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Client Service Is Not A “Frill”

Law students and new lawyers are often concerned about what it takes to stand out and be successful as a lawyer. Law schools place a heavy emphasis on the technical aspects of being a lawyer. Critical thinking, analysis, drafting, etc. For many new lawyers this emphasis carries over with them as they begin to practice law. They remain exclusively focused on providing technically competent work – as they should. A high degree of technical competency is required is you want to be a good lawyer. But that’s not all that is required.

What many lawyers (new & old) struggle with is the delivery of of their services. It’s not exclusive to lawyers either. It applies to the delivery of any professional services. Think of the times you’ve dealt with accountants, consultants, and doctors. Most lawyers can give examples of times they have received horrible service from other professionals. But those professionals likely have had the exact same horrible experiences from lawyers.

The delivery of your services, not just the technical quality, has a huge impact on how clients perceive the value of your work. David Maister, in his excellent book, Managing the Professional Service Firm, uses the following example.

You have had your car repaired at a new local garage. A week or two later, your neighbor, curious about whether she should also use this new garage asks, “Did they fix the car?”

“I think so,” you reply. “It seems to be running smoothly, so I guess they did a good job.” Then your neighbor asks a second question:

“Did you get good service?”

What does this second question mean? Surely, fixing the car is the service, isn’t it? Well, yes and no. Fixing the car is part of it, and an important part it is, but by itself it doesn’t constitute good service.”

It’s not just about the work you do, but also about how you treat people. Do you involve clients in the process, make them feel as though they are part of a team? Are you avoiding jargon and providing clear explanations of what work you are going to do and why? Are you providing options to the client and allowing them to choose? Are you asserting or persuading?

service sign

Exceptional client service is an attitude. It’s not something you do once a day. It’s not a training program or a weekend seminar. It’s the hundred of little actions you take everyday that impact the client. It’s an all encompassing force that has to be infused into every aspect of your work. And it’s not the sole responsibility of the person who has the client contact. Everyone has to understand that when they work, it has an impact on how clients value the services provided by the firm. When you work, you are marketing as Dan Hull states in his 12 Rules of Client Service.

One of the best ways to examine the level of customer service you provide is to think of situations in which you have been the client as mentioned above. What is important to you when you visit another professional service provider?  What are deal breakers that make you terminate the relationship? How do you measure quality client service when you receive it?

Now turn around and ask yourself if you are doing those things. If you’re not doing them, how valuable would it be if you were?

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About Keith Lee

I'm the founder and editor of Associate's Mind. I like to write, talk, and think about law, professional development, technology, and whatever else floats my boat. I practice law in Birmingham, AL.

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