Emotion & client experience in law: time to embrace it

Emotions matter in law. We’re humans before anything else. 

The way our clients feel is something we need to talk about more, especially if want to improve the client experience in law.

If you want to become your client’s first choice, you need to make emotions part of your strategy. It’s a fancy way of saying that you need to start paying attention to emotions, talking to your clients and relating to their experiences. And then making deliberate choices to create positive emotions about you and your work.

Emotion is the foundation of client experience and the secret to a thriving law firm

Lawyers run a mile from emotion. The law is all about reason, logic and rationality and clients come to us because they want facts and legal expertise to handle their cases. Emotion is dangerous, irrational and risky. There’s no room for emotion in law.  

But the assumption is wrong. People don’t make decisions based on rational thought and measured conditions. We rely on emotions more than anything else. 

Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman says that 95% of our decisions are made with our subconscious minds. We use our preconditioned thoughts and emotions to make buying decisions then rationalise them with logic afterwards. 

It’s the same with buying legal services. 

Do you take time to intentionally cultivate how your potential clients are feeling as they move through their journey to buy your legal services?


It’s time to start. 

Emotion in law matters

Once we understand emotions drive our behavior and actions we begin to see why emotion is important in our business. 

Emotions are built in the relationship we have with other people, like our clients. Long-lasting relationships go so much further than one-time transactions and the relationships are resilient, allowing mistakes and also challenges along the way. 

So you don’t have to be perfect, but human.

Emotions are fundamental in the client experience and why you should care about them. 

“People will forget what you said,

People will forget what you did,

But people will never forget how you make them feel.”

Maya Angelou

In every business, we’re humans first and it’s all human to human business. Is that a thing? H2H? (I like it.) 

Concerning yourself with how people feel about their interaction with you or your products is important. Those feelings determine if they continue or if they stop. When you intentionally design your business so it’s friction-free, easy to use and based on empathy, your clients feel all the feelings. 

It creates lasting memorable experiences with the people you work with.  And when your clients feel the right feelings, they come back.

If you want to dive deeper into designing a remarkable client experience, head to the article What is the client experience in the law for more information.

Client satisfaction is not enough

Many times when we think about emotions attached to client experience, we think about client satisfaction.

We ask the clients about their satisfaction. I’m sure you’ve answered a bunch of these surveys as well.

You may be satisfied with the technical performance of the service, but how memorable was it? What does a brilliant review on a client satisfaction survey even mean? Yes, I was very satisfied. 

You need more.

It requires an emotional connection

This may come as a surprise for you, but making your clients satisfied is not enough. Even though we say we want satisfied clients, that’s not what we should be aiming for.

Satisfaction is a baseline, something that clients expect. It’s the vanilla, the bulk. But it’s not causing them to commit to buying your services again. They might not even remember who their lawyer was the last time around.

So if you want to become your client’s first choice, you need to make emotions part of your strategy. Start paying attention to emotions, talking to your clients and relating to their experiences and then make deliberate choices to build positive emotions about you and your work.

When you create an emotional connection with your client, the relationship becomes stronger. Your client is more committed to your brand and more eager to tell their friends about you.

Buying legal services is emotional

Are you sceptical? Clio’s Legal Trends Report from 2018 talks about emotion and client experience in the law.  

In their study, Clio asked lawyers and their clients about client emotions when buying legal services. Emotions in this survey include anxiety, control, annoyance, anger, confusion, relief, urgency, disbelief and frustration. 

The results showed a big difference in the lawyers’ perceptions of their client experience and the emotions the clients’ experience. 

For example, clients were much more frustrated and felt more disbelief than lawyers recognise. 

On the other hand, clients felt a huge sense of relief connected to buying legal services but lawyers did not see or appreciate it.  What an opportunity, right? 

One interesting insight from the study is that clients feel a lot of anxiety, annoyance and even anger about the legal services. Lawyers appear to know this, so the perception and the emotions are aligned. 

But are lawyers doing anything with this information? If you know your client is anxious, how might you improve the situation for them? If you could offer relief for your client’s anxiety it could mean the world to them.

As you see, you can get really valuable information from your clients as long as you are deliberate in understanding their experiences.

Want to know how your clients feel? Ask them

The only way to know how your client feels about working with you is to check-in and ask. You need to be intentional and consistent here to get real data. 

Check-in and do it regularly. 

Designing a good client experience is all about feedback. Without feedback, without clients telling and showing their emotions, you don’t have a compass to guide your actions. 

As Brene Brown wisely says, you cannot walk in another person’s shoes. You cannot feel the emotion the other person is feeling because it does not show to the outside. What you can do is ask the person to tell their story and then believe it. 

One of the benefits of a legal design framework is that client participation and feedback loops are built into the process. 

One of the easiest ways to start getting intentional about your client experience is with legal design. It gives you easy and practical tools that equip you to involve your clients in the process and turn the insight into actionable ideas and improvements. 

If you’re interested in looking into this framework, head to lawyersdesignschool.com. I can help.

Whichever way you decide to go about getting to know your clients more, just start doing it today.  

You’re taking the first step in building the thriving law firm you’ve always wanted.

Coffee with Hannele Korhonen: Happy customers & happy lawyers. Episode 10.

You’ve just read a summary of my Instagram Live session. I run them weekly for law firm owners who are looking for actionable advice and tips on how to get more happy clients and make themselves happy lawyers with the help of legal design thinking. 

If you’ve read something that interests you, I’d be delighted to see you at the next session. 

 You can catch a replay of episode 10 here or join me live and ask questions.

Coffee with Hannele Korhonen: Happy customers and happy lawyers. Episode 10. Emotion & client experience in law: time to embrace it.

Want to chat about it?

Did you see yourself nodding when you were reading about client emotions? Maybe you had an “a-ha” moment and saw an opportunity. The law needs more people like you to pursue your thoughts. Your clients will thank you, you’ll thank you and the world will be a better place. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts so please feel free to DM me.

If you’ve got a question, join me on Instagram every Wednesday at 8 am ET where you can ask me about the client experience in your firm. 

You can find me at  @lawyersdesignschool and get more practical tips on where to invest your business development efforts, finding new clients and how to be happy as a boutique law firm owner.

Prefer email? Drop me an email at [email protected] And while you’re here, take a peek at the Lawyers Design School and check out other ways to use customer-centric thinking to grow your law firm and thrive in your business.

Watch all the Happy customer and happy lawyers episodes.