Is there a relationship between swimming with dolphins and lawyering? Why, yes there is, and thank you for asking.
Let me start by saying that this is all about business and keeping the customer happy. Since lawyers are in a service business, the same concept holds true for a law firm as a company that allows you to swim with a dolphin: It isn’t enough that the customer/client be satisfied while the service is being provided, but most importantly, when they walk through your door for the last time.
So last week I took the family down to Cabo San Lucas at the tip of Baja for a vacation. And one of the things we did was, as you may have guessed, swim with dolphins and do exactly what this guy is doing here in the photo.
But that photo isn’t one of us, and comes from another place. The place we went was called Dolphin Discovery in nearby Los Cabos. And instead of leaving with a glow on our faces, we left a bit irritated.
And that is because so much of the event was devoted to smiling for their cameras — of course we weren’t allowed to use ours — and then trying to sell us the pictures for a whopping $180 afterwards. This being the type of activity that lends itself to folks with some disposable income, some bought a picture or two (or perhaps all the shots).
Instead of this customer leaving delighted, I instead left annoyed. This is, of course, not the only business to focus on the immediate sale.
And what was the alternative path? Sell the pics at the cheapest possible price, so that everyone has them and everyone shares them on Facebook and with friends, and everyone, everyone, everyone knows. And in one of the lower corners, print the name of the company.
The result? Instead of paying big fat commissions to touts to get people in the door, more people would likely come in directly as a result of prior customers doing the marketing for them. This is called a win-win, unless you are the tout losing out on the commission.
Now turn us back to law as a business. Nobody can guarantee that a client will walk out happy at the end. But that is still the objective, because that is what service is all about.
There is no shortage of people that rely on marketing and referrals to bring clients to the door. And on the civil side, those referrals sometimes come at the price of a referral fee if the first lawyer has done some work on the matter.
The better course — the one we should all aspire to — is the matter coming in directly because a prior client was satisfied. And this also means that when the client leaves at the end, it should be on the best possible terms.
Some lawyers will argue to get back every nickel they laid out to advance a case — every xeroxed letter, phone call and subway fare. I suggest you don’t go there. Look at the big picture, recoup the major expenses, and make sure the client is satisfied.
Don’t be like that Mexican dolphin place, that had me walk out the door annoyed. The satisfied customer/client is your best asset.