We’re outstanding lawyers… but who cares?

We are devoting 4 issues of Keep it Simple to the differences between being a technically good lawyer and delivering a good service.

We will argue that most punters and small businesses don’t get too excited about the law per se. Clearly, some readers will see this as heresy. Nonetheless…

Clearly there are exceptions. Sophisticated clients will be interested in industry-specific laws, and the fine detail of corporate, commercial and tax advice will usually be very important to them. They will get the link between the law and their business objectives. That is to say – these clients will often have well informed views about the law and how they can use it to best effect.

But a great many mum and dad and small business clients won’t.

Think personal injury… liability and quantum are argued on a lawyer to lawyer basis, but the client’s main interest is how much might I get and will I be out of pocket? Think conveyancing… the client has decided upon a property and just wants reassurance (in their mind) that someone has ticked the boxes and the transfer will happen. Think (say) EPAs and testimonial trusts… how many clients really have a clue what is a well drafted or poorly drafted document?

Legal services are just that – services. They are not tangible products. You can’t touch them, you can’t drive them, you can’t wear them, or drink them … Moreover, when the content is quite technical, clients often won’t understand or value the fine details.

So how do clients choose a legal services provider and how do they judge whether firms are any good (usually after the fact)?

Welcome to the 3 x P’s of services marketing….. physical evidence, process and people. In other words, when clients don’t have the technical knowledge to assess quality, they substitute criteria that they understand and value as normal human beings…

  • What are the physical signs that help me believe that this firm is competent and right for me?
  • What is the process I am being put through – is it all about the firm or is it about me? Do they make things easy or hard?
  • How do I feel about the people? All of them. Are they arrogant and unfriendly? Do I feel good or bad when talking to them?

Clients will make these running judgements – both before committing and during the matter. They will significantly influence a client’s preparedness to recommend a firm in the future.

Sure other things also come into it … perceived price for example (sum, timing, payment options, escalation risk, etc) but this is a discussion for another time.

The point of departure for our next three issues is this: regardless of whether you are dealing with sophisticated clients or regular punters, if you think it’s just about the law, you’re going to seriously underachieve. So in the next three issues we’ll provide a few practical tips that will help to get you on the right track.

Published: Queensland Law Society – Proctor, August 2015

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