Monday, 9 April 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 2

"Some of Buddy Holly, the working folly, Good Golly Miss Molly and boats, Hammersmith Palais, the Bolshoi Ballet, Jump back in the alley, add nanny goats"

Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3 - Ian Dury and the Blockheads

Last week, I wrote a blog entitled 'In the pursuit of "happiness"...', inspired by the socia-economic measurement of 'well-being', first dreamt up by King Wangchuck of Bhutan in 1972, as the start of a number of further blogs which would look at alternative ways of 'assessing value' of legal services.

This blog had a bigger reaction that any of my others.  Further reading this weekend and  reflecting on one of my favourite songs of all time (as above) has inspired me to write a follow up.

Before I get to this, let's remember that 'cost' and 'value' are not the same things, at all.  I could give you countless arguments put forward by Smith, Marx or Ruskin.  I think Oscar Wilde says it plainest when he describes a cynic as a man who "knows the price of everything and the value of nothing".

I did, try to, make it clear in that blog that I was talking really about measuring 'client satisfaction' as a metric to assess value rather than happiness.  Yet nonetheless, some cynical elements of the legal profession kindly informed me:

> "If clients have paid on an hourly rate until now, why should we change";
> "Some clients will never be happy"; or, my absolute favourite,
> "It is not a lawyer's job to make his client happy".

I have just read a fantastic report this weekend, prepared by  CXINLAW. As the foreword by Professor Stephen Mayson explains, this is not another attempt to bash lawyers but a well researched and presented report, the overriding message of which is that lawyers should not "...give up on the content or quality of advice but (should) work much harder on the 'customer experience'. 

Too often the rebuttal of the cynical lawyer to change, is that those calling for it are looking to 'dumb down quality'.  Mayson's foreword speaks for all of us seeking genuine change: retain quality and ethics (in my view the qualified professional's USP) but compete on the experience of your customer.

Carl White, one of the report's authors, when asked what he hoped the report would achieve,  replied rather modestly, but quite validly, "to add the phrase 'customer experience' to the lawyer's lexicon".  Not an inconsiderable aim.

I repeat, satisfaction/happiness is just one metric which may be used to supplement or, even, replace measurement of value by hourly rates.  But can it really be measured?

Yes, according to an increasing number of economists.  Last week, a blog published on The Economist website, entitled "No longer the dismal science?" looked at the growth of the 'Happiness Industry' and a number of works, including a UN commissioned report.  The blog's conclusion is that "it is not clear whether it really would be such a good idea for the government to decide it knows better than individuals do what constitutes their happiness".  

In macro-economic terms, this is probably a very valid point.  

In the micro-economic environs of a lawyer and their customer - not so. CXINLAW's report is a good start, we need more reports like this.  We also need consumers to drive this behaviour, to stop the cynicism of price comparison and look to value.  

Rather than quoting  Jerry Maguire (a sports lawyer/agent, I think) asking to be shown the money, they should, perhaps, take a leaf from another branch of the law (crime fiction, in this case) and ask their lawyer to "Make my day".

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