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Does exactly what it says on the tin?

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Guest blog by Yu-Chun Pan

People often say that you get what you pay for. But do you really know what you pay for? This is often a tricky question for people using legal services. In my previous post, I talked about why and how lawyers should help people understand the problems before proposing solutions. Knowing the problem is just the beginning of the journey that people share with their lawyers. The journey might be smooth, it might be rocky, and it might have lots of ups and downs. Unfortunately the journey doesn’t always come to a happy ending. 

So what is the recipe for a smooth journey with a happy ending? The answer is the perfect alignment of customer expectation and experience. It’s easier said than done; but why is it difficult? It could be because most people don’t use legal services regularly. Personal experience plays a key role in shaping people’s expectation. You go to supermarkets a couple of times a week for years, you know what to expect when you go there. As a result, you are fine with queuing at the checkout and paying for carrier bags. However, most people don’t have much first-hand personal experience from previous use of legal services that helps shape the expectation.  Very little personal experience can be used to build the expectation. So people turn to other resources. People use their experience of other services (e.g. banking) and ‘borrow’ other’s experience (e.g. reviews and testimonials). In many cases, this leads to an unrealistic expectation that is far from what people actually receive from lawyers. And that’s why some people and their lawyers don’t have a smooth journey nor a happy ending. 

What can you do about it? For anyone who is going to hire a lawyer, make sure you ask your lawyer how long your case might take, why it this much time, how often you will hear from him or her, how much it will cost you (don’t forget the VAT!) and what might increase the cost. Don’t hesitate to ask what you will receive from your lawyer, you are entitled to know. Also make sure you read the terms and conditions, as they often explain what the lawyers are prepared to do for you. 

For lawyers, helping people shape their expectation is the best way to prevent any unhappy journey. Explain the journey to customers before you start working together. People don’t know what they don’t know. That’s why asking ‘is there anything else you want to ask me?’ doesn’t always help! Actively tell customers what they will and might face. This will help them build a realistic expectation.

Does the legal service that you purchase deliver exactly what it says on the tin? Well, you need to fully understand what it says on the tin first. Make sure you know that before you buy it.