Last week I wrote that law firms need the equivalent of conductors and composers to orchestrate how they deliver service to clients. The Wired GC’s post yesterday, What if Law Firms Priced Like Apple?, serves as a springboard to extend this thinking. 

His post points out that Apple has a low supply cost, which enables it to offer premium products at highly competitive prices. The analogy for law firms would be “to offer defined services for a lower block rate to their best customers? This could be for off-the-shelf information plucked out of knowledge management systems or owing to enhanced productivity gained from experience managing outsourced work.” The post concludes that high-end law firms might use KM to do some lower-end work for valued clients.

I will take the Apple analogy further to extend my post last week, Optimizing the Law Firm Client Experience. Apple sells not just products but also an experience. The experience includes the Apple Store, the distinctive website, the product packaging (Steve Jobs is the lead on a patent for one package), the integration and similarity across products and services, and the on-going connection via the iTunes stores and application.

Law firms can learn from Apple, as the Wired GC suggests. Clients expect large law firms to deliver excellent legal results. But how many deliver a client experience commensurate with that result. If Apple packed the iPad in a box similar to one of the major PC manufacturers or the iPhone in an impossible-to-open plastic clam shell, those products would just lose some magic. Or what if apps worked like typical desktop productivity suites. We might still get value, but it wouldn’t feel nearly as nice – and you would not be willing to pay as much.

So beyond the lesson the Wired GC takes from Apple about pricing is the Apple lesson about creating a highly desirable experience. Law firms can learn from this. I’m reminded of a story a friend shared recently about a Fortune 50 that dropped one firm in spite of excellent legal results; the in-house lawyers just could no longer put up with cost variances and communications lapses.

Legal results have become table stakes. So BigLaw needs to think about other axes of competition. Large law firms may not be ready to hire a Chief of Client Experience, but putting someone in charge of it could be highly profitable as Apple has shown.

[CREDITS: The idea of experience and how it affects pricing and law firm profits is a meme that has been brewing. Jordan Furlong, in Pricing to the client experience, inspired me to think about client experience as an attribute completely separate from legal results. I have also drawn inspiration from Danny Ertel of Vantage Partners in Fee negotiations part 7: It’s a process; Toby Brown of 3 Geeks in Wise Up Before Value Billing (at Attorney at Work) and The Value in Value Billing for Law Firms (at 3 Geeks); and Paul Lippe in the ABA Journal, What if Someone Could Measure What Lawyers Do?.]