How to turn legal clients into raving fans – Part 3 of 5
To me, the most interesting thing about client satisfaction is how bad lawyers are at estimating it.
I was reminded of this by Patrick Lamb’s recent posts about the Lake Wobegon effect, named after Garrison Keilor’s fictional community where “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average. In my former life as a psychology professor, I had a lot of fun lecturing about the research behind this phenomenon, including these examples (from David Myers textbook Social Psychology, Fifth edition, p. 54):
Most people report that they are smarter and better looking than average.
In one study, 90% of business managers rated their performance as above average.
In another, 86% percent of workers said they were above average, and only 1% thought they were below average.
Most drivers say they are safer and more highly skilled than average, even if they have been involved in accidents that led to hospitalization.
Most college students think they will live about 10 years longer than actuarial tables predict.
When the College Entrance Examination Board asked 829,000 high school seniors to rate themselves on the desirable characteristic of “ability to get along with others.” 0% said they were below average, 60% thought they were in the top 10%, and 25% ranked themselves in the top 1%.
In this survey, 52% of lawyers rated their client relationships as an A, but only 21% of their clients agreed. Similarly, 68% of lawyers said that the general level of legal service has improved over the last five years, but only 32% of clients agreed.
Do you want more evidence that many lawyers overrate client satisfaction? See the Inside Counsel online reports for more numbers and numerous quotes, like this one from John Gronda, counsel at the Harris Corp, “Law firms don’t do what they’re told. If I ask you for a quick opinion, don’t send me a 10 page memo that I don’t have time to read.”
In general, the In House Counsel survey concluded that “Most of the friction between law firms and their in-house clients can be traced back to costs. Just 7% of lawyers think law firms make too much money, but 43% of clients do. 74% of lawyers say that law firms are actively seeking out ways to reduce legal costs. They’d better tell clients how they do this, because only 11% of their clients agree. Even worse, 42% of clients (vs. just 6% of lawyers) agree with the statement “most law firms pad their bills.”
The survey report ends with this quote from Douglas Nelson, general counsel at Croplife America: “Some outside lawyers have tremendous reputations and knowledge, but they forget that you’re hiring and paying them, and that they need to keep you happy.”
More about how to do that in the next few posts in this series.