Throughout his 42 years of practice, Canadian lawyer Lawrence Pascoe continually introduced new methods to improve service to his clients. He obtained ideas by reading management books and looking at what other lawyers and non-legal businesses did. He then adjusted these methods to apply to his legal practice. During his career, he wrote and presented numerous papers to lawyers on how to enhance client service. Upon retirement, he was able to do more research and formulate theories and processes about innovative legal service applications. He recently wrote a book about his findings which include, in addition to the theories, many examples of specific applications he used or contemplated using in his practice.
What is an innovative legal service application?
It means any physical item or activity used in servicing clients. For example, a manual for clients that has articles and a place to organize the file’s documentation is a physical application. An activity application would be formally obtaining client feedback at all stages of a file. An application does not have to be completely original but can be an improvement of an existing application. It does not have to be complicated nor involve technology.
Why did you write the book?
For various reasons, I believe that the practice of law has not evolved the way other businesses have. As a result, in some respects, lawyers service their clients the same way they did hundreds of years ago. This lack of evolution is to the detriment to both clients and lawyers. I am hoping this book will motivate lawyers to change and start improving the way they provide service to their clients. This book is just one road map to that evolution.
What are the benefits for lawyers who use innovative legal service applications?
Lawyers would obtain more clients by having better service and an innovative product that is different from other lawyers. Obtaining clients is more difficult in a world where the number of lawyers and non-lawyers competing for legal work is increasing. Lawyers should realize that it is very difficult for clients to assess a lawyer’s legal skills, but they can easily judge how well they were served by the lawyer.
There are other major benefits such as fewer complaints and malpractice claims against lawyers as less than 20% of these claims and complaints are due to lawyers not knowing the law but are because of bad service, mainly miscommunication issues.
Using and creating innovative legal service applications is creative, fun, and a break from the routine all of which make for a happier lawyer. There are a lot of unhappy lawyers judging from the numbers that leave the profession.
What subjects does the book discuss?
Besides presenting actual examples of service applications there is a lot of straightforward theory in the book that will teach lawyers how to create their own innovative service applications, how to ensure their implementation and how to evaluate them. There is some discussion of why lawyers have not evolved and what individual lawyers and the profession can do to ensure lawyers start evolving.
What are some examples of innovative legal service applications?
- Providing clients in advance with a slideshow outlining the many issues and sub-issues that will be discussed will reduce their stress and nervousness and better prepare them for the consultation. The slideshow could be a PowerPoint presentation but more likely should be a PDF or a word-processing file, as not every client has PowerPoint program.
- One of my most successful service applications was my client manual. Although we live in a mostly paperless world my clients still overwhelmingly liked having my three ringed binder client manuals. The manuals contained various memoranda and articles and sections where, as the client’s file progressed, the client would insert all correspondence, pleadings, reports, accounts, notes, and checklists in their designated manual sections. Articles would be about the significant legal principles of that practice areas. The memoranda would be about many practical matters like a map of the parking lots near the courthouse, how to behave at a cross-examination, what happens at a court motion, and a memorandum that, among other things, explained my firm’s policies regarding communications, storage of files, and complimentary services offered to the clients. Though lawyers will orally tell clients some of this information, having a written record was of great service as clients are given so much information to absorb, they may not remember what has been said to them. The memoranda can also go into more detail on a subject. I also surprised my clients by providing a complimentary three-hole puncher to use to insert the letters and documentation they would put in their manual as their file progressed. For clients who prefer to be paperless, a digital manual could be set up.
- Lawyers could have a large computer monitor on their desk facing their clients. It would mirror the lawyer’s computer screen. The client monitor is useful when reviewing and changing any court documents the client will be signing. The monitor makes it easier in to explain the calculation of numbers in all types of files and to explain the legal fees and disbursement estimates. After completion, hard copies of these calculations could be printed for the client to put in their client manual. The lawyer’s notes and the first consultation slide show could be displayed on the monitors for clients to follow along. The monitor allows the client to feel and be more a part of the process.
What are the ways to find or create new applications?
The book discusses some sources of new applications, such as applications used by other lawyers and other businesses, ideas from clients, ideas that would prevent the common malpractice and client complaints for a particular area of practice. The book also contains a chapter outlining what I consider elements found in a good service application. Using those elements lawyers could help create a good innovative service application.
Is the book for all lawyers?
Though I think younger lawyers and lawyers where service is very important to the client such as family law or wills and estates law, would benefit more, I think lawyers in all practice areas and stages of practice would benefit from reading the book. All lawyers should be interested in improving their service to clients.
How has the book been received?
I have had some favourable reviews which are found on the book’s ABA product page. The reviewers noted that the book is quite readable, and they appreciated my humour and some of my war stories.
Where can the book be purchased?
The best place to purchase the book, which is also available in electronic format as well as the print version, is by ordering through the American Bar Association’s website ( www.americanbar.org ) then Shop ABA and search my name or the book title.