Educating clients, without alienating them

An aspect of our trial consulting business that is sometimes difficult to address is that, as noted in other posts, we have competitors with a wide variety of qualifications, from those like us, with extensive educational backgrounds and degrees, to those with no education beyond high school. Further, some of our competitors are so uneducated about proper research science that they offer services to clients which are flawed in research design. When a client hires a trial consultant it is usually on a high value, high exposure case. Much is at stake for both the ultimate client and for the reputation of the lawyers involved. But, as happens in many areas of our lives, price sometimes is a driving consideration. We deal with this frequently, in that certain types of clients are looking for the low price “vendor.” I wrote another post on that specific point, but the topic of this post is what to do when a client is given a choice between paying more to do something correctly and, conversely, less for doing things either wrong, or in a less effective or objective manner? And, how does one do this without looking to be self serving or without alienating the client? I ask questions about this because I do not have the magic answer. I can only say that Melissa and I believe we have to address the underlying error to help the client become a more informed consumer. That’s what I expect when buying something I know little about – I want an education so that I can make an informed decision. So, I have to hope that my clients are similarly willing to be informed about what is good, bad, or just plain ugly. Given what is at stake with the cases we are hired to consult on, I believe clients should want to get answers which are reliable and unbiased. Accuracy and confidence in the results are also important. It is awkward to have to undo what some uneducated or unethical consultant proposes to a client. But, if the option is meeting the lower standard, then we have to decline while explaining the limitation of the competitors’ approach. This is inherently difficult because it sounds defensive and as if it is full of excuses. However, this is the only option I can think of when handling such situations. So, with care, I will craft a verbal or written explanation when such things occur. Melissa and I agonize about how to convey the information and educate the client without antagonizing him or her. We try to be optimistic that they will “get it” and understand that we have their best interests in mind. But, we can only hope that they will.

The title of this post is “Educating Clients, without Alienating Them,” however, there are some clients who, in my opinion, have no hope of becoming educated about the reasons why they should hire my company over one of our unqualified competitors, such that I wish the title could be, “Alienating Clients without Educating them.” Some readers of this post may be offended at my brand of humor, but I strongly believe there are some types of clients with whom I do not want to work. Previous posts have discussed some of the more common reasons clients have caused trouble in our work, including abusiveness, intoxication, and more, but there is another group of clients, and potential clients, who will never “get it,” thus, they are far better suited for one of Magnus’ shoddy competitors than us. In fact, we have one notorious competitor who provides cheap trial consulting based on falsified data (because it’s easier to make up research results than collect data the right way) from “research participants” who are actually part time employees, but who has quite a following among a certain type of attorney. We have learned over the years that, if a potential client likes working with this consultant, he or she will not be a good fit in our business model. David has become adept at weeding out potential clients who care more about getting a cheap deal than obtaining scientific research of the highest possible quality. Other clients who are ignorant about the factors that differentiate good and bad research, but who are willing to learn, have often been persuaded to retain us and experience first hand “the Magnus way” of doing things; they always come around, eventually appreciating the excellence that is part of everything we do. But, in all our years of business, my preference is to work for clients who hire me for my expertise, in recognition of the fact that my work is respected nationwide by attorneys and my colleagues, and who trust me to guide them toward a positive outcome for their case. Get it?

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