Feeling the Love: Make Every Day "Love Your Lawyer Day"

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For those in the legal industry, Nov. 4 was a day to celebrate. It was "Love Your Lawyer Day." But such an occasion does not need to be confined to one measly day a year. As a lawyer, you should make every day "Love Your Lawyer Day."

According to an article by Johnny Diaz in the Sun Sentinel, the history of the day to honor lawyers began 15 years ago, when Florida lawyer Nader Anise initiated the day through the American Lawyers Public Image Association, an organization he founded. Since then, the American Bar Association has embraced the idea, designating the first Friday in November every year as "Love Your Lawyer Day."

Although the idea of loving lawyers is certainly something that all of us in the legal profession can get behind, we should focus on being the type of professionals that all our clients will love every day, not just one day a year.

How should one do that? The answer, in a nutshell, is client relations. Lawyers must have the philosophy that each one of their clients is number one.

Effective lawyers find out not only what clients need but also what they want. The skills of a lawyer and the way in which services are delivered to the client must be in tune with what the client wants and needs to have.

There are four stages, or levels, of client expectations, each defining progressively more complete integration and understanding in the legal services relationship.

Level one: satisfaction. This is the minimum threshold of client expectations in a legal services relationship and is synonymous with communication. Law firms that don't communicate with their clients to learn what clients want, how they want to receive it, and what the clients' future needs will be, have dissatisfied clients who soon leave.

Level two: exceeding expectations. This goes beyond mere satisfaction. Of course, for each succeeding matter, the client's expectations will be higher. And if the lawyer performs at this level, the client will satisfied. If you're not exceeding expectations, this may represent a communications failure.

Level three: earning loyalty. The standard of this level is time, with the firm maintaining client relationships measured in years and even decades. Communication is the foundation here. Sometimes clients contact the law firm first when new needs arise; other times the lawyer offers a new service or idea that the client hadn't expected.

Level four: collaboration. This is the culmination of the other three levels. Attorneys and clients should work together to assess each other's needs and develop a proactive, interactive law approach, making recommendations to each other about actions and decisions that are mutually beneficial. The specifics of what defines a collaborative relationship will be different for each client, but every lawyer can do much to shape such a relationship and thereby manage client expectations successfully.

All of this does not mean that you have to give away your services. Be reasonable, not cheap. The seller of any service must understand costs, set profit targets, and gauge market demand.

Deciding on a reasonable fee involves answering certain questions: Is the amount of the fee proportional to the value of the services performed? Do the lawyer's skill and experience justify the fee? Does the client understand the amount and nature of the fee and consent to it?

The attorney's obligation is not to be cheap but to be fully committed to a collaborative client relationship that builds trust over the long term. That way, clients see the lawyer as valuable, not expensive.

Follow this philosophy, and you will find that every day will be "Love Your Lawyer Day."

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