Legal products that meet client needs

Continuing my theme on phased delivery of productized legal services. If you haven’t been following along, check out Part 1 and Part 2.

Before we get into what deliverables mean for your workflows (punting that one to tomorrow), I first want to talk about how I think of a “product” (as opposed to a pure service).

We all have a rough connotation of what a product is. You probably associate products with something physical, and while not all products are necessarily something you can hold in your hand, I like how you’re thinking.

High level, a product is a tangible thing that people invest something to acquire, typically so they can meet some need or solve some problem they’re having. Their investment usually involves some money, but it also can incorporate time, energy, effort, or other resources. People perceive the product to be a good value when the benefit they feel they’ve received from the product is larger than the investment they’ve made.

There is no bright line between a product and a service, but there are a couple of key points of differentiation. Tangibility is one. Although you can often perceive the benefits of a service, the service itself is ephemeral. A can of paint is tangible in a more direct way than services of a house painter. You can perceive the results of the latter, but you don’t get to relive the service itself.

The other is repeatability. While there is some marginal effort that goes into making multiple units of a product, most products incorporate some degree of design that lends itself to delivery at scale.

So what are the problems that buyers of legal services (or productized services) have that you can help solve?

Obviously the detailed list is long, but, high-level, I think they all boil down to two sets of overlapping needs.

The first set is practical. Law professor Daniel Katz boiled down the practical needs of legal buyers about as far as you can go. His framework: People buy legal help in order to mitigate risk and/or navigate complexity. Full stop.

I have yet to come across a legal need that isn’t some combination of those two things.

The other set is more emotional—and let me point out here that a BIG part of people’s perception of value is emotional. This articulation comes from my friend and former law partner Eric Meltzer, who broke it down like this: When faced with any type of risk or complexity, people have a fundamental human need to seek information, advice, and consortium (more or less in that order).

So if you’re convinced by yesterday’s post that having a client-facing deliverable is a good idea, but you struggle to understand how to present the more esoteric parts of your work in a way that resonates with your clients, start with those five high level needs. Think of the following, keeping in mind you don’t need to hit every one of them every time:

What can I do to communicate how this thing I just did helps mitigate my client’s risk? That can sometimes be a hard question, but if you have a good answer then by all means let your client know what it is.

What can I do to help my client navigate the complexity of this issue? This is a far easier one because you surely know what your (or the client’s) next step is from here. If you can help them understand the next few steps, all the better. But just the next one still communicates value.

How can I give my client information that helps them understand why this piece is necessary or helpful to them meeting their goals? I mean, you really should be able to answer this question. The answer may be longer than you like, but don’t assume the client doesn’t want to hear it.

How can I offer my client advice about how to proceed from here? There may be a lot of different ways to do this, but if you gave them some navigation information then you’ve offered at least some advice.

How can I demonstrate to my client that I’m in this thing with them? Great news: by answering any of the previous questions, you’ve covered this one as well.

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