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Building trust -
Why it's so much harder for lawyers


It’s easy for a consumer to know if they’re satisfied with their new smartphone or haircut. But when it comes to legal services, clients often can’t tell if they’re satisfied with their purchase decision – and whether they trust their lawyer.

Understanding the satisfaction gap

This satisfaction gap between legal and other types of services comes down to the inherent nature of what lawyers offer.

Economists use the terms ‘Search’, ‘Experience’ and ‘Credence’ to classify the ease or difficulty consumers face when evaluating a product or service.

  • Search goods are those that buyers can evaluate before they purchase or consume them. This could be through online research, by directly viewing the item or from using it previously. Most products – including homewares and clothing – fall into this category.
  • Experience goods are also relatively easy to assess. Consumers can review them once they have been purchased or experienced. Examples include restaurants, hotels and airlines.
  • Credence claims are the most difficult category for consumers to evaluate, even after they have used them. This is usually because they don’t have the speciality knowledge to make an accurate assessment. Examples include education, health products, consulting – and of course, legal services.

How your legal advice is assessed

When clients come to you for legal advice, they’re unlikely to have the expertise to understand whether you have helped them achieve a good outcome or not.

There are too many unknowns for them around the nature and quality of your advice.

For example, if you prepare a prenuptial agreement for a client, your work won’t ever be tested if they remain happily married. And if it is tested, this may only occur many years down the track.

It’s also difficult for clients to meaningfully compare service providers. Say they need to choose between a lawyer who charges $250 an hour and one that charges $1,000 an hour. Is the difference between the two offerings clear enough to justify a fee that’s five-times higher?

No wonder there is an absolute premium price on trust within the law sector.

Bridging the gap with trust 

It could take years for your clients to assess the quality of your service – and for that to translate into community goodwill.

That’s why the key to growing your firm and personal brand is to create a foundation of trust.

Whether you’re a law firm principal or in-house practitioner, you know that you can’t wait until your various contracts and projects come into effect to prove that you’re trustworthy.

You need to find ways to build trust a lot sooner.

Building trust with clients will prevent them from second-guessing your advice or seeking second opinions. You want your clients to invest their faith in your brand and the individual they are dealing with.

Trust is not in the peripheral of your service. It’s at the heart of it.

Looking to learn more about how to build trust?

The College of Law’s six-week course Building trusted client relationships: Strategy and Practice Design will teach you how to become a trusted advisor and develop a client management plan.

This subject is part of the College’s newly formed Master of Legal Business – an innovative postgraduate course to help make leaders future ready. If you want to learn how to build trust and improve your client relationships, get in touch with us today.