What comes to mind when you think about ‘design thinking process’? If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, it’s about prioritizing empathy so that your client can have an excellent experience with you.
How does this impact your bottom line? Because you’ll have happy clients who remember you in times of crisis, but who will also refer you to their loved ones.
One of the biggest pieces to any lucrative marketing strategy is ensuring that empathy piece in every touchpoint – it’s what makes you the expert lawyer.
My guest this week, Laura Hartnett, has been on both sides as the lawyer and the client. She spent almost 15 years as a management consultant, a litigation associate for national and international law firms, and an in-house counsel for a Fortune 100 company. Now she brings her experience to law firms and legal departments consulting lawyers on how to use legal design thinking to make lawyering better.
We talk about:
- What is design thinking?
- Why empathy is important in building client relationships
- Why design thinking is an integral piece in your overall marketing strategy
- How empathy translates into a detail of your client intake process
- Why celebrating failures is a good thing, and how to use it as a redirection
Mentioned in This Episode
Resources mentioned in this episode:
[00:00:34] Laura: Hi, I’m Laura Hartnett, founder of law by design. I run a consulting firm hired by law firms and legal departments to make lawyering better and deliver what clients actually.
[00:00:45] Karin: I am. So looking forward to this conversation, Laura, there is nothing that I love talking about more than the combination of building law firms and businesses with design. And so the conversation that we’re going to have, we’re going to start with is this idea of. Legal design thinking. And so I thought we would just keep the big questions simple and have it be what is legal design thinking?
[00:01:09] That gives us a lot to talk about. before we get into that question, tell us a little bit more about yourself and how you got into this and kind of what your, path was into this very unique kind of angle when it comes to the legal.
[00:01:23] Laura: We’d love to, I so appreciate the question. I’ve had a little bit of a, a trifecta of experiences that really led into. Finding legal design thinking and understanding more of how this can be the solution and the way forward for lawyers who just want to have a successful career, but also enjoy it. It’s just delight in it and the ways and the reasons that we went to law school in the first place.
[00:01:46] So I started out before law school. I was a business process consultant, so I did change management and project management, and I loved that world, but ultimately. I want more. I want to go to law school. So after law school, I joined big law as a litigator, and I found myself, we had, you had two options to deliver legal services.
[00:02:09] Are you going to write a memo or are you going to write it? Sometimes you got to write a contract. I think I only saw like one PowerPoint when I was a lawyer and it was just full of words. I mean, It was just like anything that like an MBA school would never tell you to do. And so we had a very large client come to us and they said they wanted us to analyze this piece of litigation and give them red, yellow, green.
[00:02:32] And the lawyers, we about like random circles, like chickens with their heads cut off going. We don’t know how we don’t know how to do that. Like, This was just beyond the level of comprehension we’re like that doesn’t fit into our memo or email. So.
[00:02:47] Karin: We never learned that in law school,
[00:02:48] how are we supposed to
[00:02:49] Laura: Where do I find the color? So then flash forward. So then I became, then I went in-house and a fortune 100 insurance company, and now I’m the client.
[00:02:59] And again, we’re still practicing law. We’re giving our clients memos and emails. But we’re working in this highly regulated industry, very complex, 50 different states, 50 different laws. And I thought, you know what? I should do. I should red, yellow, green this. And so the first time I put this chart in front of my clients, they were like, we’ve never seen anything like this.
[00:03:22] You’re a lawyer. And I can’t tell you how much it focused to the conversation. We could go right into the risks. We could go right into the mitigation strategies. And I became. Their go-to lawyer and they wanted that. And then other lawyers are coming to me going, how did you do this? And that’s when I started to really explore design thinking.
[00:03:43] So this is something that’s come out of a lot of Silicon valley. Where it’s, how do we interact with a product or a service as a human? You know, what does the mouse does it fit the shape of our hand? Where are we going to look for the apps? But now it’s really being translated into a lot of service industries, especially the legal realm.
[00:04:04] So the ultimate question that I ask in legal design services, how do we provide a service focusing on lawyers as humans and on our clients as human. So that we can delight them in ways that maybe they didn’t even imagine they didn’t ask for the red, yellow, green, but they, when, once they got it, they went, this is exactly what.
[00:04:28] Karin: That makes so much sense. And I feel like that is a very, like you said, Silicon valley, or even more specifically an apple approach where apple doesn’t ask what you want, apple delivers at a different level, and you don’t even realize that was what you wanted all along. So I get that in terms of, and I’m playing devil’s advocate cause I love design thinking and I think where a lot of people get stuck is the translation between product and service.
[00:04:55] Because when you describe how the most fits into a hand, or even when you’re talking about, for me, when we’re talking about the user experience on a website or things like that, Easy for me to visualize and understand, but I feel like when people think about services and I, think the red, yellow, green example is perfect, but what.
[00:05:17] other ways does
[00:05:19] that translate?
[00:05:19] What does that mean for a
[00:05:21] Laura: So, And what I walk my clients through, step one, you have to empathize. So you’re going to go through this same process that apple goes through. Netflix goes through Amazon, goes through in order to find maybe that new delivery system, but you just need to find it as a lawyer.
[00:05:36] So again, so going back to step one, Empathizing with your clients, really asking the questions and getting to know them. I’ve seen so many lawyers are, oh, I’ve worked with that client for years, you know? Well, have you checked in with them? Have you seen what has changed in the past? 5 10, 20 years. One of the most powerful questions I encourage lawyers to ask too, is what was happening in your client’s life before they called you, and also what is going to happen after you finished that last interaction with them?
[00:06:08] Because if you can try to like truly map that client journey. Including where you’re not involved, you’re going to provide a solution for them. You’re going to give advice to them. That’s going to last even longer. And then this is where it’s also marketing. They’re going to come back. If you know what they’re doing before they pick up the phone and call you.
[00:06:29] So it all still starts with empathy.
[00:06:31] Karin: So does, some of that include as you’re mapping that. Thinking about projecting a few potential ideas for whatever that, matter was that they came to you for knowing that, okay, this is where they’re going to be at the end and projecting in a year or five years. They might need the following, five different ideas.
[00:06:52] And so I could approach them just in an open way, asking about one of those five ideas or
[00:06:59] that too obscure?
[00:07:01] Laura: No that’s, absolutely it. And I think you can look to, I love that it’s not even what they do afterwards, but, because you’re an experienced attorney, people like this have problems like that. So let’s try to solve for the, all the things that they can’t even see yet and not to overwhelm them, because we’ve seen that.
[00:07:18] We’ve seen that too lawyers can throw too much too soon. You really have to meet the client where they are, so you can really kind of preview. Oh, and again, through the, that empathy. Oh, they’re releasing. we, we, We don’t like to talk about the emotions of our clients, but oh my gosh. So many lawyers deal with very emotional clients.
[00:07:36] Even if it’s a business deal, it is a lot of personal meeting. So understanding they may not be ready for that one five years, 2, 3, 4, 5 years in the future. But exactly. And how can you deliver that in a way. That they understand it, it meets their emotions. It meets them where they are, but sets that preview.
[00:07:56] And so it’s really about getting creative. And that’s what I believe lawyers are some of the most creative people. And the people that don’t think that they are creative at the same time, because they have to be, we have to be coming up with new arguments, new approaches. We have to see things in the case law, we have to get creative in our negotiations.
[00:08:16] And so when you can just turn that and apply that on yourself with your clients to get creative and go, yeah. Okay. They’re not ready for these four other contracts they’re gonna need. What’s another way I can provide that for them early. to get to also the marketing piece of that. And it’s a little bit of the intersection between marketing, but also delivering the skills at the same time that you get to delivering for your clients.
[00:08:44] These beautiful solutions in ways where they are so happy and they just want you, and they’re going to keep recommending you because of how you deliver that.
[00:08:55] Karin: And it feels to me like there’s an element of feeling very safe and understood. So not only does my lawyer understand the emotion of what I’m going through, but they’re taking all of these things that I’m either coming to from a place of fear or anxiety, or just not understanding and they’re making it safe.
[00:09:13] and I know that down the road, I don’t even know what I’m going to need, but that they’ve got my back So that I feel that makes me feel even more safe. And we’re when you feel safe, you’re not going to go out and look for someone else you’re going to, of course, stay in that nice little safe, cozy, little spot and.
[00:09:30] Feel like you’ve already found your person. And so you’re happy. So what does that look like in terms of systems? So how does that translate? How does empathy translate into an actual systematic,
[00:09:42] Detail in let’s say your
[00:09:45] client intake,
[00:09:46] Laura: Absolutely. and again, we also say it depends the beauty of this is that it’s not specifically. Since we are translating it from the technology world and now bringing it into the service world, it can apply whether you are an IP lawyer, your trust in the states, you’re a litigator.
[00:10:01] So when you go through the system to try to map what that client journey is, understand where their pain points are, then start to brainstorm different solutions. And that’s the part that I know that you’re talking about. What solutions can you bring to the table? They are going to be unique for every client.
[00:10:17] There are going to be different for every field. But the idea is to get out of your comfort zone where maybe it’s just the, maybe the email or the memo. So what I’ve seen in what I’ve helped attorneys do sometimes is really helping an understanding again, where that destination is. Oh you have to provide a quarterly update to your.
[00:10:38] Send me the deck format and I can get a one page summary of where our litigation is, that might be one thing that it’s just it’s. So you might think it’s so minor and maybe so easy for you, but that makes all the difference because you just saved your client, all that work, all that translating you’ve now communicated your brand up to the board.
[00:10:58] And then they’re going to keep coming back to you. So it might be as simple as something like that. It might be a technology, a smart technology that you choose to implement. And the hard part is I see lawyers kind of dashing and grabbing these different technologies and they haven’t.
[00:11:13] Karin: Yeah. So in a
[00:11:15] Laura: Oh, my gosh, they haven’t thought of where it fits into their system, whether they’re going to use it.
[00:11:20] So sometimes I’ve seen the solution might be maybe it’s some sort of legal practice management software, maybe that’s the right solution. Maybe it’s just, you learn to call the client on their way home instead of sending them the email. So it’s so funny because it can be so revolutionary, but it can be.
[00:11:39] So tiny and it’s that difference? That just.
[00:11:44] Karin: that is everything to them. absolutely. And I could see that where, the client makes that mention that I really emails are overwhelming to me, but if you could give me a call, I’ve got this 35 minute commute, and if we can just talk for five or 10 minutes on that commute, then the weight of all of the.
[00:12:03] Is off of my shoulders and I can live my life without just this crippling anxiety of whatever this issue is. And knowing that you’ve got it. And it just gives me all of that reassurance that you’ve got it covered and I’ve hired you for the right reasons too. So it supports that decision in the hiring process. So what other ways systematically, can you bring this whole idea of the design thinking and the design
[00:12:30] process into just
[00:12:34] Laura: So you have to certainly talk as a group. And one of the things I mentioned is meeting your clients where they are, you have to take stock of where, where where you are with your practice. And especially when you’re working with an entire firm and our entire department, we only kind of accepted. Where’s your strengths are and where your weaknesses are and having that true conversation. Cause again, it goes back to like you just try to throw a technology on top of it and it, again, nobody adopts it, nobody uses it. The thing fails, it was dead on arrival. So really taking that baseline start of where are we in?
[00:13:04] What do we need, what do we need to do? From that. It is about. And as I said too, with the empathy with the clients and then taking I’m again, I’m advocating for a revolution, but in tiny little steps. So I think one of the parts that’s really overlooked too, is taking that tiny. Then stopping, getting feedback from the client, from your client, colleagues, from the paralegals, from the admins, how did that work?
[00:13:30] What went wrong? Could it have been better? And one of the things is, and I love the idea of celebrating your failures. this is the advice that, that no one has really yet to totally embrace, but contact me if they’re the first. Okay. Good. Good.
[00:13:45] Karin: you. Yeah. I am a hundred percent
[00:13:47] Laura: you imagine at the next, from offsite, if you had, three people stand up and say, I tried this with my client, I thought it was going to be great.
[00:13:56] It didn’t work. Here’s why, here’s what I learned from that. And here’s what I’m going to do now.
[00:14:02] Karin: And don’t you guys waste your time. I’ve already evaluated this. And so I can tell you right now.
[00:14:09] it’s a waste of time, so we don’t need to take, the rest of you in that time. I totally live by this idea. And I actually think that the definition of marketing. This is a piece of it that people really overlook and they don’t want to focus on because they feel like it should be a little more scientific.
[00:14:27] But this idea of listening to the feedback, there’s so many different, complicated, scientific marketing methods, like AB testing, but what they mean is trial and error. And so without the error part of the trial and error, you don’t know, you are throwing things up against the wall. You’re. Ever sure what is going to resonate?
[00:14:49] And so the idea of marketing without the marketplace feedback doesn’t work. You have to throw it out there. You have to get that feedback and then you adjust and refine as needed.
[00:15:02] That is the piece that people don’t want to do, because That’s the hard part with any kind of marketing, especially, you know, the stuff that we see all the time is SEO adjusting your content, adjusting your website.
[00:15:12] And over time, that will also change. You’ll have different kinds of response rates based on what’s happen. In the whole world and every kind of piece of news and that topic or your clients in general, and you just have to continually adjust it.
[00:15:28] It’s not just a set it and forget it thing. And so for leaving that, piece of getting the feedback out
[00:15:34] Is skipping out on, one of the
[00:15:36] most important pieces of marketing.
[00:15:37] So I, I
[00:15:38] could not agree more with you on that,
[00:15:40] Laura: and that’s exactly design thinking. That’s that’s empathizing, that’s exploring all the
[00:15:46] options. And then it’s
[00:15:46] experimenting. it’s
[00:15:48] especially difficult for lawyers who, and I know you encountered this too, who are risking. Because we are, and I’ve heard all of the, but it could be malpractice, but you know, we’ll, we’ll just kind of disaster level the consequences, and then you’re going to be homeless and living under a bridge.
[00:16:07] No, and that’s where it’s start small, start safe, do one thing. Get the feedback, celebrate, you know, promote your failure. Promote your failures. Share. And then go back to the empathy and then you try again. that’s really it. That is exactly what I teach lawyers to do so they can hopefully rinse and
[00:16:28] repeat in every aspect of their life, in every conversation with their client, they have that opportunity to listen to them and they go, oh, the client says, I’ve got this long commute.
[00:16:38] What can I call you during that? Would that be a
[00:16:40] Karin: Oh, yeah, that sounds like
[00:16:41] Laura: that? That That’s exactly it. You can go through the design thinking process.
[00:16:46] In the span of a conversation,
[00:16:48] but you can also do it over the span of an entire project lifecycle client journey.
[00:16:55] Karin: Yeah.
[00:16:56] I really like that. And I want to highlight the idea of starting small once again, because I think. you and I talked to lawyers and about all of this stuff all day long, and like you said, they are always trying to mitigate all of that risk. And so they are with me, they are fine tuning and splitting hairs about every part of the proposal.
[00:17:17] And they want to know
[00:17:19] the future. They want to know the results and the
[00:17:22] projection of what potentially might
[00:17:23] happen. 6, 8, 12 months down the road. Well, My crystal ball is dusty today, so I’m afraid it’s not working. And imagine in 2019, if I’m talking to clients about What.
[00:17:38] might happen, 6, 8, 12 months down the road, I have no way of knowing that we’re having this major global pandemic. That’s going to impact everyone’s business. And the way we search the way we’re online, the way we’re consuming information, the way we’re visiting websites, the way we’re interacting with our attorneys and our law firms, there is no way to know is the short answer. There’s no way to know what’s going to happen in the news tomorrow or in the world or on your website or in your marketing plan.
[00:18:07] So You need to start small. And then, like you said, I love the idea of celebrating those successes, but also. Sharing those failures, because they’re not really failures. They’re things that didn’t go quite right. But they’re all these great learning opportunities where it’s like, okay, this was not where our clients are.
[00:18:24] This is not what they want to hear from us. And so let’s take that one off the table and save that money or save that time or effort or whatever that is that we were doing for that piece. I just, I think that’s so valuable and it, almost seems so clean and simple that’s why I’m coming back to these steps.
[00:18:40] That it, it almost seems too straightforward,
[00:18:43] but I think there’s so much there that people are
[00:18:47] in each one
[00:18:47] of those steps that are
[00:18:51] Laura: yes. You have to do all of them and have
[00:18:54] the courage and that
[00:18:55] bravery to step out of. which is especially hard for lawyers when we’re given in law school. When I think about it, I went to the William and Mary college of law. and literally like Thomas Jefferson read law with George Mason, reading cases and having dwarfism grill him about these cases that was in the late 17 hundreds.
[00:19:17] I did the same thing, graduating in 2010, it hasn’t changed. So when we think about, are we still practicing law? The same way that was handed down from us, from the people that made have started from Thomas Jefferson, from the people who started practicing law just 50 years ago. We need.
[00:19:34] Really think differently about that because the world has changed. Our clients are changing, they are getting more demanding, more business acute, and they really demand that from their lawyers and our clients are going through this process as well. When you mentioned design thinking to especially any business client, they probably know what you’re talking about and have done.
[00:19:58] Form of it. So for you to be able to interact with them on that level, just makes all the differences.
[00:20:05] Karin: It takes it all to the next level. That’s so true. And I feel like that’s such a good transition to talk first of all, about you’ve got this great YouTube channel business books for lawyers and you and I connect on this. Both love business books and review that. Obviously the next thing we’re going to talk about is your recommendation, but I wanted to highlight that YouTube channel because I think there is, I don’t think, I know there’s this huge missing piece for a lot of law firms when they don’t think of themselves in terms of a business and they don’t
[00:20:38] have these resources. So their
[00:20:40] YouTube channel business books
[00:20:42] for lawyers and then. Tell us what book you’re going to recommend today?
[00:20:46] Laura: Sure. So my
[00:20:47] last video I just
[00:20:49] did, and
[00:20:49] again, I just try to
[00:20:50] do a quick summary with a couple of actionable steps. If you didn’t read the.
[00:20:54] Here’s what you need to know, but maybe information in case you do want to pick it up. And the one that I just love for lawyers, and I have it here, think again by Adam Grant just published this year, and he’s actually been speaking to a lot of legal groups this year as well.
[00:21:08] The whole book is about, we have those tried and true beliefs that we carry on our back and we will carry them to. Day, and we just keep trudging with him. And what he tries to explain is how much they are weighing us down and how much they actually have disastrous consequences for our businesses and for ourselves.
[00:21:28] So we need to get, and this is what all, all of what I’m about. We need to put those down and we need to think again, we need to question our beliefs in safe ways. Absolutely. So that you can go. Is there a better way? What else is going on? What I love from something in here too, is he talks about having a challenge network.
[00:21:47] So people who you trust people who love you and support you, but they are there to challenge. That’s exactly it to challenge you and say, how else could you approach that? What else might you do? Is
[00:21:58] that really the case? And I think lawyers, we do that as, as.
[00:22:03] We want to play devil’s advocate in terms of our arguments in terms of our negotiation, but do we ever stop and do that about our practice and about ourselves?
[00:22:12] So Adam Grant think again, love his podcast. Love his books.
[00:22:17] Karin: Yeah, I think he just did a Ted talk too. Didn’t He I think I saw him just do a Ted talk to he’s. He’s really like this up and coming thinker and he’s got, he always posts really great stuff. I I
[00:22:28] love this idea of uh, so does he talk a lot about
[00:22:32] and just how the bias
[00:22:33] just twists you into the wrong
[00:22:35] kinds of
[00:22:35] Laura: He has a whole chapter on bias and stereotyping. That is really good also about when I
[00:22:43] just turned to a stereotype timeline. What he also does really nice in this book is that he does these very simple. And it’s one of those things that I love that for lawyers, instead of communicating with all these words, how can we draw a very simple picture?
[00:22:58] And he does that really well. So I think you’re learning things as you read the book that you didn’t, you don’t even recognize that your
[00:23:05] Karin: That you’re learning. I love that. I, I learn very visually as well. And so a chart it’s just one of those pictures that is a thousand words or even more so sometimes because all of a sudden, now you’re sorting the information differently in your brain and you can really think it through. But I do think that.
[00:23:20] Going into any kind of decision, especially when you’re thinking about your firm in terms of a business and your marketing plan, you’re approaching it. Oftentimes my clients are approaching it with all kinds of bias based on what your competition is doing. I just saw my competition launch a whole new marketing campaign or a new website or whatever.
[00:23:39] So I’m just going to try to do that same thing, because maybe I’m supposed to just keep up with them. I’m coming in with a lot of fear because
[00:23:46] I just worked with an agency and they burned me or,
[00:23:50] you know, Whatever those biases
[00:23:52] are, biases by bias by what is it? What is the plural?
[00:23:56] Laura: No matter how you’re buying.
[00:23:58] Karin: No, matter how you’re bias. Thank you. You are coming in with things that are just on your back and at least recognizing those And knowing that they are going to impact your decision and your clear
[00:24:09] thinking in
[00:24:10] making those
[00:24:10] decisions, but
[00:24:11] that the decisions still need to be made
[00:24:13] that you can’t just back away
[00:24:15] and let those the
[00:24:17] Laura: No, no. And that’s what, that’s what you’re going to help them do really, you know, again, Who is your client? We’re going to
[00:24:23] empathize with them. We’re going to try to explore the different options, and then we’re going to experiment and try things and exactly see how that works and do it again. That’s what marketing is to
[00:24:32] Karin: Yeah. but marketing is a whole exercise in design
[00:24:35] thinking too. I think it all comes full circle because,
[00:24:39] It’s, all part of this same big system. So I think That’s so valuable. Uh, well, Laura, thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate this. This is I could talk about this all day long.
[00:24:49] I love this idea of organizing and having your thinking, being more systematic so that you do avoid the kinds of things that Adam Grant is talking about and you don’t
[00:24:59] kind of. pushed into that corner of making the wrong
[00:25:01] choices, because you have a more systematic approach to thinking about it and thinking about it with your clients.
[00:25:08] So thanks again. I really appreciate your time.
[00:25:11] Laura: Thank you. Have a great one.