lawyers are not service providers

Last week, I discussed why clients and prospective clients view lawyers as commodities. I suggested that we can avoid this type of identity crisis (yes, I think that being labeled a commodity is not a good thing) by taking some time to figure out what the people we help really want from us beyond fairly priced services.

I found some good guidance and inspiration on this front in a remarkablogger post titled Why You Are Not A Service Provider. In it, blogger Michael Martine notes that consumers of services “suffer from pain, but it’s more of a situational, logistical, or anxiety-based kind of pain. Our clients don’t necessarily want services. [ ] They want their problem to go away—preferably with as little involvement as possible on their part.” He goes on to suggest that we, and our businesses, will fare much better if we think of ourselves as “problems solvers” rather than “service providers.”

Martine adds some meat to this anti-commodity bone in a related post on How to Be a Godsend. He suggests that answering this “one simple question” can make our practices thrive: What is the painful and protracted problem you solve? When you solve this kind of problem (or, these kinds of problems) for your clients, you’re a godsend in their eyes.

For some additional insight into ways to avoid the commodity label, you can read Anthony Tjan’s recent Harvard Business post on the way small companies succeed by infusing their customer service with common sense and empathy.

If you’re in the NYC on November 5, 2009, you can gain practical tips on being the problem solver your clients need by participating in the New York City Bar’s Sixth Annual Law Practice Management Symposium. This year’s event offers a range of workshops on Jumping In and Staying Afloat in Your Solo or Small Firm Practice. I’ll be speaking as part of a plenary session on Cultivating Work-Life Synergy.

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