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Lawyer Resistance to Seeking Feedback from Their Clients

by James S. Wilber, Esq., Altman Weil, Inc.


As companies continue to pay careful attention to controlling costs, law departments remain under scrutiny. Accordingly, in-house lawyers regularly look for ways to demonstrate value to their clients. One of the easiest and most cost effective ways of doing this is to seek regular feedback from clients.


Some companies require support functions, such as law, to conduct annual satisfaction surveys, often in connection with performance evaluations of law department lawyers and staff. In many companies, however, law departments rarely, if ever, seek formal feedback from their clients about whether they are meeting client needs.


Lawyer personality data reveal that lawyers generally are averse to seeking feedback. This is not due to a lack of concern for clients, but rather to unique characteristics of the lawyer personality. Personality profile testing shows that most lawyers have particularly low resilience – the quality that determines how well one responds to criticism and rejection. Therefore, it is not surprising that asking for feedback is particularly difficult for lawyers.


If your department’s lawyers can overcome this barrier, they will find that merely asking clients for their opinions typically creates an enhanced image of the law department and an improved relationship between the department and its clients. This phenomenon seems to endure for several months to a year following the survey. Conducting satisfaction surveys seems to create a halo effect for the surveyor.


A 2002 study conducted by Paul M. Dholakia of Rice University’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management, and Vicki G. Morwitz of New York University’s Stern School of Business, supports the halo effect theory and concludes that merely conducting satisfaction surveys enhances client loyalty and profitability. [1]


Continually assessing and improving the level of service your law department provides will allow it to demonstrate its value to the company and meet the increasingly high demands of clients.

[1] The study, reported in the Journal of Consumer Research in September 2002, was highlighted in the May 2002 Harvard Business Review.