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Time, Place, and Manner

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You'll Wait and You'll Like It

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Lawyerlite back once again to hit you with some good law firm practice management advicerooni.

There's a lot of talk going around about the importance of having good service, as if you didn't already know that people appreciate a little please and thank you and no, I didn't miss the filing deadline, thanks for asking. If you haven't figured these things out yet, maybe you should consider minimizing your client interaction, if your clients haven't already minimized that for you.

So, instead of repeating the lessons your granny taught you, what I'm going to do is lay on some advanced knowledge.

The number one thing you don't already know about client service is that you don't have to be fast, or even reasonable in how long you take responding to the client. Some people say to return all phone calls and e-mails within one business day. That's good etiquette, but good etiquette does not always make for good business.

Have you ever been to a restaurant and the kitchen was extremely slow, taking an hour or more to get out your food? It happens, but if the food is good enough, odds are you'll utter something like "it was worth the wait." If you think I'm being ridiculous, just take a survey of popular restaurants in New York City. On Friday and Saturday nights there are plenty of joints with waits of two hours or more, just to get seated, before the additional wait to have your order taken and the food actually made. Many of these restaurants refuse to take reservations, and some keep intentionally tiny dining rooms, seating no more than a dozen or two people at a time.

If what you're serving is good, people will wait, and that brings me to the other half of the client service game.

Your product actually has to be good.

Most lawyers like to think that they are, at worst, in the 80th percentile. But, the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of lawyers are mediocre, and there are far more scummy halfwits than there are intellectual giants. You probably think you're some smart shit, but odds are if you're working out of a shared office space in some third-tier city in a square-shaped state, you're not the stuff legends are made of.

When your work shows up late, it's not like finally being served a delicious meal, but instead more like when the pizza guy is late. So, the trick for figuring out how promptly to respond to client needs means truly understanding the quality of your work. If you work is simply adequate, then the best you can do is get it out quickly. But, for the tiny area of law in which you are above average, make your client wait.

You may get excited about finally getting to work on the obscure practice area you can rock like a boss, but you have to play it cool before getting back in touch with your client. If you come back with the answer too quickly, they'll assume it was an easy issue, never think about it again, and never recognize your talent. Making them wait, getting them a bit frustrated and thinking about going to another lawyer before presenting them with top-notch legal advice will make the experience more memorable and they will appreciate you work even more, and that means referral work and new clients who will show up knowing that they have to wait to get the goods.

[Read more from Lawyerlite]

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