David and I recently attended a meeting with attorneys and their clients regarding a case for which they were considering retaining Magnus. The clients of the attorneys are a group of wealthy, sophisticated people who are accustomed to getting their way in all aspects of their lives. These individuals are from a variety of professional backgrounds, with considerable education (including advanced degrees), and they asked David and me particularly pointed questions about why they should hire us over our competitors; what made us think we were so great at what we do; whether they “really” needed the services we recommended; etc. These types of questions are common when we meet potential clients for the first time, however, they were being asked repetitively and in a somewhat confrontational manner, particularly by one person, who just happens to be a retired attorney with a humongous ego. Both David and I showed no signs of backing down from our recommendations. We explained these suggestions were based on our experience and our familiarity with the facts of their complex, high stakes, litigation. One of the attorneys present was a long time client of Magnus’, who tried to sum things up by saying “My law firm has hired Magnus on many big cases and we have never lost a case when Magnus has been involved. In fact, we have won, big, as a result of what we learned from Dr. Pigott and her team.” As much as David and I were thrilled to hear this testimonial, it did little to dissuade the potential client from his seemingly endless attempt to prove he knows more about our work than we do. We left the meeting on good terms and, as always, David followed up a couple of days later with the attorney who had asked us to meet with his clients. David was astounded when the attorney said, “Everyone was impressed with what Magnus has to offer. The clients are strongly considering retaining your company, but one of them (guess who?) wanted me to ask you whether you will make us perform all of the research services you proposed.” David then explained that we do not, indeed, we cannot, make or force our clients to do anything, ever. When he ended the phone call and informed me about this, I couldn’t contain my laughter! Imagine me, making or forcing a big shot attorney to do anything! It’s just not going to happen! In fact, I don’t believe I can make or force anyone to do anything, whether or not doing so would be for their own good! All I can do is recommend, suggest, and try to convince Magnus’ clients to listen to my advice, and accept it for what it is worth, and then sit back and hope they choose to do the right thing.
Many years ago, after we had completed a mock jury project for a first time client and he had resolved the case, I made a follow up call to him to ask his impressions. He said everything was great, but he did have one complaint, he said, “You should have made me do this sooner.” I think I laughed, but he was serious. He’d been one of those clients who delayed engaging us as long as he could on the chance the case would settle. Only when it looked like trial was imminent did he decide to proceed. He explained that he said what he said because he didn’t have time to incorporate all of our recommendations prior to trial. I told him I wish I knew how to “make” a prospective client retain us this sooner. I face this dilemma all the time. But, we can’t force, we can’t insist; we can only offer suggestions, write proposals, and explain the research options and the benefits. We can weigh pros and cons. We can, in a way, prescribe the medicine, but we can’t make anyone take it!