the legal sanity mentor: jason mendelson

My introduction to Jason Mendelson came by way of a compelling how-to blog post he wrote titled: Quick Ways To Get Fired as a Lawyer. From the first read through, it’s clear that Jason knows what he’s talking about. As a self-proclaimed “recovering lawyer” and successful VC with his own company, Foundry Group. he’s gained insight into the best and worst of legal service delivery from both sides of the fence.

Through the wonders of six-degrees-of-separation (many thanks to Debbie Huttner and Michael Huttner), I connected with Jason and had a lively discussion on the topic of re-designing legal services around the client experience.

AH: How many lawyers have you worked with over the years?

JM: 2,000-3,000.

AH: What percentage of these lawyers were excellent?

JM: 5%

AH: What makes a lawyer that pretty rare kind of advisor that inspires client evangelism – someone who provides such meaningful service that clients voluntarily shout his or her praises?

JM: I think it’s a combination of factors:

1.   Team Feeling/Proactive Representation: You want to get the sense that your lawyer is part of your team and interested in your business. You want them to be there for you and thinking about you/your business when you need them to, and also thinking about you/your business even when you don’t need them for a particular matter. This sounds obvious but it rarely happens.

2.   Consistency: This means not swapping out people. For example, in the initial meeting, you meet with certain lawyers, you build rapport and a connection with them and then you end up with different lawyers working on your deal. 

3.   Creativity: If you can think creatively and strategically on how to manage the legal issue in an efficient and effective way, you will get into the Lawyer Rock Star Hall of Fame.

 AH: That gives us a good sense of the lawyer’s side of the coin. Are clients at all responsible for creating their own positive experiences with legal service consumption/delivery?

JM: The irony is that people who hire lawyers have no idea if the lawyer is any good. I give entrepreneurs 5-6 questions to ask potential lawyers when interviewing them. But the truth is that any lawyer can get past those questions. The best is to ask present or former clients of that lawyer/law firm and to ask other lawyers who have worked with the lawyer on opposite sides of a deal or dispute. Lots of lawyers can get a great reference, show up and woo you in a board meeting but then they don’t really know how to get the work done. They don’t do quality work.

So, yes, I think the client has some responsibility for ensuring their own positive service delivery experience. I riff on this in my Lawyer Bill of Rights. If a client doesn’t follow it, the client has no right to complain.

Thanks, Jason, for lending your insights into client experience design and helping us build legal sanity.

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