Writing about how to practice law is a heck of a lot easier than actually doing it.
I know because I’ve done both.
That’s why it was so gratifying when my May newsletter column generated a flood of insightful comments. And by flood I mean two. But hey, we take our insights where we find them.
In the article, which you can read here, I wrote about the importance of giving your clients a great experience when they walk through your doors. I cited studies from the business world that show consumers are more interested in the subjective, hedonic aspects of the shopping experience (having a good time, not feeling stressed, being treated nicely) than the objective, utilitarian aspects (getting a great deal).
This is not to say clients don’t want a successful outcome. Of course they do. It simply means they care about the journey as well as the destination.
And to the extent you can make that journey a positive one – by listening, being empathetic, calming their fears – your practice will prosper.
Wisdom From the Real World
Two readers – both of whom (unlike me) are actually out there in the trenches doing the hard work of the law – took the time to respond. I am so grateful they did. What they had to say was important, instructive and wise.
The first came from a lawyer:
“I appreciate your point of view. I lost some business the other day when most likely I did not give the touchy feely approach to some young woman who was going to buy a local business. I was busy but agreed to see her that very afternoon. She was poorly prepared for our meeting and maybe I let her lack of preparation affect my attitude. Frankly I did a poor job of listening and I see now that may have been a mistake. However I also believed that all she (and her husband) wanted me to do was kiss a deal they had already made and that if I would kiss it all things would be good. I gave her some good advice (for free) but I never heard back from them and don't expect to. But thanks to your article I will keep in mind the touchy feely approach if called for in the future. I have been doing this for 31 years and it helps to be reminded of the need of some folks to be listened to. I say many times a week that the hardest part of my job is to get the facts and you can't get the facts if you don't listen.”
The second came from a paralegal:
“Great article; however, would like to reply with my two cents as a paralegal. I have worked for a small firm for 9 years, 10 hour days, no lunch. Furthermore, my job consists of not only being a court paralegal [but also] office manager, accountant plus numerous other jobs. With my experience, the attorney is NOT the one that holds the clients hands, as he is in court 90 percent of the time. The hand holders are actually the office staff. As such, attorneys need to treat their office staff WELL, and in turn, they will be more subject to catering to clients. Staff that have not had raises for years, no bonuses (especially at Christmas), are less likely to be patient with clients.”
Honesty, humility and integrity are worth more than gold. I doubt the lawyer was thrilled to write about The Day I Lost a Client. But he did so without whining or making excuses. He didn’t blame the client or the hot weather or his exhaustion after a long day. Instead, he took responsibility for the consequences of his actions. That tells me something about his character. And it suggests that clients who hire him as their attorney are fortunate indeed.
Wow! moments should begin at home. It’s all well and good to say we should give our clients a Wow! experience. But too often we don’t do the same for our employees and staff. Let them know how valuable they are. Show them how much you appreciate them. That positivity will filter down to your clients.
It’s not called “practicing law” for nothing. The two writers have a combined 40 years of experience. Yet they’re still learning and growing each day. In the process, they’re teaching us all valuable lessons.
Make no mistake, the law is not always a gleeful shopping spree. Sometimes it’s more What! or Huh! than Wow!
But if we put ourselves in our client’s shoes and treat them the way we like to be treated, our professional lives will become much simpler. An extra bonus: we will probably sleep better at night.
Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina and is author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World. He runs Your Law Life LLC, which helps lawyers and firms improve their well-being and create saner, more successful law lives. He is available for talks, presentations and confidential consultations.