We recently heard from a lawyer in Canada named Peter Carayiannis, who was given a copy of The Go-Giver by another lawyer, Aaron Hall of Minneapolis. Browsing Peter’s firm’s site, www.conduitlaw.com, we noticed they feature something they call a “Client Value Adjustment,” which goes like this:
“Value and price: they’re not the same thing. At Conduit Law we are committed to providing the best service possible and the greatest value to our clients. We are at our best when we provide a service that our clients find valuable. Only the client knows the value of our work.
“Conduit Law is the first law firm in Canada to adopt the Client Value Adjustment Line. We include a space on each invoice that allows our clients to adjust their bill to reflect the value they believe they received.”
We thought that was pretty interesting. We asked Peter how he saw the principles in The Go-Giver reflected in his firm’s practice, and in his reply he gave us what is essentially a mini-treatise on the Five Laws of Stratospheric Success as applied to the practice of law!
We hope you enjoy this as much as we do. (Which is to say: a lot.) — Bob Burg and John David Mann
The Law of Value
I believe that lawyers equate value with money and use their billable rate as a proxy for their value, both to their firms and to their clients. I have never understood this equation. To me, the concept of the billable hour flies completely in the face of value. At Conduit Law we reject the billable hour as a conflict of interest with our clients, but more deeply the billable hour violates the Law of Value.
When I was a young lawyer, a senior member of the Bar told took me under his wing and told me, “Not a single client in the history of the profession has ever walked into an office and said, ‘Counsellor, I’d like to buy some of your time.’ Clients come to us to solve problems.”
Sometimes the problems we are asked to solve are big, complicated, and difficult (such as being accused of a crime, or going through an acrimonious divorce). Sometimes they are regular problems (selling a house or fighting a speeding ticket). Sometimes the problems are novel and complicated (an interesting IPO in a new industry, or a First Amendment brief at the Supreme Court). The only thread that runs through all of these “law-shaped” life events is that a client comes to us, and asks that we use our training, knowledge and judgment to help them solve their problem. Our challenge is to solve a problem, not just to record the time it takes to solve the problem.
We are problem-solvers, and in solving problems we can, hopefully, help create value.
The Law of Compensation
Lawyers are not known for having a complicated approach to compensation. Most lawyers reduce their fees to a simple equation: hours spent x billable rate = compensation.
This means that every day a lawyer works, she is limited by the number of minutes and hours that she can work. Why not come up with broad-based solutions that serve many clients, maybe even many clients at the same time, or that provide automated solutions, and that can apply to thousands and thousands of people? This way, compensation is not tied to punching in and out of a clock, but is instead tied to solving problems. The more problems a lawyer can solve, the more value a lawyer can create, and, consequently, the more control a lawyer can have over her income (and her time!).
The Law of Influence
As lawyers, we take an oath to uphold the law and to serve as officers of the court. We adopt ethical codes. We hold ourselves to certain standards. We assume certain respected positions in society. Truthfully, we can only have this level of influence in society if we earn the right, and I believe that we best earn the right to be respected as lawyers when we put others first.
The Law of Authenticity
Most lawyers like to brag about their grades, their law school, their class rank, etc., all of which are proxies for how smart they believe they are, or how smart they would like you to believe they are (because lawyers think that the smarter they are, the more money they can bill). I was taught that “nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
The Law of Authenticity fits well with this, in my view. Clients don’t care whether you were #1 in your class, or #100. Clients care that you care enough to want to help solve their problem.
The Law of Receptivity
This rule is perhaps the most difficult one for lawyers to accept. Lawyers are often independent-minded, rugged individualists with a healthy skepticism of authority. We see ourselves as standing alone, beside our clients, protecting our clients from whatever situation confronts them. With this in mind, I think we need to constantly remind ourselves to graciously and gratefully accept the help, guidance and direction of others.
Too often we can be caught up in our own pride or insecurity and try to accomplish everything without help. Of course, this is nonsense but it is something that is within us. It may be better to give than to receive, but it is probably best to be able to both give and receive — and to be able to do both in an authentically thankful way.