During a conference several months ago, I found myself doodling. Pretty soon, the doodle turned into a note to myself. "Who is the voice of the client?" I put the note on my desk, and I find myself staring at every day. In a law firm, who is the voice of the client? Is the answer as simple as "I am?" It can’t be. No lawyer can speak for the client day in and day out. There are days when I am tired. Distracted. Not in the office. There are many reasons why any one lawyer cannot be the sole voice of the client in a law firm.
Is the answer, then, that all lawyers must be the voice of the client? I think not. Too many lawyers, particularly younger ones, are looking out for their own careers. Bill more hours and do better work and make partner, or speak for the client and risk the golden ring.
As I stare at my doodled note, I’ve come to the conclusion that we cannot rely on ourselves to speak our clients in a law firm environment. The answer, it seems, lies in systems, not solely in people. Law firms must design systems so that the client’s interests, the client’s voice, are spoken–loudly–internally as the firm conducts its business.
To be clear, I believe that the answer to the title question is not just systems, but that systems must supplement those individuals who truly are committed to clients. I welcome reaction to this conclusion. But in any event, I will be writing more later about the kinds of systems I believe are necessary.