Customer Communications

50% of Americans do not get second opinions for important medical diagnoses.

30% of the time the second opinion causes changes in the diagnosis or treatment.

Do the math.

I don’t know the data on what percentage of in-house lawyers get second opinions about a strategy.  But I bet it’s pretty darn small.  I  have

I am sitting here pondering a project I asked someone else to do.  I don’t know whether it is done.  It should have been done by now, but I don’t know because I haven’t heard from the person I tasked with the assignment.  I don’t want to have to keep this task in the front

At first, I thought the multitude of thoughts was simply the failure of one’s mind to bring order to the thinking process as a result of too many cocktails.  But I didn’t have that many last night, so maybe I just needed to think harder to bring order to chaos.  Maybe there was a central theme to the chaos of my mind.

Thought 1.  I saw something that reminded me of what remain two of the most popular posts I’ve made since I started writing this blog, After the Mistake andAfter the Mistake Redux.  The central theme is the importance of owning up to mistake and saying you are sorry for it.  Easy to say, hard to do.  I know that from firsthand experience.

Thought 2.  The laughable way celebrities and athletes (and others to be sure) apologize for bad behavior.  "If anyone was offended by my stupid remark [or replace with description of your stupid behavior], then I want to apologize for the fact that your were offended by something I did not mean to be offensive."  You get the drift.  Randy Pausch includes a chapter in one of my favorite books, The Last Lecture, on why a bad apology is worse than no apology at all.

Thought 3.  My friend Dan Hull frequently uses his fantastic blog What About Clients? as a pulpit to teach lessons on the importance of writing well.  I love every such post.

Thought 4.  I am a fan of passion in argument, mainly because that’s how I am.  I never have been able to pull off the "aw shucks, I am just a country lawyer" approach of Jimmy Stewart, or the scholarly, dispassionate Supreme Court advocate.  Think Spencer Tracy in Inherit the Wind.  I’m no Clarence Darrow, but I live in that neighborhood.

Thought 5.  This one might be the outlier, or the trigger.  Who knows.  But I listened to Roseanne Cash and Bruce Springsteen sing Sea of Heartbreak.  I cried, it was so moving.  "The lights in the harbor don’t shine for me ….on this sea of tears, the sea of heartbreak…"  The way great lyrics evoke feeling is one of life’s great mysteries, at least to me. 

So, how does this come together?  Effective communications, whether written, spoken or sung, have the ability to evoke feeling.  In the case of apologies, they should as well.  If you or your team has screwed something up for a client, follow the approach discussed in my earlier posts on handling mistakes.  But you should feel pain about the mistake, and you darn sure ought to communicate that to your client in a manner that evokes feeling.

Okay, so maybe it was the Bushmills from last night after all.

Continue Reading When you need to, apologize. With feeling!

They (and have you ever, like me, wondered who they are?) say that nature abhors a vacuum.  I was reminded about the wisdom of this gem during a recent deposition.  My witness was testifying about the sale of a company and management’s why management was releasing information to the employees.  As she said, " you can never stop water-cooler conversation, so you’d better be influencing what’s said.

This made me wonder how many law firms have visited their clients to talk about how the firm is responding to the new economic reality, what the new business model will be, and so forth.  Seems like a great excuse for an invaluable conversation.  But that’s just me.


Continue Reading Watercoolers and clients

I received an email yesterday that began "Hi Patrick J."  It caused a flashback to my childhood.  When my mother was angry with me, she called me Patrick J. When she was really ticked off, she called me Patrick John.  And when it was certain she was going to whip my sorry behind, it was