Waking up to Law
Hello. My name is Jason and I am a commercial and IP lawyer. But enough about me. What is it that you (and your clients) want?
I’m quite sure that a client’s preference wouldn’t be to spend money on ‘legals’. Assuming they’re in business they want to make a profit. And so, they’ll be more inclined to spend time and money on their staff; systems and methods; and invest in marketing and advertising, all with the aim of improving their business, their presence, and ultimately their bottom line. I bet they don’t wake up in the morning, shouting to the world, “Eureka! Today I want to go out and buy me some legals!”
Let’s be honest, just between you and me. If they thought they could run their business without, say a contract, they would. And even when someone else provided the contract, ideally both parties would want it to guarantee the relationship, in such a way that each side was happy and content throughout the time they worked together, because they each received exactly what they both expected from it.
But of course that’s a rather one dimensional view. Businesses will be affected at least by regulation and various specialist areas depending on their sector and focus, such as intellectual property. And in terms of growing, developing and improving their business, legal requirements will inevitably influence the characteristics of a client’s business evolution. Therefore unless a client has no need of lawyers or they believe that they are all ‘lawyered-out’, it is inevitable that clients will need to seek legal advice as their business matures. So, in the meantime, let’s come back to how the original question should still be relevant for you: what do your clients want from their lawyer? And if a client’s preference is not to spend money on legals in the first place, this is probably the most important question you should be asking.
What are they looking for?
In my experience clients tend to have an inclination for wanting “a good lawyer”. The expectation of qualification and competency is perhaps a bare minimum, and to be fair all lawyers satisfy this standard in their own specific way. What many clients tend to look for in their lawyers is that ‘QWAN’ (Quality Without A Name). They’ll either say to others that they “have a good lawyer”, or otherwise ask “does anyone know (of) a good lawyer?”. Therefore wanting a good lawyer is about understanding what being ‘good’ means for your client.
What your clients are unlikely to want
This list could be long, and can also very much depend on whether your clients have had a bad experience when dealing with advisors. A few examples may include:
– “Never around”: it can be immensely frustrating for a client not to be able to make initial contact with their advisor. More so when messages are left and there is no returning call…
– “Needing to chase”: waiting around for advice after an agreed time, or even needing to chase up to receive the advice is unnecessary stress for a client.
– “Not being advised”: this can have different meanings depending on the client and the nature of the enquiry. Receiving the black letter law can leave a client unsatisfied and wanting more.
– “No empathy”: An advisor should care about their clients along with their ambitions and concerns. A client will sense that an uncaring advisor will likely be an ineffective business partner.
A few examples of potential desirable qualities that your clients seek could include:
1. Approachability: not just in terms of a personal touch and being able to get on with your client and their colleagues, but having an understanding of your client’s business, their challenges, as well as opportunities within your client’s sector.
2. Availability: and the client’s comfort of knowing that their lawyer is always around when they want them even after a matter has concluded.
3. Experience: not just in terms of a number of years of qualification (which speaks more to competency), but how effectively has a lawyer successfully concluded the particular matter your client needs support for.
4. Efficiency: not just in terms of a swift turnaround for routine, non-complex matters, but being able to deal with challenging projects without causing further complication or headache for your client.
5. Going the extra mile: when your client finds itself smiling because they benefitted from something else that your client didn’t expect.
6. Support: receiving an explanation of the law has its place, but your clients more often want to receive clear, tangible and pragmatic advice to compliment their own commercial outlook, that in turn can be effectively communicated to their teams who can put in place a definitive and actionable plan, which can simply give the client the solution they want.
7. Urgency: not just recognising that it is your client’s timelines that are important and working with you to achieve those deadlines, but being up-to-date, pro-active, and keeping an eye on the horizon for your client.
8. What else: you may have an idea of something that your clients are specifically looking for, and perhaps there is something else out there that you would like to know about?
For you and your clients it may be beneficial to have access to a number of ‘good’ specialist lawyers across different law firms, or even being able to find a single law firm that employs the spread of good lawyers that you and your clients are looking for. A client of mine once told the Legal500, “it’s not the law firm, it’s the lawyer”. I would only add that it can be the law firm, provided it has enough good lawyers, which it can also sufficiently support. In this way the firm can become a shining reflection of its clients via the mirror of its good lawyers. Is this not an aim for your clients’ businesses also? To have customers returning to them because they are a good supplier, who employs other good colleagues, and who also aim to deliver to those standards that its own customers want.
This then brings me to collaboration which I believe is worthy of inclusion also. Indeed more often it is larger corporates that tend to evolve and influence the nature of their desired legal service providers, by requiring those potential firms to also demonstrate and uphold standards and ethics that the client itself embodies or otherwise aspires to. Evidence of greater workplace and leadership diversity are such examples. Clients may well seek to define a good lawyer as one who shares their own ethos (environmental, charitable, staff well-being), who wishes to partner them throughout the long-term, and one who contributes to their highs and is supporting of them when most needed.
I appreciate that these 8 reasons are not exhaustive, as after all, this is about you (and your clients) and not me. Nonetheless I do believe that this is a useful starting point should you/your clients be looking to engage with a particular lawyer or firm.
Thank you for taking time out to read this post. Please do ‘like’ this post if you think it is helpful. Your feedback and thoughts are always welcome. And feel free to let me know any other desirable qualities you/your clients seek in a good lawyer!