Guest blog by Yu-Chun Pan.
Does your lawyer do exactly what you ask him or her to do without asking why? If your answer is yes, I strongly suggest you find a new lawyer.
You instruct a lawyer because you need his/her specialist knowledge to solve your problem. The first step of a problem solving process is problem identification. Without knowing what exactly the problem is, how can you possibly come up with any appropriate solution?
Bettencourt et al. (2005) stated that Knowledge Intensive Business Service (KIBS) organisations utilise their specialist knowledge to solve their clients’ problems. Because clients often don’t truly understand the scope and complexity of their problems, they need specialists’ help to grasp what problem situations they are in (Stauss et al., 2010). Once the problem is crystal clear, the specialist can then propose and deliver the right solutions to the client. Legal service, as a type of KIBS, inherits this very feature of KIBS. That’s why the deep conversation between clients and lawyers before instruction is essential.
I have an example to show you why. A lawyer once had a couple coming to see him, because they planned to sell their business and wanted to know the costs and procedures. Instead of discussing the details of business sale, the lawyer asked why they wanted to sell their business. The couple then said they didn’t really want sell their business, but they felt this was the only option for them. Their only daughter, who was a director of the family business, was about to marry a guy she just met and had already spent a lot of money on. The couple were worried their future son-in-law would take financial control of their family business and eventually take the business away from them. They loved their family business and wanted to keep it, but felt they had no other option but selling it.
After listening to the couple explaining their situation (lots of tissues were required for the poor old lady who loved the family business dearly), the lawyer told the couple that they did not have to sell if they were just trying to prevent their family business from going into the wrong hands. What they could do was to change their business structure and create a shareholders agreement. The couple was delighted to know they did not have to sell their business. They instructed the lawyer to do the legal work. Now they still own their business and know no one can take it away from them.
The couple came in to ask for business sale, but they walked out with business restructuring and shareholders agreement. They asked for a specific solution, but the lawyer did not just give them that solution. Through the deep conversation with the couple, the lawyer helped the client identify and clarify the problem that needs to be solved. Because the problem is now clear, the lawyer can apply his legal knowledge to the client’s problem and come up with appropriate solutions.
Sometimes you come to see a lawyer and ask him or her to deliver a solution for you, because you heard that’s what you need to do. But we believe that our job is to understand your problems first and then deliver the best solution. That’s why we ask why.
Bettencourt, L., Ostrom, A., Brown, S. & Roundtree, R. 2005. Client Co-production in Knowledge-intensive Business Services. Operations management: a strategic approach, 273.
Stauss, B., Nordin, F. & Kowalkowski, C. 2010. Solutions offerings: a critical review and reconceptualisation. Journal of Service Management, 21.