhile Magazine (by creativity guru Eric Maisel) comes this…
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Over a year ago, I wrote 15 Thoughts for Law Students. It was one of my first “Rules” posts, though I wasn’t calling them that at the time. Since then, it has been one of the more popular items on this blog, and was even republished in the Canadian Bar Association magazine. I’ve revised it…
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Quick, name your favorite customer service class from law school. Can’t do it? I’m not surprised. Most lawyers don’t learn much about client service in school, and the only class that touches upon service at all is Legal Ethics — which is kind of like teaching someone to ride a bike by showing them lots…
I’m a fan of Haiku, and have been doing an exercise based upon it for several years now at conferences and law firm retreats. Instead of the 5-7-5 syllable format, I ask my audiences to answer three questions, using just five words for the first question, seven for the second and five again for the…
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This is a great read for all entrepreneurs and those who want to start something new: Why ‘Side Projects’ matter http://t.co/tSocbufJnp
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