What the Hit Show “The Bear” Can Teach Lawyers About Servicing Their Clients

By Steve Fretzin

 

One of the coolest and most intense shows to hit the streaming world in the past few years is “The Bear.” It’s a dramamedy (drama-comedy) about a dysfunctional family in the Italian beef restaurant business in Chicago. Once I completed season two, I found myself relating the show back to the legal industry. As you may know if you read my stuff, it’s kind of my jam. I’ll do my best not to “spoil” anything for you if you haven’t seen the show, but I can’t promise it. Here are three lessons learned from “The Bear” that will help you grow and improve your law practice.

 

To succeed, you must have the right team in place.

One of the main reasons lawyers and law firms fail, get ARDC complaints or have clients leave their firms is due to poor teamwork. I’m sure you all have a story or many about teams you’ve been on where everyone was on a different page. While some lawyers hide this fairly well from their clients, the truth usually comes out over time.

 

In watching “The Bear,” new owner Carmen gets thrown into a hot mess of wild personalities that can only be described as an insane asylum. In particular, his cousin Richey, who is a loud-mouthed degenerate with little more to offer other than shenanigans. In fact, he seems to be the saboteur of the restaurant and not the manager. It’s definitely one of the more cringeworthy elements of the show.

 

I’d ask you to think about who’s the “Richey” at your firm.  Who seems to be the fly in your firm’s ointment. For you the lawyer and/or law firm leader, it’s of critical importance to have strong and predictable hiring practices, employee training and clear communications to ensure the team works cohesively together. For some people, they either need to get on the bus or be shown the door. There’s no substitute for having a mission driven and synchronized team working with each other and your clients.

 

Here’s why exceeding client expectations should be the new normal.

How do you feel when someone promises you something and then neglects to follow-though? My friend Tom always wants to play golf with me, and I always say “sure,” knowing full well that the invite will NOT be happening. Clients are in the unique position to fire you as their attorney should you fail to represent them effectively. An important part of that representation is setting and then meeting or exceeding expectations.

 

In “The Bear,” season two, Richey goes through a complete transformation regarding his understanding of what client service truly means. He has the opportunity to work inside Chicago’s top restaurant where he witnesses first-hand the length this restaurant is willing to go to for their customers. For you, the working attorney, the bar may be set much lower, however it’s never been more important than today to set and surpass expectations with your clients. Here are three ways to do this.

  • Whenever possible, give the client a date for completing a project, matter or case that is well beyond the date you believe it will actually be completed. This way when you get it done early or on time, all expectations have been met or exceeded.
  • Create an implementation plan that you can share with your clients that speaks to what both parties need to accomplish for the matter to be resolved with the least amount of resistance. This way, everyone knows their role within the relationship and what needs to be executed upon for a positive outcome.
  • Be sure there is transparency around retainers and billing. Many new legal clients find out too late that the matter was far more of an investment for the client then they had planned. Having an upfront conversation and then backing it up in writing is a winning move to ensure billing surprises don’t happen.

 

These ideas may be seen as novice or trivial, but the clients mind is different from your own. For many clients, they need things literally spelled out to ensure a harmonious engagement.

 

There is great benefit in developing client loyalty.

In days past, I’ve asked countless lawyers what their definition of client loyalty was. The number one answer was, “Good service at a fair rate.” Really!? While this may have been the way things worked in the past, they are certainly not the same in today’s competitive landscape. In season two of “The Bear” the team comes together and decides to make some radical changes to how they do business. Let’s look at what you should be doing to exceed client expectations in a similar way.

 

First off, let’s assume that you’re a great attorney who is communicative and fairly priced (for your firm’s size, and your experience level). We will consider this the baseline of what we need to do for our clients. Additionally, here are three game-changing tactics that you may not be doing that are truly critical to client retention and long-term client loyalty.

  • Always ask your clients, “What can I do for you—beyond the legal work?” You never know what problems you may be able to help them solve.
  • Find good connections for them. This may come in the form of a new assistant GC they need or inviting them to attend events where they may make some solid connections for their next job or business opportunity.
  • Try to help them grow their own personal brand. Invite them to sit on the panel you’re facilitating or interview them for an article on a subject they have expertise in.

 

I know this may seem like a lot of work, and it is. BUT the alternative may be hunting for replacement business that takes a lot more time and effort.

 

The main thing I loved about the show, “The Bear,” is the transformation of the characters as they learn about themselves and make improvements that better the restaurant. It’s clear that lawyers must continue to learn how to improve client satisfaction for their own good and that of the firm. Consider the importance of having the right team in place, setting clear expectations around client service, and driving client loyalty as a part of your role with each client you have the honor to serve. I know they will appreciate you even more than they do already.

If you need growth advice as a lawyer, please contact me at [email protected] to visit. I’m always happy to help attorneys who are at a tipping point in their career. You can also find resources on my website at www.fretzin.com or check out my BE THAT LAWYER podcast available on all major platforms.

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