Beware – Psycho Lawyers!

10 04 2011

One of the defining characteristics of a psychopath is apparently a lack of empathy. Now I’m not saying all lawyers are psychos (although I’ve certainly met some I wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley!), or even that lawyers lack empathy, but I’ve got an interesting idea for you to play with, that might just improve your practice.

Alongside the obligatory Mt Blanc pen, Howard the senior litigation partner often brought a more unusual accessory to meetings

In the world of marketing, many of the leading professionals have long been creating “buyer personas”. The idea of a buyer personas is to create a model of a typical buyer in a market segment, and by making this model increasingly granular, the organisation creating the buyer persona can get a much deeper understanding of the clients in these segments.

So why is this important?

I’ve talked before about the tendency of many law firms to be quite introspective, and as a result they often focus much of their energy on their own firm and what they are doing, rather than externally on the marketplace (clients and competitors). With the marketplace becoming increasingly competitive, it’s a good time to really start thinking about clients and what they need, to ensure you protect the ones you currently serve, and are in with the best chance of winning new ones.

This is where the empathy comes in.

To share the love, you need to understand what your client needs.

The starting point is to create one or more buyer personas for your target market. Let’s say for example you are a large, National law firm and you are developing a campaign to target new clients in the technology sector (because as I’ve written before, many law firms segment their markets by vertical). You may have done some further segmentation analysis, and decided that your resources and experience best match up with the IT security software sub-sector, and in particular those companies who have a turnover of between £50m and £500m and are headquartered in the UK.

To create the buyer persona, I always suggest starting with a name for the persona to personalise the experience. At a very practical level, if a team is doing this exercise, the name makes the persona sticky, and people will often refer to him or her long after the exercise is concluded.

So, let’s say that our buyer from one of these software companies is Hilary, the general counsel. By answering key questions about this fictional (but typical) buyer, we build the persona. For example:

  • How old is she?
  • How long has she been practising law?
  • What technical areas of law does she know best?
  • How long has she worked at the company?
  • Where does she live?
  • What’s her family situation?

Ideally, if you are profiling a buyer from a segment that already buys your services, then these answers should be grounded in reality, and based on the experience you have with similar clients.

Once you have the buyer persona, it’s time to show some empathy.

Now it’s time for empathy mapping…..

This is a technique I’d seen before, but was reminded of by the awesome book Gamestorming (Brown, Gray and Macanufo). I revisited it last week with some colleagues as we did some empathy mapping around a particular segment of in-house lawyers.

Start by drawing a quick picture (don’t worry, it needn’t be the Mona Lisa) of the buyer persona on a flip chart, and label them with their name and job title. Then divide the white space into five.

Label the spaces: Thinking, feeling, seeing, hearing and doing.

This is the creative part, which if done correctly, can generate some really powerful insight into buyer behaviour.

Pick one of the categories – for example “thinking”. Ask yourself what the buyer persona will be thinking on a day to day basis? What’s taking up their head space in work? What are they dwelling on when they travel home in the evening?  What’s the first work-related thing that they think of in a morning?

It’s a great way to collaborate, particularly if you get members from different teams within a firm to participate. For example the corporate partner might assume that the buyer is 100% consumed by the M&A activity the company has just engaged with, yet the competition partner may offer the fact that recent activity in the industry suggests that the board may have some real concerns that need to be addressed as a matter of priority. The business development director may volunteer some insights based on recent pitches, and perhaps an associate from the commercial team might suggest that actually the GC is worried about how the hours she is putting in managing the day to day team activity are harming her family life.

As the ideas emerge, note key words and phrases on the flip chart, and then move round the other sections. The exercise needn’t take long – 30 minutes is plenty to get quite a rich picture built up, although building up a number of more detailed profiles can easily take a day.

Once the empathy map has been completed, the contributors should have a much greater understanding of buyer needs in their chosen sector, and can begin to consider what this means for their firm, its services and the way in which they interact with existing and prospective clients.

Most importantly though, it’s potentially a very small amount of time to invest, but forces the lawyers to focus on what matters most – the client.

If you like the sound of the exercise, why not try it out in your next team meeting? You can read a bit more on the gamestorming blog.

If you suggest it and one of your colleagues objects, perhaps check their desk drawer for sharp objects next time you are working late…..

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2 responses

11 04 2011
acintegration

Brilliant! Love the way you have put together role play, the empathy map, client focus and of course psychosis.

13 04 2011
Intelligent Challenge

Thanks Anna – anything to get a catchy headline in there!

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