Alfresco, But Not in the Alley Please

“Voice” is as important as content when communicating. If the greatest chefs in the world presented the product of their profession on garbage can lids, it would be less than appetizing and called garbage by their patrons. Take the same meal and serve it on fine bone china in a pleasant atmosphere and not only do patrons pay for the pleasure, but they are very happy doing so.

Food is a purchase from “need”. That is to say people “need” food to live; therefore it is not a purchase from “want”, like a television. (ESPN addicts would disagree, Hi Bill). The “voice” of need vs. the voice of want is not something to dismiss or assess incorrectly. Often people engage others with the mindset and emotion of “need”, when in fact an impartial observer would correctly assess the situation as a “want”. However, remember that presentation counts, no matter the profession, in the human experience.

I “need” a Will to protect my loved ones when I am gone. I “want” a Will to protect my loved ones when I am gone. How would you assess the situation? The “voice” the client is presenting will in large part cue you as to the proper “voice” with which to answer back. Of course it takes more then one statement to understand the full measure of a person’s motivations, but from the very first utterance we should be mindful not just to focus on the content. The content of the answer will in all likelihood not change, but the delivery (presentation) of our answer should be appropriate to the “expectation” of the speakers “voice”.

People communicate “expectation” in their choice of “voice”. Too often it is unconscious, but that does not make it less useful to observe and factor into the reply. Matching the “voice” builds a bridge of understanding. It manifests an atmosphere that allows for hearing. When people feel they are being heard, they are open to “learning”. To negate the opportunity to create learning because you missed the clue found in their “voice” is to waste a fine meal on a garbage can lid. The “experience” for the both the lawyer and the client will be lesser for it.

Now let’s examine the same topic but focus on the “voice” client experience when engaging legal services. Law firms and lawyers often do not give any more consideration to their “voice” (and the atmosphere it creates) than clients. Their web sites, firm bio, personal bios, even their email communications haphazardly express inconsistent “voice” to the audience they are trying to reach. In person, it is not uncommon for me to feel assaulted by the “voices” that attorneys unconsciously use. The strict focus on content and lack of presentation leads many attorneys to get a bad rap. I have the experience to understand that it is not intentional, and therefore I brush it aside and keep my ground. But can clients be counted upon to do the same? Or do they shop for another attorney? Should they expect to have to eat on garbage can lids no matter how wonderful the food is? I know there are firms and lawyers who have already mastered the use of “voice”, but too many have not. This is why I think that the public has come to see legal services as a necessary evil and not similar to a fine dining experience.