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During this week’s podcast, Aaron and Sam talk about the recent decision by the Florida State Bar Association to require that Florida lawyers attend technological competence CLEs. Sam also talks with Gyi Tsakalakis about designing a client-centric lawyer practice.
Gyi Tsakalakis helps lawyers earn meaningful attention online because that’s where clients are looking. He also writes about legal marketing technology. He is the founder of AttorneySync, which provides effective, transparent, and accountable online legal marketing help. His core focus is search engine optimization (SEO).
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Sam Glover: Hi. I’m Sam Glover.
Aaron Street: And I’m Aaron Street, and this is episode 90 of the Lawyerist podcast where we talk with Gyi Tsakalakis about designing a client-centric lawyer practice.
Sam Glover: Today’s podcast is sponsored by Xero: beautiful legal accounting simplified. Find out more at xero.com. That’s X-E-R-O.com.
Aaron Street: Today’s podcast is also sponsored by Ruby Receptionists. Ruby answers our phones at Lawyerist so we don’t have to worry about getting interrupted when we’re being productive, and we think they are awesome. Visit callruby.com/lawyerist to get a risk free trial with Ruby.
Sam Glover: Aaron, today I want to talk about some news that came out a little while back but is no less relevant today. That’s the news that the Florida State Bar Association, which is a mandatory bar, just decided that Florida lawyers will have to take tech CLE. It’s not a lot. I think it’s like three hours per reporting period, but Florida lawyers are now going to have to learn some basic tech competencies.
Aaron Street: I think that’s really exciting news. One of the major reasons we have CLE is to prevent malpractice and to make sure lawyers are competently practicing law. We don’t have CLE for the purpose of CLE. We have CLE for a reason. That’s to make sure that lawyers are staying abreast of what they need to and being competent, and tech competence is a huge part of what that competence means these days in addition to substantive law. It’s also one of the huge areas where people fuck up and get in trouble, and so the fact that it’s been overlooked for years as a primary thing lawyers must know is really exciting. That said, three hours every three years is not enough to make anyone tech competent.
Sam Glover: It’s not, and I admit to a certain amount of skepticism that, in general, bar associations and CLE organizations are going to provide the sort of CLE that really makes lawyers tech competent. I’m curious as to what’s going to count towards this and even more curious to what lawyers actually wind up taking and what they end up doing about it. I mean I’ve been giving lots of tech CLEs, so I guess I don’t want to call myself incompetent, but I always wonder how many lawyers actually go back to their offices and implement some of the simple things that I tell people they ought to do. I guess it’s incremental, right? A few at a time and eventually maybe the profession gets on a role.
Aaron Street: We’ve talked to a number of people in Florida about this and John Stewart, one of the Florida State Bar Association board members who spearheaded this effort, he’s doing it for the right reasons. It’s not because he wants people to take garbage CLE and not get anything out of them. Adriana Linares, who we do a lot of stuff with, was behind this a lot, and she wants people to do this for the right reasons. I think there will be an effort in Florida to encourage lawyers to use this new three-credit mandate to actually learn things and become more tech competent. I think it’s a great movement in the right direction. I think it’s not enough both in that it’s just Florida right now and that three hours is not enough to actually move the needle here, but it’s a great effort. I’m really excited and proud that they were able to get it passed.
Sam Glover: No, I am too. I want to see more stuff like this. It’s in the same vein as law schools need to integrate some practical skills and tech competence into the curriculum. I absolutely believe that and support that. At the same time I worry are they going to do a good job of it? And you’re right. I have a lot of confidence in some of the people who are behind this at the Florida State Bar Association, but it’s all in the execution. It’s a good move. I hope it works out. I’m optimistic for it because I love that it forces lawyers to actually focus on this and go. Somebody with authority is finally telling lawyers, “No, you really have to do this.” That’s really awesome, and I hope to see it. I guess it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. Are lawyers are going to get the kind of CLE that they need? I hope so. Then are they actually going to take it and do something with it and become something approaching competent with technology? Boy, I sure hope so.
Aaron Street: I guess my big takeaway is stay tuned but great job Florida State Bar Association.
Sam Glover: I think that’s right. Yeah, that’s awesome. With that in mind, here’s my conversation with Gyi about building your law practice so that it is client-centric and designing it that way.
Gyi Tsakalakis: I’m Gyi Tsakalakis, and I founded AttorneySync in 2008. I’m a licensed lawyer although nonpracticing and like to share ideas about how lawyers can develop new business.
Sam Glover: We’ve had you on the podcast before to talk about online marketing and trying to get the bigger picture of what that all involves. Today we want to talk more about client service and maybe how attorneys are or should be rethinking their relationship to their clients. Let’s start out with that. What’s wrong with the attorney/client relationship right now?
Gyi Tsakalakis: I think, like many things, we’ve established these habits with dealing with clients. This is one of the things I’ve talked about with lawyers all the time and one of the first questions I ask is, “How do interface with clients? Do they call you? Do they come in? What does all that look like?” Like many other areas, it seems to me that there’s a lot of stuff that hasn’t changed. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have face-to-face communication with clients, and you shouldn’t be developing a personal relationship with your client. You certainly should. I think what’s changed is that the clients have different expectations.
Sam Glover: You’re talking about lawyers still insist on lots of phone calls. They send their invoices by snail mail, and they communicated primarily by mail. Lots of lawyers want clients to come and make the trek into their office for meetings, stuff like that, right?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Right, and vice versa. Lawyers have a resistance to … One of the things we hear every year is that the leading cause of grievance in malpractice claims is not keeping clients in the loop with what’s going on with their cases. Again, I think a lot of it on the other end of the spectrum…
Sam Glover: We’re not going to communicate with you but when we do, it’s going to be on our terms, and we’re going to make sure and do it in an old way.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Thank you for saying that much more concisely than I was saying it. Exactly right.
Sam Glover: That sounds about right, though.
Gyi Tsakalakis: That’s right. No, we still see that. We were just talking to a lawyer the other day. We were talking about how … “Hey, when people call you, how do answer the phone?” “Well, I don’t answer the phone. Everything goes to voicemail, and then I call them back at my leisure.”
Sam Glover: I’ll bet that’s really effective.
Gyi Tsakalakis: I’ve been the client of lawyers before, and, no, it’s not very fun.
Sam Glover: I guess that’s what you get when you get a monopoly. Where else are people going to go? They’ve got to come and do things my way. Lawyers don’t necessarily think that they’re forcing clients to do things their way, but you’re right. When we talk about adopting new technologies, we’re often talking about it from the perspective of the lawyer’s convenience. But you’re suggesting that we ought to be thinking about in terms of the client’s convenience, desire, need, want, whatever, right?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Right. We see this across so many industries where people have changed the way that they’re interfacing with their customers. Lawyers just tend to be more resistant to those types of things. I’ll tell you what, I’ve seen some lawyers that have what I would call this client-centric approach, and we’ll get more into this, where they’re actually asking clients, “How would you prefer that we communicate? Here is some expectation setting of how we can communicate.” I think it’s important to note, this isn’t talking about unlimited access. Because, obviously, if lawyers are just sitting by the phone waiting for their clients to call at their leisure, that’s not going to work either. But at least having the conversation, getting feedback, and then actually using some of these systems to be able to put them into place. I think that’s really where I think lawyers have a great opportunity. I think the lawyers that are doing it, they’re making their clients happy, and their clients are like, “Wow, this is great. I don’t have to drive forty-five minutes to drop something off at your office whenever you need it.”
Sam Glover: You kind of alluded to this, but your attorney/client communication, your relationship begins the very first time they call …
Gyi Tsakalakis: That’s right.
Sam Glover: … and you don’t answer the phone.
Gyi Tsakalakis: You don’t answer the phone, or they can’t even find how to get a hold of you.
Sam Glover: I suppose …
Gyi Tsakalakis: There’s also lawyers that …
Sam Glover: I suppose you could characterize that as setting expectations, but it feels like you’re setting the expectation that you’re going to be a dick to your clients.
Gyi Tsakalakis: That’s the thing. It even happens before they become a client. Like you were suggesting, it happens really early on. A lot of lawyers make it very difficult to find out how to contact them by design. Again, depending on what your practice looks like, maybe you have reasons where you don’t want to receive communications a certain way, and that’s fine, too. But the more friction you create, the more difficult you make it, the more you’re going to frustrate both potential clients, people who might refer you clients, and your existing clients.
Sam Glover: You’ve used the term client-centric a couple of times. How do we do that? What do you mean by client-centric, and how should a lawyer take a look at their practice and think about it in that way?
Gyi Tsakalakis: This is really something that lawyers should be doing more universally, even beyond just communication. It’s really putting the client at the center of your practice. We know that when we talk about things like ethical obligations and lawyers providing a professional service, we know that the client’s interests are paramount. When it comes to communication, all I’m really saying is just apply that same kind of thinking.
Tactically what that looks like, one, is that you’re having these conversations and getting feedback from your clients on a regular basis. That, to me, is the most obvious one, because everybody’s clients and everybody’s practice are going to be slightly different. There’s not a universal rule, but I think if you’re going to think of one universal rule, it’s listen to what your clients are telling you and actually give them a platform to say, “Hey, you know what? It would be a lot easier if we did this,” and provide a way for them to do that. It really comes down to listening to the clients and asking for feedback. Tactically, that can be surveys. That can be just asking them. People talk about things like Net Promoter Score. There’s a lot of different tools at your disposal, but it all starts with just changing the thinking from, “This is the way I do it no matter what. You either do it my way or find a different lawyer.”
Sam Glover: Because it seems like there’s probably low hanging fruit in every practice where if you really stop and think about the way you’re doing things … Like if you use a phone tree when people call, you can probably reflect on the fact that you hate phone trees whenever you reach them. Maybe that’s not the best way to greet new clients or even existing clients. I imagine some of it is low hanging fruit, but you’re suggesting some more advanced ways to solicit feedback from your customers and try to drag out of them the problems they might be having.
Gyi Tsakalakis: I think that’s right, but what you’re saying I think is right on, too. It’s really putting yourself in the client’s position when they’re dealing with you so shopping your own firm. If you’re not a solo, you have somebody else answering the phone or if you have other associates or partners or staff or whatever, call your firm and see what it’s like to ask for things and to see what it’s like …. You can even have clients do that, “Hey, I would like you to shop us and give us feedback on what it was like to try to get this document processed or signed or whatever it is,” and see how easy it was.
Sam Glover: It would be better to find people that aren’t you and that don’t care what you think so that they give you really honest, unvarnished feedback, I think.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Right, absolutely. That’s the best. There’s a variety of ways you can do that. There are even services depending on what your firm looks like. I know that there are firms that hire these other companies that will come in and actually shop you and say what’s it like to … They’ll rate you in terms of how you’re answering the phone, how easy it is to get a hold of a lawyer. I know that the ABA did a mini-survey on this recently, too. You see this time and time again. It’s very difficult to get a lawyer on the phone. We understand. Lawyers are very busy. They’re doing a lot of other things. The good news is is that there are so many different, simple tools you can put in place to make a lot of this stuff a lot less cumbersome for both the client and the lawyer.
Sam Glover: Why don’t you mention a couple of those? Because you mentioned surveys and Net Promoter Score and stuff. What’s a easy way to try …? Well, first of all what is Net Promoter Score? Second, what’s an easy way to try and figure it out and get good feedback from it?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Net Promoter Score is really … This is not the end all be all of feedback assessments but it’s basically on a scale of on to ten, how likely are you to recommend me to friends or colleagues? If you are an eight, nine, or ten, then they’re a promoter. [inaudible 00:14:36] the terminology right just for the record.
Sam Glover: You are.
Gyi Tsakalakis: A one, two, three, you’re a detractor, and that means that you’re actually a liability. Those are people that are likely not to refer people to you, and they’re also likely to leave negative reviews online and not likely to continue to be your client. Then four, five, six are kind of meh.
Sam Glover: Just neutral, eh.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Not bad not great.
Sam Glover: The obvious idea is if you are trying to build a business, you need promoters. You’re not being hurt by neutral people, but you’re not growing your business off their backs either. You want to avoid detractors. The idea is when you add all this stuff up, you figure out what percentage you have of each. If the number is positive, then you’re growing, but you’d like to be growing more than, say, one percent. It’s not really [crosstalk 00:15:23]. That’s a really simple, easy way to get feedback. We’ve talked about it with some other lawyers. Some lawyers will actually reach out to the neutral people and try and figure out, “What is it that makes you not a raging fan?” They’ll also reach out to detractors, maybe, and say, “Wow, how did we screw this up?” You can get really good feedback.
Although I’ve been reading a book on user experience, user interface design recently. It made a really, really good point that you have to be careful that you don’t just take people’s criticism and try and fix that thing, but you try and get to the root of the problem. Anyone who accepts criticism has gotten this again and again, and any lawyer who’s ever served a client realizes that the client’s complaint isn’t necessarily related to … or their legal claims aren’t necessarily related to what they’re actually hoping to get.
The advice in this book that I was reading was just make sure you keep drilling down why. Why are you upset about communication? Chances are it wasn’t even that they wanted you to communicate more, although that may be what they say. What they really are upset about is that they didn’t get a particular kind of communication at the time they wanted it. Maybe because you sent it by mail, they don’t check their mailbox very often or they don’t open their letters, and so they didn’t get it. Maybe they didn’t actually need more communication. They just needed you to email it to them or something.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Right, exactly. That’s why have those conversations up front: “How do you prefer that I contact you? Here are some options. Our firm has a client portal. Our firm, we use this communication app,” if you wanted to go that route. “Does email work for you?” I think one of the biggest problems is … it’s kind of meta here, but it’s communication about communication. You’re not actually having conversations about what are the way clients prefer. There’s a default position that lawyers just say, “Look, you’re lucky to have me as a lawyer, and this is the way we do things. If you don’t want to do things my way, then go find a different lawyer.” I think that the market plays out like that.
I can’t tell you how many times just anecdotally … We’ll talk to lawyers about how they’re fielding inbound phone calls. When you get answers like, “Yeah, no one answers the phone here; we expect people to have voicemails, and then we respond to them when we want to,” how those firms are struggling. They’re not signing clients up. Sometimes it’s obvious. But it’s also a habit thing. You can even think about these things but then to actually build systems and then to live those habits so that you are keeping regular contact with clients. Certainly one of the best ways to develop new business is just to stay in touch with the people who already know and like you.
Sam Glover: It’s amazing how many lawyers just don’t stay in touch with former clients. Let me follow up on something that I heard you mention there, which is you threw in client portals, which I don’t really want to dig too deeply into that. As you know, I believe that every lawyer should have some kind of a secure communication portal because I think email is not sufficiently safe for everything that you might want to communicate. Let’s say you agree with me.
Gyi Tsakalakis: I do.
Sam Glover: You have decided I need my clients to use this. Now I’m back in the position of dictating how we are going to communicate which may not be happy and comfortable for my clients. How do you balance that when I’ve got a really darn good reason why I think we ought to do things this way, and it’s a way that my client really isn’t probably interested in doing? How do I try to get their buy-in, and how do I try to make that work so that they end up being happy because of it and not upset because I didn’t do it their way?
Gyi Tsakalakis: You explain to them why it’s in their best interest. Another thing I would say, too, is that just having a client portal, that doesn’t solve the inherent problem. That’s just another tool in your toolbox that you can say, “Here’s a way for us to interface with each other. How would you prefer to interface?” Again, some clients might say, “I would …” You say to the client sending these communications via email … I think it’s also important to note here, there are conversations you can have that I think are fine via email, and there’s some that you can’t. I think that going to your client and saying, “Look, when we’re talking about your situation, we’re talking about things that are privileged that we shouldn’t have these conversations here, there’s a reason why. It might be inconvenient for you but here’s why it’s in your best interest to do those things. I’m also providing you other options so that we can efficiently communicate.”
Of course, you’re going to have clients who, one, they’re going to do things that they shouldn’t do, but, two, some clients might prefer to come in. Some clients might prefer to have phone calls. Again, I’m not sitting here saying just totally acquiesce to whatever the client wants but provide them options and have those conversations and [inaudible 00:20:43] expectations in advance. Don’t just presume that you get to do your way and then clients just have to either take it or leave it. Again, you can do that. I’m just telling you from talking to these lawyers, the expectations of clients is changing. Again, there will be a lot of lawyers I’m sure say, “Well, I don’t care. The clients are wrong.” That’s fine but remember you’re serving the clients so the clients are going out and finding lawyers that are willing to provide them these alternatives.
Sam Glover: It’s interesting, isn’t it? I feel like every time I want to talk about technology, there’s some lawyer in the room who’s like, “Stop talking about technology. It’s all about serving clients.” If I started asking them, “Okay, let’s talk about client service. How many options do you offer your clients for the way that you communicate? How willing are you to do things in the way that works for your client to make sure that you have an effective communication plan, to make sure that you are on the same page with the results you’re looking for?” I bet a lot of those same lawyers would not have a great answer. It’s interesting that client services … We’re talking about more than just getting the client a good result. We’re talking about actually running a good business that your clients want to be a part of.
Gyi Tsakalakis: I don’t want to go down this thing about the good results stuff but that in and of itself is in the eye of the beholder, right?
Sam Glover: Yes.
Gyi Tsakalakis: A lot of clients don’t even know what a good result is. A lot of other lawyers, at least I think to me, the ones that know what they’re talking about can recognize that good result is a very nebulous concept because there’s so many factors that go into a good result.
Sam Glover: We’re going to take two minutes for sponsors. When we come back, I want to expand this idea of optimizing for the client experience and talk about what else should go into it and what other kinds of things should we be thinking about when we’re trying to create the experience that we hope our clients have.
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Sam Glover: We’re back. Gyi, we’ve been focusing on communication, which is central for a number of reasons, and it probably plays into a lot of the other things. When we were talking about trying to improve our client’s experience with us, what other kinds of things should we be thinking about?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Obviously, and you alluded this earlier, you got to think about privacy concerns and how secure … Any kind of technology we’re talking, whether that’s how you’re using your phone or how you’re using an app or whatever, you got to take those things into consideration. You certainly want to understand … So many lawyers, I just know that are using some kind of technology without actually having an understanding about what risks are so understand those risks is important. I don’t know if we want to go down the whole privacy stuff, but I think that talking about that is an important thing just at least to giving it a nod.
Then you really start to get into all sorts of different things. I mean I’ll admit that I don’t know what the current thinking is in terms of slack security is but messaging apps like that are the types of things that I think should be at least on the table for consideration. Again, that’s just one. Client portal, that’s any easy one. How about just also saying, “Look, in my CMR or my practice management tool, I’m going to commit to making an agreement with a client about how frequently we’re going to update the client, and I’m going to create a reminder that I need to actually update this client on this case.” Again, some of this stuff is more behavioral. It’s not even how you’re having the communication, it’s using the tool as a prompt to change your behavior so that you’re not like, “Oh, I forgot to update so and so. It’s been two months now because I wrote it on a post-it note. It was on my wall, and it fell off behind my desk.”
Sam Glover: I suppose it plays into things like how you write your retainer agreements so that you know your clients can understand them and how you present them. I think it probably plays into the billing arrangement that you decide to come up with and your billing practices. I guess a lot of this stuff gets down to communication in the end, but it seems like this can permeate your practice. What kind of coffee do you serve in your lobby assuming that you actually think it’s worth forcing your clients to come into the office. It seems like all of that stuff is part of crafting the client experience. It’s just as a matter of putting your head in your client’s head and talking to your clients and trying to figure out how do you want them to have a relationship with your firm? Do you just want it to be showing up and seeing you twice, or do you actually want them come away with an impression?
Gyi Tsakalakis: That’s right. I will freely admit that this is the hot word of the hour, but people are talking about how do you delight clients? Or how do you delight users or whatever it is? It’s true, though. The thing is is that this kind of stuff, like you were talking about, it doesn’t even have be technology. It’s actually thinking about your client, listening to your client, and then making adjustments to your practice. And they’re little things. They can be very minor things that really make clients, like, “Wow, that’s different. I remember that. That’s remarkable.” Again, it’s not related solely to [inaudible 00:27:46] the outcome. Because, again, a lot of them come in and they don’t know what a good outcome is but they know what it’s like to be listened to. They know what it’s like to feel like they’ve been treated with respect. And they know what it’s like to see, like, “Oh, this lawyer actually has done some things to go out of their way, even though they’re small, to make my life a little bit easier.”
Sam Glover: What I think is interesting about delight is it takes you about halfway. If you’re not impressing your clients, then you’re just not impressing your clients. You can try and create delightful experiences, but I feel like … I think it was last year at the Clio Cloud conference, one of the keynotes was citing some statistics that delight gets you your Net Promoter Score up to neutral, but it doesn’t really push you over the hump. The way over the hump is to remove effort. It’s why people like Uber despite the fact that it’s a terrible company run by a sociopath. I love Uber. It’s the greatest experience in the world, not even because they’re delighting me. They’re delighting me by making that experience so easy that all I have to do is tap a button on my phone and a car shows up and takes me where I want to go. I can get out without fumbling for change or waiting for a really long credit card processing terminal to finally bill my card.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Exactly.
Sam Glover: The point of that talk, and I think on the second piece of the client experience, is once you are convinced that you’ve made things delightful for your client, you should also be focusing on how do you make them easier? Maybe your clients really want to come into your office, but I’m really confident that if you could serve most of your clients’ needs without making them come into your office, they would be a lot happier about that.
Gyi Tsakalakis: That’s what it’s all about, right? It’s about actually going to the client and saying, “Hey, you’re welcome to come in if you want, but if you’re just dropping off this document, here’s a way for you to get that to us and sign it in a much more efficient and frictionless, easier process. Given the option offered up to them or have those options available, I think that in and of itself can go along way even if they still choose to do something else. The fact that you’re giving them an option and thought about, “Hey, he or she actually asked me what would be easier for me,” that is the part that’s missing oftentimes.
Sam Glover: For whatever reason, another thought popped into my head. I really don’t like using Basecamp anymore. Basecamp is a project management software for those who might not be familiar. I think it’s not very good anymore, but I used to be very impressed by one of the previous incarnations of it. One of the things that really impressed me was that people don’t need to use Basecamp in order to benefit from Basecamp. What I mean by that is when you invite somebody to a project, they sign up and create an account. Then they never have to log in again because they can interact with it almost exclusively through email. They can upload files by attaching them to emails. They can respond to comments by responding to emails. They can even check off tasks that have been assigned to them. They can basically use Basecamp about half to seventy-five percent of it without ever logging in.
I just wonder if maybe there’s an interesting analogy there for firms. Could you let people use your law firm and get legal services from you without really having to? Could you get them in the door, sign a retainer agreement with them, and solve their legal problem without really asking much more of them beyond that? Maybe some practices can. Maybe that’s an interesting approach. The question is, of course, I guess can you keep them as a client after that? My guess is if you delight them and make that process effortless, you probably can.
Gyi Tsakalakis: I mean I think that there are a lot of lawyers that are working on solving these kind of problems, whether it’s writing apps and AI and chatbots and things that do a lot of that stuff. I think there’s a ways to go there, but if they’re thinking about it … Again, to me, the conversation really stems from changing the mindset from, “It’s my way or the highway,” to “I’m thinking about my client. I’m putting myself in my clients’ shoes. I’m listening to my client. I’m giving them options.” Technology provides a lot of great options. Again, they’re less about finding the right app, and they’re more about getting the feedback, giving options, and making sure that you’re staying in touch on a regular basis however you both agree to do that.
Sam Glover: For lawyers who are less comfortable with technology, I wonder if the better analogy is a concierge. Nobody uses a concierge for anything interesting anymore, but there used to be all these great stories of somebody asks to have a puma sent up to their room at 2:30 in the morning. The great concierge at the five-star hotel somehow figures out a way to get a puma into the hotel room at 2:30 in the morning. The concierge at a five-star hotel should be able to make any experience happen. Yes, you’ll have to pay for it. If you want tickets to the sold out Broadway show at a certain thing, then a great concierge should be able to figure out a way to scare up a couple of tickets for you to pay for. It’s not bending over backwards. It’s making shit happen. I wonder if that’s a good analogy for lawyers who might not be so comfortable with us recommending technology solutions but just a change in perspective on client service.
Gyi Tsakalakis: No, I think that’s a great analogy. Again, it really is about having those conversations and switching from the mindset of, “You’re lucky to have me,” to “How can I actually provide you with the kind of service that you expect?” Again, their thing too, to a large extent, it’s out of the lawyer’s control. The clients, their expectations have changed. I mean all of our expectations have changed as consumers. Again, I don’t think that the solution here is always the do-it-yourself stuff; even though that’s how our mindset has developed. The key is to say, “Look, I’m hearing what you’re telling me. I’m hearing what your problem is. I’m giving you some options. I’m asking you for your feedback.”
Again, it really comes down to this idea of people know what it’s like to feel like they’re treated with respect and dignity. A lot of that comes from just the communication process. That’s why some of the lawyers that can empathize tend to be better at client service than those that are just, “This is what I do, and you take it or leave it.” Maybe that does work for some lawyers. But I know that a lot of them that work or are working with John Q. Public, the expectations with people in general have changed to the point where there’s another lawyer lined up for them to call, even ones that you’re getting word of mouth referrals. That’s the other thing I always hear is, “Well, someone that’s referred to me from a friend, they’re always going to leave a voicemail, and they’re always going to give me more time to respond.” No, they’re not because they have another friend who knows another lawyer.
Sam Glover: Do you have any books that you’d recommend to our listeners to help guide them as they rejigger their brains on thinking about client service?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Hm, books, off the top of my head? I’ll tell you one that … It’s loose to the this but I think that for me it’s really … I know we’ve talked about this before but it’s the “Culture Blueprint,” which really they’re talking more internally at your business, but the concepts apply in my opinion to even client service because you talk about things like helping them co-create their relationship with you and opting in. Again, this goes to the accountab-. Clients have accountability. When you make an agreement with a client about how you’re going to communicate and the client breaks that agreement, going to the client and say, “Hey, this is what we agreed to,” that’s fine. Again, that’s healthy because a lot of clients, they need that. They need your expertise, and they need your judgment to come in and say, “You got to be held accountable.” So I like “Culture Blueprint.” Before we got on today, I was poking around some blogs on client service. I’m trying to think of another that I …
Sam Glover: While you’re thinking, I’ll give one that I really like.
Gyi Tsakalakis: What have you got?
Sam Glover: I think there’s a lot to be learned from some of the more layperson-friendly design literature out there. I recently read a book by Lukas Mathis or Mathis. I’m not sure. That’s Lukas with a K in the middle, and Mathis is [M-A-T-H-I-A-S 00:37:01]. His book is called “Designed for Use.” It’s an introductory book to user experience, user interface design. People listening have tuned out by now, and your eyes are glazed over because why the heck would you want to know about user interface design? But maybe it’ll make sense when I explain that user-centric design is not just … I mean everything about user experience design and user interface design right now is about user-centric design.
When Clio talks about releasing a new app, and they’ve focused on really reducing the number of taps and the amount of scrolling that you have to do, that’s why. They’re trying to make it easier for you to get your work done because they’re focused on how you want to work. That’s what user-centric design is. That’s what this book is about. It’s about how to build software interfaces with the user in mind, but the entire thing is a perfect analogy for client service. As I’m reading the book, of course I’m thinking about redesigning Lawyerist and how I want to approach that. I’m also thinking, my god, I could use all of this stuff in putting together a law firm.
If you’re not afraid to read things that are not explicitly labeled for lawyers, which drives me crazy, there’s nothing for lawyers about user or client or customer-centric principles, go ahead and pick up “Designed for Use.” I think it’ll be interesting because it’s outside of what you normally read. I think you’ll see that it all is just a straight line from UI design to designing a law firm.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Really when you think about it, it’s just interactions, and that’s what you’re doing when you’re providing a service is understanding and thinking about how interactions and how to make interactions more … whether it’s easy or frictionless or useful.
Sam Glover: Well, Gyi, thank you so much for being with us today and hopefully to get our listeners to think more about how to please and delight and make the experience effortless for their clients. I really appreciated having you on.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Thanks for having me. Great talking with you.
Aaron Street: Make sure you catch next episode of the Lawyerist podcast. Subscribe to the Lawyerist podcast in iTunes or in your favorite podcast app. You can listen to it at lawyerist.com/podcast. You can also subscribe to the Lawyerist Insider, our weekly newsletter. Just go to lawyerist.com and look down the sidebar or click on newsletter up at the top. We’ll remind you where to find the podcast whenever we release a new episode. Thanks for listening.