Sometimes a blog post just cries to be written. Tonight I read hardcopy of the Wall Street Journal. Side by side articles on page 1 of Personal Journal struck me as offering – with a little imagination – lessons for law firms.

Secrets to Creating a Better Hotel Room explains how Marriott researches new hotel room designs to accommodate shifting tastes (for example, Millennials prefer working on beds, not desks). The design process involves numerous mock rooms and extensive customer surveying and interaction.

The adjacent piece, What Is First Class These Days? It’s Complicated explains that even experienced travelers have trouble determining what type of seat and service their fare really buys. Apparently, First and Business Class pricing can be mashed up. That can lead to unhappy passengers who pay more than their seat-mates (see illustration).

The lesson from Marriott is that appealing to customers and delivering what they want takes time, effort, research, iteration, and risk-taking. The company does not just assume it magically knows what will work. It does deep research. How many large law firms can say the same, at least with respect to how they deliver service.

The airline piece tell us that unclear information about what you are buying and confusing pricing pisses off passengers. Sadly, some lawyers will argue that hourly billing gives rise to no confusion. I will not grace that point of view with a reply. My guess is that many law firm clients feel that their purchases from law firms are about as clear as buying First or Business class seats. Any time you can be compared to an airline, I’d say that is bad news and leaves ample room to improve.

Regular readers see that I periodically write posts that cite news from unrelated markets. Indeed, the lessons of these articles do not apply one-for-one to law firms. But it takes only a bit of imagination – and interest in other markets – to see how their approaches can inform how we run law firms and deliver client service.

I hope managing partners and COOs are reading these same articles. Then seeing the connection. And most importantly, drawing lessons from the connection AND acting on them. At the risk of stating the obvious, these articles tell us that we need to do more research on what clients want and present them with clearer pricing.

Wall Street Journal Illustration of Confusion in Airline Fare Pricing
Wall Street Journal Illustration of Confusion in Airline Fare Pricing