When a client walks into your BigLaw office, how do you know if she’s not really a mystery shopper? 

That’s not a question you’ll likely hear anytime soon. But if you were a doctor, you might. Health Care Taps ‘Mystery Shoppers’ in the Wall Street Journal (8/8/06, $) reports that health-care, which “has never been noted for its customer service,” in the face of raising competition, is “increasingly looking for ways to improve the patient experience. Some are turning to mystery-shopping services… which send employees to pose as customers and later report back on how they were treated.” Many doctors and hospitals have been very happy with the results and made significant improvements based on what they learned.

As I wrote in Who’s Failing: Clients or Law Firms? yesterday, the legal market needs external prods to innovate and improve. Mystery shopping probably won’t work because it’s transactional focused (for example, a single doctor’s visit or overnight hospital stay).

Law clients do, however, have ways to get “consumer” feedback. One approach is lawyer-rating service LawDragon (see my post, New Lawyer Rating Service). Another is to share information informally among other in-house lawyers.

And BigLaw can conduct client surveys to learn what their clients think. (See Client Feedback Programs in the premier issue of the US edition of Managing Partner Magazine, June/July 2006, for how to conduct client surveys.)

BigLaw CIOs should welcome any lawyer feeback. As a legal technology consultant, perhaps I’m biased, but I suspect that a lawyer’s use of technology significantly influences the service a client experiences.

There are other ways for BigLaw to get feedback, albeit more informally. I had lunch with a BigLaw partner firm this week. As a friend, I pointed out that the one book or magazine in reception contained media coverage of the firm and the the most recent item was 3 years old and many were 6 years old. Maybe I’m different than clients, but I suggested this sends a bad signal.