Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Lawyers and customer service

Posted by Nancy Rapoport.

Has our society changed its tolerance for the quality of customer service?  I've just spent the past month wrestling with customer service problems at Large Overnight Package Delivery Service and Small, Ineffective Garage Door Company, and it caused me to wonder if lackadaisical customer service is now the norm.  Grace_clip_2

Or it might be the norm outside the legal profession.  What I've seen recently, at least in large law firms, is the uber-customer-service model, where firms pull out all the stops to serve their clients.  Their lawyers and legal assistants are on call all the time, even on vacation, and -- in some places -- it's a point of honor to bill massively long yearly hour totals. 

There has to be a happy medium somewhere, right, between no customer service at all and such intense customer service that the burnout rate is excessively high? 


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Happy for whom?

Clients are happy with the status quo, where they can demand mergers wrapped up in a week, or TRO requests in a weekend, with a PI hearing the next week (and a raft of discovery in between). The equilibrium is stable for them, and it is their money.

Lawyers may not be happy, but they have exit options, and the premium one earns for rapid response is high enough to keep new entrants coming in to replace those burned out.

Even high-end lawyers are relatively fungible for most purposes. If lawyer A turns down work in pursuit of leisure, there will always be a lawyer B happy to take the work and do their best to take the client.

In other words, I see no reason on either the supply or demand side to believe the current state of affairs is unstable, or could be altered to reduce the demands of providing highly responsive service.


Posted by: David McGowan | Jan 9, 2007 9:22:31 AM

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