My work reading material falls into three categories: the ‘old-style’ paper journals that I like to put in a lime green box file and save up to read on a crap-telly night, the email alerts and case law based on my elected preferences and the ‘pretty-much-it’s-happening-now-on-twitter’ blogs and articles to which I award a little gold star granting them ‘favourite’ status. In common with most lawyers I do a lot of reading and I have come to consider the description ‘professional’ as possibly the most over-worked word used by and about lawyers as a by-word for what they are and what they do. I like to play word-bingo when reading ‘letters to the editor’ and find the incidence of the word rise in direct proportion to the level of protest being voiced by the writer.
There is a lot of outrage out there, the profession (whoops, here I go) is under attack from all angles and lawyers and the law appear to be an easy target. But I wonder sometimes whether the law is suffering from a massive identity crisis because of this cloak of professionalism that we wrap ourselves up in. And, by the way, this cloak is a super-hero’s cloak because when we are wearing it we can do amazing things. We have the power to do genuine good or possibly a little bit of evil (depending on which side of which fence you’re standing on). From time to time clients see our cloaks and they are awestruck but for the most part this cloak that we see as an integral part of our uniform is invisible to clients. The fact that we are professional in our service is not an expectation of behaviour it’s a given.
So how can it possibly be, when lawyers spend so much time talking about the p-word, that a mystery shopping exercise should find that 45% of callers to law firms concluded that they would not engage the firms because of their ‘below average to poor service’? Where is the professionalism when one third of people questioned felt that they were not ‘given adequate time and guidance to talk about their requirement’ or that only 8% of secret shoppers considered that they had received ‘outstanding’ service.*
I know it was a test of 100 callers so not the largest exercise or sample group but there is nothing in the report findings that surprises me and everything about it saddens me.
You’ll have to excuse me for a moment while I start to talk about the client as a commodity. It’s a stark reality that every disappointed client, every missed or incorrectly directed phone call is a lost opportunity for a business. Whatever your thoughts about marketing and its reach word-of-mouth is the most powerful recommendation or kick in the kneecaps. Getting a client to literally or metaphorically walk through your door takes work and the idea that law firms or their employees don’t value or think so little of that effort should have any legal business owner weeping into their coffee. An inability to retain an interested client or potential customer is a scandal and one that owners and employees should be challenging. Whilst I’m not suggesting the call-centre approach automatically works for law firms the ethos that ‘every call matters’ is one that law firms can’t afford to ignore.
If your law firm or your employees are ‘too busy and too important’ for clients you might as well order them a taxi to your competitors and rebrand with the service you are offering:
Keeping It Real Law: We’re awesome at the technical stuff but don’t call us, we’ll call you. Maybe…