Become a Client to Become Visionary.
One of the themes that came out of LexThink was that, in order to build the perfect law firm, you first needed to identify your “perfect” client — one you could be passionate about serving — and then ask them what they needed/wanted in a lawyer.
In this post about the development of the first computer spreadsheet program, Tom Evslin argues that VisiCalc would have never been developed if the programmers had asked people what they wanted, because so few people could even visualize “a program which works like a big sheet of accounting paper but, when [a change is made] in one place, the change propagates through all the rows and columns.” Tom continues:
The point of this story is that no survey or focus group will ever tell you what the next great thing is going to be. That kind of idea, that kind of product, comes from visionaries who understand a new technology well enough to dream up an unintended use and who are stubborn and skillful enough to implement what nobody even knew to want.
Perhaps this is the reason we lawyers so rarely have breakthrough insights on how to improve our business model. Computer programmers will regularly use programs created by others and restauranteurs will eat at other establishments. How often can this be said of lawyers? How many legal professionals do you know who are regular consumers of legal services (besides their own)? I’d go so far to say that most businesses with poor reputations for customer service are run by people who don’t frequent their competitors’ establishments.
Exercise: Become a client. Instead of drafting your own will, handling your own real estate transaction, or reviewing your own contract, go to the most well respected lawyer in your area — and the least respected. Don’t tell them you are a lawyer. Before, during, and after your visit, pay particular attention to the client experience. How were you treated? How did you feel? How long did it take to get your phone calls returned?
We’ve all heard the quote, “A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Perhaps it is more true then we realized. Until lawyers can better understand the needs and wants of our clients, we will not be able to dream up those “unintended” ways to better serve them.