Consider the degree of trust you should have in your auto mechanic. You will probably never know the quality of work before, during and even after you receive it. You have to trust your mechanic’s diagnosis and then trust the quality of service you receive in the repair. It is difficult-to-impossible to truly know anything about its quality. All you can know is that the car wasn’t working properly before and now it is. What was wrong, what was actually repaired and the quality of the repair could remain a mystery to you forever. This is a called a Credence Service.
Recently I was fortunate to hear a presentation from Blane Erwin of Bridgeway Software on the concept of law as a credence service. Blane brought some original thinking to the challenge of valuing legal services. He laid bare the deep level of trust clients have when hiring lawyers. He described how clients must trust their lawyer’s diagnosis of the problem, and that the solution provided was truly needed and effective. In an environment so dependent on trust, how can clients ascertain the real value and therefore fair price of a service?
But here’s the rub - legal services have long been a credence service. So why the crisis now?
The Trust Breakdown
Many in the legal industry feel the trust between lawyers and clients has been damaged, if not broken. You see it in the articles on value billing and those on the various crises in the profession. To sum it up – many clients feel they have been paying too much for legal services and are now flexing their buying muscle to drive down prices. On its face, this situation defines a broken trust.
What I really like about the ‘credence’ concept is that it clearly defines why that trust must exist. And it suggests ways to repair the damage. Blane offered up one potential solution in his presentation. With some luck and time, he may describe that here as a guest post. (Hint, hint - Blane)
I suggest just having a clear picture of the nature of the trust problem will help lawyers improve the way they price and deliver services to their clients. Consider your experiences with your own auto mechanic. What made those experiences positive or negative?
Think about that next time you engage with one of you clients.