Grinch Lawyer Syndrome?

Posted on December 23rd, 2011 by Chrissie Lightfoot

What the client wants for Christmas and why “Brand,You” will always trump “Brand,Firm.”

This article was first published in the

“>Law Society Gazette 23rd December 2011 and is reproduced by kind permission.

As Christmas comes but once a year, I’d like to share with you now a simple verse:

‘And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’til his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more…’

The above is a verse from my absolutely favourite piece from the Christmas movie The Grinch. You may be thinking where’s Chrissie going with this? So, here’s my take on it…

‘And the Grinch Lawyer, with his Grinch Lawyer-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? They used to come without ribbons. They came even in rags. They came with bribery packages, gift boxes and loadsa cash bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ‘til his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch Lawyer thought of something he hadn’t before. Why don’t clients, he thought, simply walk through the door anymore? What if clients, perhaps, are opting for more. And whilst scratching his puzzler to the very core, trying to figure out how to give clients much more, Grinch Lawyer began to experience a fuzzy feel, as he mumbled and grumbled… WHAT’S THE DEAL?’

As the Grinch begins to understand the true meaning of Christmas I liken it to us lawyers understanding what our clients are really all about and what the true meaning of extraordinary customer service actually is. Have you ever found yourself thinking, feeling and suffering with Grinch Lawyer Syndrome? I have…

Three years ago I was sat at my sparkly desk in Grinch Lawyer Ivory Towers R Us Lair, *hands cupping face and elbows supported on desk*, staring at the office door, glancing every now and again at my email inbox, the telephone and my mobile phone. After a while, I realised that the new legal world order had actually kicked in and things were definitely not going to return to the way they used to be. We were in a new enlightened digital consumer age. Clients weren’t simply going to walk through the door anymore.

What to do when clients are opting for more, I thought? What is more? Why do clients go somewhere else? Who do they go to? Where, when, why? What do clients really want?

Let me share with you now a secret in true Spice Girl style – I’ll tell you what they want, what they really really want. For some of us, it will come as no surprise, but for others it may be rather enlightening… I read a recent survey (research report published October 2011) by Peppermint Technology – only a couple of months ago – entitled What Clients Really Want from a Legal Service Provider. It is the first fully comprehensive research into the role of the customer experience in legal services, post the Legal Services Act.

Obviously, I cannot share with you the entire findings (copyright ‘n’ all). You will have to read the research for yourself. But, I believe I can share with you one wee part of the report, a particularly intriguing piece, no less. The survey report asked a series of questions to law firms, consumers and businesses. Here’s just one example, I think, that will help us understand what our clients would like for Christmas, and beyond.

The following question was asked to consumers and businesses (buyers) of law firms (suppliers): ‘If you were purchasing legal advice how important are these factors?’

Respondents then had to rank six factors in order of importance. One of the six factors to be ranked was ‘they have a trusted brand name’ in relation to the law firm – “Brand,Firm”.

Upshot? Businesses ranked ‘they have a trusted brand name’ LAST; consumers ranked it fourth from last.

This confirms what many people outside the legal profession (and arguably legal industry and legal market) have long since suspected, meaning, clients couldn’t give a rats about “Brand,Firm”. Law firms have zip visibility in terms of their firm brand names and have been wasting their marketing budgets for years on “Brand,Firm” activities.

The research findings also confirm what entrepreneurial lawyers of the Super Lawyer kind, whom I wrote about back in May 2010, realised (The end of lawyers? Pah! This is the time of the ‘super lawyer’), namely, that what clients really really want is “Brand,You”. How can I say this with such confidence and conviction? The number one ranking for businesses with regard to answering this particular question was it was important to ‘know and trust a lawyer that works for the firm’ and for consumers it was ‘the quality and promptness of customer service’.

Ultimately, “Brand,You” trumps “Brand,Firm” in the clients’ heart and mind.

“Brand,Firm” is an entity. It can only have personality if it has a human being (us) breathing life into it. The client is telling us that “Brand,You” is the oxygen to the lifeblood of “Brand,Firm”.

At the very heart of what the client wants is the need for us to extol our soft skills, emotional intelligence, engaging behaviour and extraordinary ‘giving’ focus on them through our “Brand,You”; the elixir for knowing, trusting, quality and promptness of customer service.

What do clients want for Christmas? Grinch Lawyer, or Super Lawyer? I’ll leave you to reflect on what I’ve shared with you here. It just may help to snuff out Grinch Lawyer Syndrome.

May I take this opportunity to thank you for getting involved in my posts throughout 2011 and I look forward to engaging with you in 2012. I wish you the most wonderful, extraordinary, super and ‘naked’ Christmas 🙂


Chrissie Lightfoot
The Entrepreneur Lawyer, CEO EntrepreneurLawyer Limited.
Author of The Naked Lawyer: RIP to XXX – How To Market, Brand & Sell YOU!

Please do feel free to comment on this post. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Posted in Branding, Customer Service, Entrepreneurs, Future Law, Law Management, Lawyers | 2 Comments »

Social Media: From PR Dross to Winning Business…

Posted on May 17th, 2011 by Chrissie Lightfoot

First of all, HUGE apologies re. my lack of posts of late. It's been a busy Q1 & Q2 2011 on the writing, speaking, conference and client scene ergo I've been a wee bit remiss in the blogging department. I hope to rectify this, starting right now!
y a fabulous tool to complement traditional marketing, sales, PR and business development. I say ‘used correctly’ because its real power, strength and ROI (return on investment), IMHO, lies in social capital and human capital, which means, the activity must be done by the individual lawyer, not ‘the firm’.

Undoubtedly, most firms have allocated social media activity as the responsibility of the marketing person or business development person; an individual pumping out ‘marketing and PR messages’ about the firm behind the corporate veil. It’s not engaging or at all of interest to the recipient.

How can I say this? Well, I’ve read enough articles, spoken to enough entrepreneurs (buyers of legal advice) and seen enough law firm website statistics to know that in some cases over 50% of the traffic to law firm websites goes directly to lawyer profile pages. It tells me that potential buyers of legal advice are interested in the individual lawyers. The lawyer being visible, available and engaging to the seeker is extremely important. It’s why having a video clip on a lawyer’s profile is beneficial for the viewer because they feel that they can begin to relate with the lawyer before they’ve even met.

Social media is all about involvement, engagement, being human and being authentic. The recipient (follower) of one’s message is interested in the individual expert who is sharing their information, knowledge, interests and personality. An entity (a law firm) is not human; it certainly doesn’t have character or personality; but the people within it do.

It’s why the top law firms have been lambasted in the past few months in various legal media for churning out PR dross into the social media streams. Firms fail to realise that it’s not about them, the firm. It’s about THEM, the recipient, where the focus should be on the individual lawyer providing information of real interest to be useful and beneficial to the potential and/or existing client. And herein lies the greatest challenge for the profession as I see it right now…

If a leader or manager in a law firm is asking themselves “how can ‘my firm’ use social media and social networking” the answer is simply, it can’t. It’s THE LAWYERS who should be using social media and engaging in social networking; they are your best PR mouthpiece aligned with your firm wide PR strategy because social media is all about relationships. People build and engage in relationships, not entities.

I believe it’s definitely time to turn the traditional top down triangle marketing mantra upside down to capitalise on each and every lawyers’ social capital and human capital.

The question leaders and managers within the profession should be asking themselves is ‘should we be reinventing our entire marketing, sales, PR and business development approach to embrace, involve and engage all of our lawyers?

The real challenge therefore for ‘the firm’ and every lawyer is to embrace the social media revolution for the benefit of the potential client and existing client; ultimately the firm and the individual lawyer will benefit of course. In order to do this we must adapt, innovate and defy our comfort zones.

Invariably, most of us lawyers are not comfortable marketing and selling ourselves. Fact. Take a look around any networking event, offline or online. We’re usually the ones huddled together in a corner somewhere hoping that we won’t be disturbed. But, when we are, we’re usually more than happy to engage in conversation.

Simply put, if we view social media as engagement and conversation, it shouldn’t be that challenging. We might even find that we actually enjoy it…

What's your thoughts?

Warmest as ever

Chrissie Lightfoot
The Entrepreneur Lawyer
(of the naked kind)

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Posted in Future Law, Law Management, Lawyers, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

The end of lawyers? Pah! This is the time of the 'super lawyer'.

Posted on May 20th, 2010 by Chrissie Lightfoot

In March, Alastair Moyes stated that 'law firms need to work hard in the face of commoditised legal providers'. Last month he bravely stuck his neck out and suggested that we, today's lawyers, need to embrace radical change and reinvent customer service to avoid our industry 'becoming the nearly dead dinosaur that the US car industry became'.

I reckon Alastair makes two very poignant points. Let’s face it, the 2008-2010 global recession combined with the Legal Services Act 2007 has given us a wake-up call. Throw the enlightened consumer, digital era and recent technological advances into the mix and what have we got? Our traditional way of life under threat.

We can no longer afford to be Luddites because the transformation of how the world of legal business operates is already underway. Competition from consumer-centric major players, 'DIY free legal documents providers' via the internet and virtual law firms are already challenging our established engagement model, increasing client confidence, levels of expectation and setting new standards in customer service.

If we consider Professor Richard Susskind’s predictions in relation to the role of lawyers and law firms in the new world of consumer legal services (detailed in his provocative 2008 book The End Of Lawyers?), there is further change on the horizon.

The predictions detailed in Susskind’s 1996 book The Future of Law have already come to fruition. Perhaps we should heed his recent prediction that the market is not going to tolerate costly lawyers for jobs that can equally or better be undertaken by less-expensive workers or through smart systems and processes. Enter ‘de-lawyering’ (passing work to paralegals and legal executives), ‘disruptive’ technologies (computerised systemising, packaging or commoditising), entrepreneurial alternative providers and streamlined law firms.

It’s now 2010. What Susskind wrote about in 2008 we are witnessing. Quoting Neuromancer author William Gibson, whether we like it or not 'the future is here … it’s just not widely distributed yet'. It begs the question, will traditional lawyers be needed? The answer, you’re no doubt pleased to hear, is that it’s not all doom and gloom.

Susskind believes that some tasks, for example those requiring deep expertise or interpersonal communication, will still require the traditional lawyer. Furthermore, as to whether law firms can survive, he believes that entrepreneurial law firms will not see threats in all of these developments and some will actually find opportunity. I would add that entrepreneurial lawyers recognise this and have already begun to act. You will identify these lawyers as bastions of light blazing a trail in customer service excellence and innovation while doing battle with colleagues who are stuck in their Dickensian ways. Inertia and resistance to change always reminds me of Einstein’s view that 'great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds'.

I passionately believe that traditional lawyers, entrepreneurial lawyers and the next generation have a wonderful opportunity in this enlightened, consumer-led digital era to become 'super lawyers'.

What do I mean by 'super lawyers'? Let’s propose that the most expensive piece of real estate is what lies between our ears ('deep expertise' as Susskind calls it – I call it 'lawyerly intellectual capital' (LIC)), and that there is LIC too complex to be commoditised (which there undoubtedly is), requiring interpersonal communication and intrapersonal communication. Accordingly, LIC is where the true value lies. Arguably, what we need to ensure is that we can effectively communicate that LIC is what the consumer needs, wants and desires of us. Enter ‘soft-skilling’ to improve our powers of persuasion, communication, relationship building, marketing, cross-selling, up-selling and selling per se.

If technology can take away as much grunt work as possible and leave the real LIC of value to the super lawyer then that should be something we welcome, right? To survive and thrive in the years to come I propose that a paradigm shift is required in the thinking, behaviour, actions, focus and expectations of both the law firm (partners/owners/directors) and the next generation of lawyers.

As both a lawyer and an entrepreneur (legal purchaser), I believe that the lawyer's role is not just about being technically proficient in the use of words (drafting and advising) – it’s much more than that. Actually being able to truly relate and care about the client and his/her business and/or predicament is fundamental to what true lawyering and LIC is all about. Extraordinary relationships and customer service will be the holy grail at the heart of the successful super lawyer. Building an enduring value relationship with the consumer, utilising 'fluffy soft-skills stuff' combined with a total consumer-centric focus is where the real value will be for the lawyer, law firm and consumer of today and the future.

All of the above may actually just give the legal industry a raison d’etre. I came to the profession in later life (working in a mid-tier established law practice for the past three years) with prior customer service exposure, experience and responsibility having worked in the new media, management consulting and leisure industries. Consequently, I can wholeheartedly agree with Alastair that the legal industry needs to embrace radical change, reinvent customer service and work hard (and smart) in light of the inevitable commoditisation of legal provision. However, I seriously question whether established law firms and ‘traditional lawyers’ are geared up, positioned and truly prepared for the competitive challenges ahead. Are we confident that we already possess the skills required to become super lawyers? If not, the godsend is that with ever-increasing availability and acceptance of the delivery of soft-skill coaching to the profession there is help at hand.

Reinventing customer service will require every lawyer to embrace and action a consumer-centric mindset and behaviour – a paradigm shift in most instances. Scary as this might seem, failure to do the same may well mean that 'the end of lawyers' could actually come to pass – for some traditional lawyers. Perhaps the most famous epitaph in the world is the one alleged to be on the tombstone of WC Fields. As an everlasting reflection of the love-hate relationship with his ‘beloved’ hometown Philadelphia, his epitaph reads 'all things considered, I’d rather be in Philadelphia'.

As I contemplate the threat of our possible extinction, all things considered, I think I’d rather be a super lawyer. Wouldn’t you?

Chrissie Lightfoot
The Entrepreneur Lawyer

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Posted in Entrepreneurs, Lawyers, Women in law | 72 Comments »