At this point, we all know that there are more students in law school than ever before. Apparently in a bad economy becoming a lawyer is all the rage. So what does this mean? The answer is unclear, but one thing’s for certain: more law graduates doesn’t mean better, or more successful, lawyers.
The problem the legal industry has right now is a lack of “good” lawyers. But “good” needs defining. As far as I’m concerned, “good” has nothing to do with having a Harvard degree, being a good orator in court, or being able to type really fast and get that extra-long memo delivered to the partner by 9 am tomorrow without missing a beat.
The “good” that I am talking about is the trait most lacking in our profession today: customer service!
As lawyers, we’re guilty of the same thing: not responding promptly to our client’s inquiries, through not fault of our own. We’re in court or in a meeting and receive a phone call from a client that we just can’t answer. The client just wants to know the next court date, but you can’t take the call. Then you finish the meeting or appearance and head right into the next one. Next, you take a quick break for lunch, and then the meetings start all over again. Before you know it, you’re home eating dinner when you realize you forgot to return your client’s call.
We all face this challenge. Lawyers have become so concerned about themselves, about our own quality of life, that we forget about what keeps our practices alive: our clients. We tend to think of the clients who call every day as being annoying when really we should understand that our clients’ cases are the most important things going on in their lives. Our clients deserve the type of attention that makes them feel like they are the most important people in OUR lives as well.
We need to get back to our roots. We need to focus on the clients. Sure, a Harvard degree, an undefeated trial record, and great memo writing skills are important to our clients, but what’s most important is giving them the attention they deserve. We need to stop worrying so much about our internal meetings and discussions and make time to keep clients informed and assure that all of their questions are answered. There is even technology, such as client portals, available to help us communicate more effectively.
I appreciate that clients can be demanding and sometimes require a seemingly endless number of call backs. But it’s our duty to abide by these requests. Happy clients are the lifeblood of any good practice. I’ve personally seen some terrible lawyers whose clients end up no better than if they’d appeared pro se. But even so these lawyers have successful practices simply because their clients were nurtured. They always received a prompt response to questions and were always informed about the status of their cases.
So, let’s all take a step back from our important meetings and our busy lives. Let’s step away from the “we’re the lawyers and they need us” attitude. Lawyers are becoming a dime a dozen and we need to do more to earn a positive reputation and successful practice than simply win a few cases.
Let’s make a collective effort to get back to customer service and our profession will be a better place–not just for clients, but for lawyers as well.