Put Yourself in Your Own Shoes

June 27, 2017

By Bob Glaves  |  CBF Executive Director

When it comes to improving access to justice, one of the most important things we can do as a profession is to put ourselves in the shoes of our clients and potential clients. Looking at things through the lens of our customers opens the door to a myriad of ideas for improving how our profession markets and delivers legal services and revamping the design and operation of the court system. In many ways though, we only need to put ourselves in our own shoes and look in the mirror to see how we can do better.

When the ABA TECHSHOW was here in Chicago last spring, one of the recap articles in LegalTech News featured a conversation with the CEO of a company called Evolve Law, Mary Juetten. While I have never met Mary Juetten before and don’t know much about her company, I was struck by one of her quotes in the article:

“As a client, you go out online, you research for something, figure out how you can get something for the best price—what we do for everything. Yet somehow the law has decided when you see clients, the clients aren’t going to have that mindset. But the clients are you, so of course they’re going to have that mindset.”

The article expounds on that theme in the context of using data to improve service, and it is worth a read when you have a few minutes (after you read this of course!). For this post, I just want to focus on one part of that quote: “the clients are you.”

As lawyers and other legal professionals, we obviously aren’t going to be good test cases for looking at how we would search for legal help or find a good lawyer ourselves. By the nature of what we do, we know a lot of lawyers and have knowledge and connections that will skew our vantage point. You could say our legal shoes don’t match the ones we wear in other contexts.

There are all kinds of other services we use though that give us a good lens into how we might look at the legal system if we weren’t so connected to it. And there is a lot we can learn just by considering what we look for and like to see in these other contexts.

If you are like me, when looking for a new doctor, dentist or other professional you probably start with the word of mouth approach to see if friends or family have recommendations based on personal experience. Many times that won’t yield a complete solution, and we need to search for more information and assistance.

So using those other experiences as a guide, and assuming it is a service that won’t be covered by insurance, here are a few questions to ask yourself.

  • How do you find a professional service when you need it?
  • Where you do you look and what do you look for?
  • How do you know if the professional is any good at what they do?
  • Do you like committing to work with a professional when you don’t know what it is going to cost?
  • How do you like to feel and be treated when you walk into a doctor’s office, hospital or other professional office, particularly if it is for a situation you already are nervous about?

I am going to leave it to you to answer those questions on your own and evaluate how that compares to what someone looking for legal help or entering the court system on their own would experience.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do your answers resemble what a regular person looking for legal help would find today, or what that person would encounter if they had to go to court on their own?

Cue the Jeopardy music….

If you get anywhere near a 10 on that scale, I’d like to hear about it. If, as I suspect, the number is a bit lower on the scale though, I think we all can benefit from taking a step back to see what we can do to close that gap, both in our own settings and in broader systemic improvements.

So continue to try to look at things through the lens of your clients and customers as much as possible—that is still the most important lens to look through. But we could do a lot better right away if we just put ourselves in our own shoes for buying other services. Because the clients are you.

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