Are clients’ problems more important to the client or the firm? Some excitable legal professionals will say it’s the firm's responsibility to place importance on the matter. Unfortunately, that’s not true.
Obviously, legal professionals need to be diligent about proactively attacking a client’s issues. Legal professionals need to stress the importance of an issue, not only to promote the solution but also to ensure client commitment in solving it. There are a lot of strategies for communicating that importance and convince the client that the service offered is a solution. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, you can’t make people care. If a client’s problems are more important to the legal professional than the client, nothing beneficial will come from the relationship.
There are a lot of commitments that need made in business development. Obviously, money is one of them. However, equally important is a commitment to action. No product or service in the world can help a client that doesn’t do their part to use it.
I’m reminded of a television show. In this show a world-renowned chef visits struggling restaurants. He consults on the business top to bottom, with expert advice on improving profitability. His suggestions run from menu changes to staffing choices to décor decisions. In one particular episode, he made changes to all of those things.
He did a complete overhaul and completely changed the décor, the menu, the target market, and the staff. He was adamant that there was a viable business to run, it just wasn’t being presented or run in an appropriate way. When the renovations and changes were made they opened the restaurant for business for two days for the consulting chef to observe and evaluate performance. With the changes made, those two days grossed what typically was made in two weeks. The renowned chef had done a complete 180 on the business and showed how some simple changes made large results.
They did a follow up, which featured this restaurant six months after the show. You’d expect a booming business right? What they found was that the restaurant was struggling just as it had before the show. The owner had reverted back to all his old trappings. Even some of the renovations had been changed to make it similar to the way it had been. Here is a person that received a template and proof that the new model would succeed. However, the owner was never committed to the changes even though they were in his best interest. Because the importance was stressed by the consulting chef and never the owner, the whole exercise was a waste of time, money, and energy.
Problems and solutions can’t be more important to legal professionals than they are to the client. We need to do everything possible to help clients see why a solution is in their best interest, but we can’t make them. You can take a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. If you find yourself more committed to a solution than the client, it needs to be addressed. Ignoring it and trying to power the solution on your own will only lead to problems. It’s likely to cause a lot of headaches and is rarely very profitable. It also runs the risk of damaging a relationship and having no results on the back end. Don’t be overzealous, always check the situation for signs that the client is at least as committed as you are. If they aren’t, it’s time to back up and uncover whether they are truly committed or just along for the ride.