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January 24, 2005


I mentioned briefly that I’m involved in the MoreSpace project.  Last week, we had to submit our proposals, and I have just under three weeks to get my first draft done.  Here is my proposal, loosely titled “Building the Service-Centered Firm.”  I welcome your comments.


Building the Service-Centered Firm


A bold proposal to bring customer service back to the professional service firm.


          How can professional service providers become professional providers of service?  In my essay, I’ll argue that lawyers (and other professionals such as accountants, architects, and designers) who have embraced hourly billing have based their entire business on a model that rewards inefficiency and is at odds with the best interests of the clients they serve.  I will then offer one hundred (or thereabout) practical yet innovative ways these professionals can build their “perfect firm” by revamping their business model and putting their customers first.


          I propose to organize my essay in the following “chapters.”  In each chapter, I’ll have between five and fifteen tips, ideas, and action items for the readers to apply to their own businesses.  I’m still roughing out the chapter descriptions, but this is what I have so far:


1.  Learn to think for yourself.  Lawyers, in particular, are paid to be innovative and creative, but only on their clients’ behalf.  Professionals get so caught up in fixing their clients’ problems that they seldom apply that same creative energy on their own businesses.

2.  So, what do you do?  You can’t be everything to everybody.  Satisfaction in any professional practice depends upon knowing what you do well and building your practice around your strengths.

3.  It really is the billable hour, stupid.  Until professionals learn how destructive hourly billing can be to our relationship with our clients we will never be able to take the leap and become superlative providers of professional service.

4.  Fire your worst clients.  This one seems like a no-brainer, but it is essential that you build your perfect firm around the clients you most want to serve.   It is impossible to consistently deliver exceptional service unless you like the people you work for. 

5.  Identify your best clients.  Just as you don’t pick out a box and then find a present to put in it, you can’t build a business based upon delivering superlative customer service until you identify that customer you want to serve.    


The next five “chapters” will be the meat of my essay.  I will give dozens of customer service ideas and strategies that fall mainly under these broad chapter titles:

6.  Have something cool to sell.

7.  Make sure your customers want it.

8.  Give some of it away for free.

9.  Make the rest of it simple to buy.

10. Don’t sell it to everybody.


Finally, my last chapter will be my thoughts on the future of professional services in this country – including the commoditization of law practice.  I will suggest that those professionals who fail to embrace change now will be forced to do so, and on much poorer terms, in the near future.



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Matt: Once again, I feel so fortunate to be starting my non-solo practice with your blog riding second-chair. I have learned these last weeks that the karmic winds are blowing with me on this journey. Your insights and inspiration help keep me moving forward.

My journey to non-solo practice is based on the belief that it is nearly impossible to change existing law firms built on traditional hourly billing models from within. By starting my own firm, I can build from the ground up, on a foundation of value-based billing and alternative billing models. I hope to prove the very principles you are espousing.

Thanks again. I look forward to your treatise!

Wow, Matt. Very impressive. I can't wait to read it. My only question is how do you find time to practice what you're preaching while still finding time to write (preach) about it?!

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