(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction: How To Retain Attorneys and Clients By Creating, Not Managing

You try and you try and you try to appease your associates and clients. But there’s still frustration on both sides. In a mere one hundred and twenty words, Ben Young, author of The Best Ideas Are Free, can give you some satisfaction. Young claims better business management, ironically, means eliminating just that. Stop managing, and start creating.

What do mega-companies like Apple and McDonald’s have in common? Besides roughly $20 billion in gross revenue last year, each company also gives their customers the power to create. First, let’s take a look at Apple and the iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad series. Apple’s product suite and computer systems are all about customization in terms of specs, features, and even color. You create your own Macbook down to the exact amount of RAM and can engrave an epithet on your 64G iPod.

Next, we have the true (burger) king of the “Happy Meal,” McDonald’s. McDonald’s was the first to massively market collectable prizes in kids meals and other meal deal options. The restaurant’s colorful menu offers a variety of food combinations that can be changed and created to match customer preference.

Today in the business world, Young says, “We’re not creating physical things, new products, ideas, development. We’re maintaining, reporting… not making actual change.” To garner the super-sized success seen in the world’s most profitable companies, we must make the switch from managing to creating.

“Constantly creating, curating & connecting ideas is what you want to do, create your systems so they generate.”

3 Geeks And A Law Blog applied Young’s idea to Knowledge Management. Knowledge Management at a law firm generally indicates Document Management systems, such as the full-text search of documents, descriptive fields, classifications, and filter options.

The blog asks, “What are they actually doing? Are they simply siloing information in a way to retrieve bits and pieces? Or, are they creating interfaces that allows the customer (whether it is Attorneys, Marketing, Business Development, or Client Relations) to really create the information they want?”

Case management systems are also too sterile. For example, West Case Notebook and Timeline—typical of case analysis software—does not allow any changes to the number or name of sorting fields. If your client, witness, or expert has more than one address, email, or other piece of information attached to his name, attorneys have no recourse.

Additionally, of the software suite, only West Timeline synchs with MS Excel. Even then, information from West Timeline cannot be reverse imported into West Case Notebook. The point is, Knowledge Management and Document Management systems are still stagnant and limited. Within these systems, an attorney can rarely create. Only assemble.

There’s another hidden message in Young’s idea that begs the question, why can’t the client create, too? We discuss alternative fee arrangements a lot these days. However, these conversations focus on what the law firm can offer its clients. Instead, law firms should implement systems that allow the client, himself, to choose his fee arrangement. As when a customer logs into the Jeep website and chooses the chassis, color, and drive system of his vehicle, a client looking for a law firm should be able to shop around and create his ideal type of representation.

By selecting from a list of options—a certain fee arrangement, retainer agreement, or the number and billable hour of attorneys on the case—clients will become less frustrated with sizeable attorney fees. There will be no surprises. After all, the client created the contract.

Young concludes, “I triple double guarantee that anytime you start to get sick of something, it’s because you’ve stopped creating.”

So they’re not sick of you, let your associates and your clients have creative control. You may be surprised at the increased satisfaction and retention levels of both.

-WB

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