Focus on That Which Does Not Change

The legal marketing world is all atwitter over online social networking (see for example, “Top Reasons For Using Twitter” by Larry Brauner, posted by the ubiquitous Larry Bodine on his LawMarketing Blog).

You better be Linkedin or you’ll be left out. Tweet or get beat. Why spend time taking clients to lunch when you can spend your noon hours blogging for dollars?

All this change is rather intimidating. Lawyers are busy enough practicing law and maintaining a semblance of family life. You got 73 emails in your in box and there’s a frantic client who’s already called you twice this morning.  Who has time for online chat?

How do you build a client development strategy around all this change?

You don’t.

At least that what Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos says. The other night, on Charlie Rose, Bezos stressed that businesses need to focus on things that don’t change, i.e., the customer’s needs and wants. If you attempt to build strategy around things that change, he said, your strategy will keep shifting, and you won’t get anywhere.

A while back I consulted with a lawyer. I had one simple question pertaining to one sentence in a basic legal document. I had a five minute phone conversation with the lawyer that verified what I already knew. There were a couple of administrative email exchanges (acknowledging receipt of the document, promising to review and get back to me, etc.) which contained no legal analysis or other substantive work product. We never discussed rates or billing. A part of me thought she might not bill me at all for such a simple matter.

A month later I received a bill that took my breath away. A building contractor would not send this large of an invoice without first providing an estimate. An auto mechanic would not perform work for this much money without getting your permission.

To add insult to injury, there was no note or letter from the lawyer, just a bill with an obtuse and repetitive (not to mention questionable) block of text reciting the work performed, followed by a curt demand to pay the painful total.

Lawyers are expensive. I get it. But it wasn’t the cost so much as the treatment that bothered me – the presumptuous conceit that says you, Mr. Client, don’t need to understand what you’re buying. Just shut up and pay.

Like any other customer or client, I want to know up front what it is I’m buying, approximately what it will cost. I want to know that I was smart for hiring my lawyer. That it was a worthwhile expenditure and that I wasn’t taken advantage of. This is as true today as it was 50 years ago, and it will always be the case.

During the next year, how much focus, time and energy will we give to addressing the basic, immutable needs of our clients and customers? Or will we be too busy on Twitter?