Many law firms/practice groups remind me of a quote from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree.
Which road shall I take? She asked.
His response was a question:
Where do you want to go?
I don’t know, Alice answered.
Then, said the cat, it doesn’t matter.
While most of your clients seem to have no trouble articulating where they want to go, why is your law firm or practice group like Alice?
Most law firm web pages look alike.
- They are “full service firms” who represent both large companies and small ones.
- They are experienced and responsive, and provide exceptional service (usually as defined by them).
- They are typically strategically located to better serve those large and small clients.
- They all provide “innovative solutions” to business problems.
I could go on, but my point is to simply say, they all look alike.
Let’s look at other service entities for ideas. When I stay at a Four Seasons Hotel, I am amazed by the level of service at all levels in the hotel.
Years ago, I was in Houston for a meeting. As I ate my dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel bar, I looked down I noticed the hem on my suit pants had come undone.
I went to the front desk and asked if for safety pins, or a sewing kit. I was told the hotel seamstress had finished her workday. That took me by surprise. I had never imagined the hotel would have a seamstress.
The manager told me to go to my room and wait for someone to bring me a sewing kit. A few minutes later an older Mexican American lady knocked on my door. She greeted me with a big smile. When she saw my trousers, she gave me that knowing grin as if to say: “I know you are a man and you don’t know how to sew worth a darn.” She pointed and asked me for my trousers.
Twenty minutes later she returned to my room with the cuff to my trousers sewn to perfection. That is service.
Afterward, I wanted to better understand how Four Seasons did it and I found the Four Seasons philosophy:
A Shared Spirit: Four Seasons strategy is simple. Hire motivated people, train them to be the best they can be, and offer them an environment in which to flourish.
Take a look at the Four Seasons Mission Statement.
As Practice Group Leader of a Construction Law Practice Group, I made sure our group clearly understood what we wanted to become.
Because of the experience and background of our lawyers we decided to focus on representing contractors primarily engaged in constructing large civil construction projects; including highways, airports, mass transit, power, dams, stadiums, etc.
Our purpose was to enable or to help our clients build great projects while achieving their business objectives. We have hired lawyers who had a construction background, civil engineering or construction management undergraduate degree, or who exhibited a passion for the construction industry.
Our legal assistants included civil engineers or construction management graduates with construction experience.
We sought ways to differentiate ourselves from our competitors, including making efforts to be “first to market” on whatever happened to be the cutting edge legal issue affecting the industry.
We were among the first construction practice groups to have newsletters for clients and to conduct in-house workshops for clients. Several of us have written legal columns in trade magazines or for association newsletters. These were all things we decided we wanted to be.
I mention all these things, not to suggest that any other law firm or practice group adopt any of them, but to simply point out the importance of deciding what you want your practice group or law firm to become.
Without thinking about what you want, deciding and then articulating what you want, you will likely be like Alice and it won’t really matter which way you go.