What Do Clients Want?

Not every case has a crisis at its core, but each one has its own raison d’être that by its very existence causes stress for the client, whether it’s someone buying a new house or a firm buying a new company or a class of plaintiffs wanting to sue someone for a real or perceived wrong.

Everyone has an issue.

A lawyer’s job is not just to deal with the issue, but also to deal with the client. So what do clients want?

That’s a question the Canadian Bar Association posed in an online study, with the help of an independent research group, as part of a look at client expectations.

Not surprisingly, individuals’ main concern when engaging a legal practitioner is cost. Lawyers are seen as expensive, which can act as a barrier to people seeking out their services in the first place. When they do hire lawyers, individuals want them to explain what’s going on using terms they can understand; to keep them in the loop; and to give them an honest assessment of the outcome and costs of the case – although most individual clients expect that, having gone to the expense of hiring a lawyer, they are assured of a positive outcome.

Businesses seeking third-party legal assistance place a high priority on getting value for money. They want their external counsel to know who they are; they want some say in how the job is done; who does it; and how it’s costed. And they also want a realistic assessment of the outcome.

Time, cost, outcome. Clients big and small expect more predictability about all three. It’s as simple as that, and probably the same as it’s ever been.

What’s new is that the balance of power has shifted to the clients’ side. They’re taking a more active role in their cases, and want to do some of the work themselves. And lawyers who might disregard their wishes beware: loyalty is no longer a given. The day of a client sticking with one lawyer who handled all their matters is over. In fact, they may decide not to hire a lawyer at all.

Have you noticed a change in your clients’ expectations, and how are you dealing with it? Join the conversation at #cbafutures.

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