Monday, October 23, 2006

Want More Clients? Get Over Yourself!

We have all seen the problem: Pride, Hubris, Ego, Conceit, Contentment, Smugness. Sometimes lawyers just can't get over themselves. It is as if they would rather be looking in the mirror to make sure every hair is in place than look at the client and ask "how can I serve you?" I am struck by the smug attitudes that some attorneys have with regard to client service, which explains why we are a service industry that is known for TERRIBLE service. Below I will describe a few attitudes that I recently encountered:

"If they are not my client yet, they should come to me. I am not going spend my time to visit them" -- To which I responded "Are you serious?" Am I missing something here? In my view, if you have a prospective customer that is worth having, a good attorney ought to bend over backwards to show them how much they care about the customer's business. You are asking someone to invest several thousands of dollars in you and your firm for something that is about as exciting as a trip to the dentist! The least you can do is invest a little to show that you care. In my view, this attorney's perspective represents a "taking" mentality, which is rather "old school" in my opinion. There are twice as many lawyers as a ratio of non-lawyers today as there were in the 1970's. We are competing for half of the business. If you want to be around in another 10 years, your going to have to learn to "give to get." You are not going to be desired as an attorney because you are smart. . . there are thousands of attorneys just as smart in the high rise right next door to yours. . . . . . . (smart lawyer is now nodding whilst looking out the window at competitive firms in ivory tower next door). . . People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care! In this day and age, smart lawyers are a commodity. . . . lawyers who really know how to serve their clients are a rare breed.

"All of our clients come to us. We don't need to 'market' our services" -- This is a funny one, because I hear this all of the time. Lawyers who utter these words smile with a sense of pride actually thinking that somehow their presence at the firm contributes to this phenomenon! They never bothered to use basic process of elimination or logical deduction (asking "if I were gone would that still be true") in order to figure out that the clients are not coming to the firm for them. This is where I introduce them to the word "branding" and walk them by their own marketing departments that they never knew existed. All dreams and ego being shattered, I refrain from telling them that it is the hard work of thousands of OTHER attorneys who created the referrals that give them their perceived "freedom." Is there a slavery analogy here? The only difference here is that most attorneys still think they did it all themselves! If they only knew what they looked like to the rest of us . . . the ones with their feet on the ground and some sense of reality. Someone should create a support group.

"I dictate my letters to my secretary" -- Really? You dictate your letters? Dictatorships never work! They are costly to your partnership. . . . thousands of dollars paying someone else because you can't get with the times and learn how to use a computer. Even worse, your clients are paying the bill . . . for you to talk into a machine, and then for your secretary's time to interpret your ramblings into complete sentences. I want the economy to be healthy too, but I can think of far better ways to create jobs! Can't you?

"I love the legal work, but I just hate talking to clients" -- I cannot tell you how many lawyers actually feel this way. They love the legal issues and absolutely dread client contact. Did anyone ever tell them when they entered law school that they were going into a SERVICE INDUSTRY?!@(*& NO TIPS FOR YOU! Proving that this is a recipe for disaster is an easy one. Let's say that you go to a fancy restaurant with great food and horrendous service. What will you think about your dining experience? Most customers I talk to have a bad taste in their mouth from the lack of service from their last attorney. At least half had indigestion. It's amazing how poor service can make the food taste bad. What's more amazing is how few attorneys understand just how critical the service element is with regard to client satisfaction.

Did you ever meet someone who was dangerously clueless? So oblivious that they are actually dangerous? Well, in my experience people with the highest egos who think they know everything are just too clueless to know how much they don't know. They are dangerously clueless. I would not go to a doctor if I knew his pride would blind him from a sound diagnosis. Would you? Well, next time you visit doctor ESQ, make sure that you are not being taken on a trip to prideville. YOU ARE THE CUSTOMER. You are in control. Demand excellence in service. Accept nothing less. Communicate your expectations and hold the professionals you work with accountable for serving you the way you deserve to be served. The price of professional ego is TOO HIGH. Don't be afraid to say "NO TIP FOR YOU!"

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