The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System is trying to fill what it calls an “informational vacuum” in research about what clients say they need from lawyers they hire. The IAALS report released at the end of October, called “Think Like a Client,” uses client reviews from Avvo, a digital marketplace for legal services, and skills pulled from IAALS’ own 2016 Foundations for Practice report to make analyses about the types of skills legal clients deem important in their attorneys.
“Clients are, of course, satisfied when their lawyers are knowledgeable about the law, advocate effectively on their behalf, and bring about desired case outcomes. But clients value more than just legal acumen,” says the report in its conclusion. “They want a lawyer who communicates effectively, understands how clients want to be treated, and behaves ethically and professionally.”
Logan Cornett, IAALS’ senior research analyst, said studying what clients look for is important because in their reviews, they frequently comment about how their lawyers treated them. She compared the client review findings’ overlap with findings in Foundations for Practice to a Venn diagram.
According to the report, it builds on the Foundations for Practice report because that study focused on the skills and personality traits new lawyers need based on perspectives from other lawyers, but Think Like a Client suggests “this blend of attributes and abilities is important not just for new lawyers, but throughout the lawyer’s career — and it is not just what other lawyers expect,” says the report.
Cornett said gathering and distilling the information from reviews took about two years, from coding the data to analyzing its significance.
The report distills the most prominent patterns that emerged in their analysis of thousands of reviews into five broad skill categories: Lawyering, communication, tenacity, business smarts and demeanor.