If you want to be a successful lawyer, work hard at identifying and eliminating your clients’ pain points.
This past Sunday, I decided I wanted a small tabletop Christmas tree for my office. After all, ’tis the season. I went online and was immediately faced with a confusing and irritating search (Tabletop Christmas trees not readily indexed on several sites). But, I finally found one at a big box store nearby. I could get it delivered by Monday afternoon, but what the hell, I could also drive over and big it up immediately, right? Wrong.
I got to the store, and it was packed. Of course, it was impossible to find the trees, especially tabletop ones. When I got to the right spot, there were no trees, even though the website said the store had several in stock.
But by now, I had some time invested and thought I would try another big box. Again, long search at a second store but Eureka! They had them! But the checkout line stretched for miles. I decided to return the next day, hoping the line would be shorter. After two days and several hours, I had my tree.
But I could have ordered the damn thing online to begin with and would have had it the next day anyway.
The whole experience reiterated to me the value of online shopping. It’s just easier. Online sellers have made it so easy. One click and your order is on its way. You get it in a day which hardly makes driving to the store worth it. And if you don’t like what you got, the seller (ok, Amazon) will email you a label, and if you ask, even come and pick it up. Going to a real store is, frankly, a royal pain.
If you want to succeed as a lawyer, you need to think more like Amazon and less like brick and mortar stores
What does this all have to do with the practice of law and technology? If you want to succeed as a lawyer, you need to think more like Amazon and less like brick and mortar stores. As Jack Newton, Clio CEO points out in his excellent book, The Client Centered Law Firm, you need to offer the kind of frictionless experience Amazon does. You need to focus on your clients’ pain points and make them disappear. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes.
Here are ten ways you can make your clients’ experience painless:
1. Driving downtown(or just about anywhere) to meet with you is a pain. It is disruptive. It takes time. You have to find parking. No fun. I have a friend who was named in a lawsuit not long ago. The lawyer she hired offered to come to her house and meet with her and her husband about the case without charge. That’s frictionless service. But if you are going to make clients come to your office, at least find them parking and pay for it! Better yet, send Uber.
2. Here’s another helpful hint: make paying for your services easy. I don’t know about you, but I hate paying bills by check. It’s so much easier to pay by credit card. Care to guess what bills I pay first? Offer payment by credit card, and your clients will pay sooner. And while they may not exactly overjoyed about paying your bills, at least they won’t be any more irritated than expected.
Using big legal terms only makes you sound arrogant and pompous
3. Another pain point for clients: lawyers who talk like lawyers. Who use jargon to make themselves sound important. It doesn’t. Using big legal terms (res ipsa loquitur, for example) only makes you sound arrogant and pompous. Trying to figure out what you are talking about is a pain. Your clients will like you better if you communicate using words and concepts they can understand. Speak english.
4. Clients also don’t like it if they don’t know what to expect from you. Or what’s expected from them. Set boundaries and expectations from the start. It avoids misunderstanding and your clients getting upset and anxious.
5. Another potential pain point for your clients: trying to force technology on them for technology’s sake. Yes, I am a big technology fan. But you can’t let it get in the way of good client service. If your clients aren’t familiar with your tech, they won’t like you trying to use it on them. It may be trite, but you have to meet your clients where they are when it comes to tech. Years ago, I was asked by a client to get involved on an advisory basis in a big case out of town that another lawyer was handling. Key client depositions were coming up. But the primary lawyer litigating the case kept postponing prepping witnesses so that the tech he wanted would be workable. I told the client it was risky to wait and that we should roll up our sleeves and review the documents the old fashioned way. It turns out I was right: the witness was deposed and surprised by documents the lawyer handling the case was waiting for the tech to find. Guess what? He got fired, and I got the case.
6. Another hint: return calls (do I really have to say this?). Nothing upsets clients (and almost everyone else) more than someone who doesn’t call back. Also, communicate using the means your clients expect and themselves use.
7. Here’s a big one. Be open and transparent about bills. Lawyers often avoid talking about the bills and potential bills. Nothing will upset your clients more than surprise costs and fees. Do a budget for them at the outset. Tell them in advance if there will be unexpected fees above the budget. When you do your budget, avoid the temptation to overstate the risks and understate the costs.Bill when you say you will. Keep your client informed. Explain your bills.
8. When there is good news, by all means, tell your client. But when something bad happens, swallow hard and tell them. And make sure they understand. There’s an old joke. When something happens in a case, a lawyer will call their client and either say I have some good news or say, well… there have been some developments. If it’s bad news, don’t sugarcoat it.
Be a good person. It’s a pain to deal with a jerk
9. Make your website easy to navigate. Make relevant information easy to find. Think about what your clients want to know and make sure that information is front and center on your website. Like what and how you charge.
10. One final thing. Be a good person. It’s a pain to deal with a jerk—someone who is insulting, condescending, and arrogant. You’re neither better nor smarter than your clients. Get over it. Take criticism and defeat like a professional. Try to be likable to our clients. Put yourself in your shoes. Don’t be a pain in the ass to deal with.
I deal with several professional service firms. One, in particular stands out. The professionals there check in with me on developments before I have to hunt them down. They give me a choice about when and where to meet. They always answer their phones or call me back promptly. They speak english so that I can easily understand and patiently explain things when I don’t. If something bad happens, they contact me immediately and don’t let me stew. They tell me what they are going to do, what it’s going to cost, and then do it. It’s honestly a pleasure to work with them.
Be like them. Identify and address your clients’ pain points. Relentlessly.