Before I get started today, a quick plug: Just yesterday I was waxing poetic about summer, but for a lot of you (especially those with school-aged kids) you probably feel like fall has already started. Not to rush you, but that means we’re on the downhill slope to the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023. Which means it’s time to start thinking about your strategy planning for the next 12-18 months.
Strategic planning is one of the things I truly love doing with law firms and legal teams. If you’ve never done formal strategic planning, I can help you get started. If you’ve done it before but without the help of a facilitator, you’re going to love having an outside perspective at the table. And if you’re already a fan of outside facilitation, I think you’ll appreciate my unique perspective on the future of legal practice. Click here to learn more about how I can help, and let’s chat about booking your strategy workshop (remote or in-person) before the end of the year.
Agile Principle 1: Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable work.
Nobody hires a lawyer to have their problems worked on. People hire a lawyer to get their problems solved. Sometimes they have a bundle of problems, including “knowing what to do next” and “navigating the legal process.” You should be doing your darnedest to solve customer problems—and document the solution (what I call the “tangible manifestation of value”)—early and often.
Keep in mind that “satisfying the customer” isn’t necessarily the same thing as giving them what they say they want. Recall Henry Ford’s famous line, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” (And yes, Henry Ford is both an important and a problematic figure). People often have unrealistic expectations of the legal system and how it works, especially the lengthy timelines and convoluted processes.
But there’s an even worse sin: Giving the customer what you assume they want, at least without validating that assumption. Far too many lawyers learn “the way” to do a particular thing in their practice through a strange combination of oral tradition and so-called best practices; often that “way” is designed to make the lawyer’s life easier.
How satisfying to the customer is that multi page PDF intake form? Is it any more satisfying if you simply make it a single long web form? (Maybe). How about if you ask the same questions via a chatbot? (Again, maybe). Can you increase the customer’s satisfaction by showing them how you’ll use their answers to create a strategy for their case?
How about if you or someone on your team asked those questions as part of a conversation instead of assigning them as homework? That might feel less efficient from your standpoint, but what if it leads to better customer satisfaction? Better yet, what if it leads to better customer satisfaction AND you get the answers sooner, and more accurately?
What looks inefficient to the worker is often more efficient for the workflow, and it just may create a better client experience too.
Using my (admittedly rusty) statutory breakdown skills from law school, here’s what I see as the key elements of this first principle:
- We should elevate customer satisfaction to our highest priority. There will be other priorities, but customer satisfaction should come first.
- That means we need to work to truly understand what customer satisfaction means to our clients in the context of the work they hire us to do.
- That, in turn, means working to understand how our clients (and other customers) value the work we do for them. Clients probably won’t inherently value many of the things we are required to do on their matters, which means we have to learn how to communicate our value in a way that is satisfying to them.
- Finally, it is not enough to create value, we must deliver it, early and continuously, via a medium that is easy for the customer to perceive.
I’ve written several other posts about this delivery of value. You can read more about early and continuous delivery, about phased delivery of productized legal services, and about communicating value proactively. Be sure to check them out if you want to dive deeper on this topic.