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Is Quality Possible for Law?

I won’t bore you with the iPhone’s various virtues, which you can read about all over the place. But I’ll say this, the iPhone is an exceptional, quality tech product, probably the best one I have ever bought.

Now quality, in the modern sense, is not simply the absence of defects. Instead, it reflects the user’s total experience with the product or service, including the costs, the ongoing service, and more. Renting a car from Hertz is a high-quality experience because they usually get your name on the board and you can get your vehicle quickly–it’s the same Ford that’s offered by other car rental companies. The services of your cable company usually are not a quality experience, considering you’re put on hold for twenty minutes in order to schedule an appointment that keeps you waiting for the cable guy for four hours.

So, is it possible to create the iPhone of law? You may respond, “our firm already is the iPhone of law.” Maybe a few of you are. But we recently surveyed in-house counsel. Twice as many said their company delivered higher quality to their customers than their law firms delivered to them. Again, maybe there are a few of you out there, a small segment.

Law traditionally has defined quality as most professional services define it–as a description of the provider. Ask most lawyers what quality is, and the answer will be a combination of a Potter Stewart-esque “we know it when we see it,” plus a detailing of their credentials, level of effort, absence of defects, and their anticipation of low probability events. Lawyers will sometimes talk about quality in terms of outcomes, but usually only when the outcome is good. When the case is lost, the deal goes south, or the derivatives go bust, lawyers distance themselves from responsibility even though that broader success is almost certainly what the client has in mind by quality.
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