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Customer focus – the basics of customer care in law firms

Updated: Aug 14, 2020

Every law firm would assert that its focus is on its clients. If we put this claim to an acid test, it often turns out to be pretty hollow. More likely, clients are the means for lawyers to reach the end on which the focus really is.

Customer care merits being tackled in a structured sort of way. An approach that was developed at the HSG has turned out to be particularly helpful, both in the classroom and in practical consultation.

Before we deal with this six-step approach, I would like to say a few words about the term “client”. The term, which derives from the Latin cliens – a plebeian under the protection of a patrician – is attested as meaning “a lawyer’s customer” from about 1400 onwards. Its use is thus a convention, no more; when all is said and done, lawyers have customers just like building contractors or retailers.

Significantly, though, it is the free professions such as doctors or, well, lawyers which emphasise an expertise gap between themselves and their customers with terms such as “patients” or “clients”. If we think about how we want to strengthen our relationship with the purchasers of our services and to align our law firms with demand requirements, this isn’t particularly helpful. The term “customer” puts us on a substantially more equal footing! Therefore I’d like to suggest: let’s talk about “customers” rather than “clients” in this small series of blog posts on customer focus!

In my next blog post, I would like to deal with the first step of the approach presented in the above graph: on the identification of customer requirements.

This blog was originally published on 16 July 2019 in Vista, the online magazine of the Executive School, University of St.Gallen, Switzerland.


About the Author Prof. Dr. Leo Staub is a Titular Professor of Business Law and Legal Management at the University of St. Gallen. He also is one of the Directors of the Executive School of Management, Technology and Law of St. Gallen University where he chairs the division “Law & Management”. Leo can be reached at

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