Google the phrase lawyers and “client service,” and you’ll find hundreds of posts on the importance of great client service – not as a reminder that lawyers have an ethical obligation to serve clients well – but rather as a way to generate future referrals or avoid malpractice. Lawyers are advised to over promise and under deliver, to delight clients so they’ll “make it rain” for your firm and to mimic the tricks of businesses like Starbucks, Jet Blue and Nordstrom that are known for service that keeps customers coming back again and again.
I don’t mean to criticize this approach or to suggest that you should treat clients rudely. But at some point, the “professionalization” of client service has the perverse effect of objectifying clients, transforming them from individuals with their own unique concerns and fears to a feeding trough. Plus, at some point, laser-focus on client service shifts the attention from client to us – as we toot our horn and pat ourselves on the back for doing what we should be doing anyway.
So that’s why this story about what Maine obstetrician, Robert Sansonetti does for his patients is so refreshing. After buying the book Hat Heads for his teens about one man’s adventure knitting caps, Dr. Sansonetti decided to give it a try himself. Starting with a smaller hat as a practice for a larger project, Dr. Sansonetti realized that it was the perfect size for his patients’ babies. Since then, Dr. Sansonetti has knitted over 200 caps for each new arrival, documenting each creation on Dr. Bob’s Baby Beanies blog.
Dr. Sansonetti’s project struck a chord with me because it’s such a genuine and heartfelt gesture of thanks for the privilege of service. The hats aren’t gifts as a quid pro quo or a nagging reminder to refer business. Instead, they’re a joyful celebration of Dr. Sansonetti’s patients and the relationship that they shared.
I’m not suggesting that lawyers follow Dr. Sansonetti’s approach and starting knitting caps or baking cookies for clients. But every once in a while, it couldn’t hurt to let clients know that you’re honored and humbled that of all the lawyers in the world, they chose you to entrust with their secrets, their fears and sometimes even their lives.