Reflections: what does a client want from a lawyer? Part 4

I had to smile at a story I heard recently of a client, not of mine, who knew a corporate partner at a big firm and went into their offices to see about a “non- corporate”  job, let’s say. The client was expecting to see the corporate partner but was met by two “specialists” whom the corporate partner had asked to see the client. The client didn’t know these people. The client asked “where is “so- and- so, the corporate partner” to which the two specialists responded. “Sorry he was busy but he asked us to see you because it’s our speciality and we can help you”. The client walked out.

Client’s want personal service and respect and courtesy from people they trust. Goodness knows they are paying for it, and the lawyers cannot treat them as commodities to be passed around. This client voted with his feet.

A friend of mine who is a professional adviser framed it well, I think, when he said what his clients are looking for in a lawyer. He said they are looking for a “consiliari”, an adviser and counsellor, someone in the old fashioned sense of a trusted adviser, a confidante, with integrity and skill who has the clients best interests in mind, who is close to their client and their business who understands them and their affairs and treats those affairs in complete confidence and with respect and as such intuitively knows what their clients want, rather than just telling the client what the law is. I think to some extent we have lost sight of that sense of good service in some parts of our society and service industries. The chargeable hour and 6 minute chargeable units and the commoditisation of clients and their needs has taken over. It’s the same trend as the decline of the personal bank manager, who knew our affairs and could take decisions, or the family doctor, we grew up with who knew the family. We have lost in some quarters a sense of good personal service.

Another part of good personal service is doing what you say you will do. There is nothing more infuriating for a client who is told “I will call you tomorrow about that” and tomorrow comes and goes with out that call. How often does that happen? Too often. Bad communication is bad service and promising to do something and then not doing so, is just plain rude.

The services we offer at Hackwood Houston focus on exceptional well rounded “consiliari” service standards, we recognise the traits of good service, we know what that looks like and we aim to deliver.

Stephen Houston

May 2017

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