EDITORS NOTE: This is an excerpt from Lean Adviser Legal, a new program from Law.com with more than 150 lessons, tools and videos to help lawyers deliver better outcomes, improve efficiency and boost client satisfaction. Learn more.

In total, clients want five things: Reliability, Transparency, Utility, Tranquility, and Relationships. Lawyers who tick those five boxes for their clients get repeat business from them. The Lean Law Program offers a set of learnable methods to tick every box. First, we need to focus on reliability and transparency. As you can see from below, reliability and transparency have their own ingredients.


In the client’s mind, reliability means:

  • the right outcome, within a range of circumstances, to be jointly pre-defined;
  • on budget, which includes overall value;
  • and on time.

This calls for effectiveness in the sense of the right outcome, and efficiency in the sense of no waste. This is why the Lean Law Program contains methods and tools to operate in a lean way. There are steps to investigate all of these aspects with clients at the outset, and then to monitor progress and make corrections. Lastly, being reliable means performing consistently, and as we shall see, this is why lawyers need tools.

Transparency is different, but equally important. As we shall discuss, in most projects the client cannot and will not monitor progress. They see it as the lawyer’s job, and they’re right. The lawyer has the best view of progress and problems, and this is just one reason why clients expect us to be transparent and accountable. As the chart above suggests, in the client’s mind that means tell me the truth and don’t blindside me.

What else? You might disagree about the priorities here, but I would suggest that utility, tranquility, and relationships sit in the secondary batch.


Utility is about being a useful resource. Being available is the entry point of course, but it goes a little deeper. Commercial clients operate in business environments and come to lawyers with problems. Sending a client just legal advice, in the sense of a dense legal treatise, however academically brilliant, won’t solve the client’s problem. Mostly, what clients find useful is business advice on a legal basis, complete with alternatives, recommendations, and an appraisal of risks. That is what clients want. To achieve that, the lawyer may need a range of talents, such as business acumen, vision, and creativity.

Tranquility is next. Clients have busy stressful lives. They often have boards or business owners to report to, and they have budget restraints and other pressures. As we shall discuss, what matters to a client about the project is the project, not the lawyer. But then again, clients want real time updates. We have to be sensitive to all of this and find lean ways to engage with them. That is what they like.

When and where do clients want to see these traits in us? The answer is always clients want us to bring these attributes to every stage of the project, to the overall project, and to every project. They want consistency, and there is a lesson devoted to just that.

All of the boxes we have discussed so far are the challenges, and this program helps with all of them. The last box is the good news. Clients want to give us repeat business because they like stable relationships with lawyers they can trust and rely upon. When it comes to being a trusted adviser, specializing in the client sector is a start, but it is not enough. What clients want us to do is specialize in them.

We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Lean Adviser Legal. Click here to learn more and download another Lean Adviser lesson.