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January 22, 2008

The Ritz

See "Client Service: The Ritz Carlton Way" by Texas-based Cordell Parvin at Law Consulting Blog. And being from Tennessee if I go back far enough, I just love that name: Cordell.

Posted by JD Hull at January 22, 2008 12:36 PM


JD would Buffett/Munger ever invest a business whose "moat" was customer service? I doubt such. Anyone can duplicate the service by spending $$$ on the steps necessary to provide the service.

A great example is the frequently flyer program, offered by airlines. It is not an advantage, because it quickly came to be offered by all airlines, at great cost. A similar undertaking are new car warranties.

There are a few people who have been lucky enough to make it to the level of being a brand--the Ritz Carlton. However, such is absolutely meaningless for what 99% of all suppliers and 99% of all customers.

My two cents is that specialization, including experience, and differentiation are the secrets to law firm profits. Service that costs money to provide is not a sustained competitive advantage.

Posted by: Moe Levine at January 21, 2008 04:49 PM

Except, Moe, that specialization alone, for lawyers, without more, will only bring one-shot projects. The GCs of the largest firm in the world will drop any law firm if the relationship with the point people of the outside firm goes bad or mediocre. Clients are fickle--they seek more than expertise. You can't spend money to duplicate they "hustle" and "trust" elements of client service in professional services relationships. CS is hard to duplicate for professional service providers. Maybe even impossible.

Posted by: Dan Hull at January 21, 2008 07:32 PM

relationship---you understate the importance

Beckwith finally came to realize and write that there is a real difference between relationship and "customer service" Moe is all for relationship

hustle and trust.

Moe has been the sole Bhide advocate among all lawyers and his piece, Hustle, appeared in the HBR in 1986!!!


I am a dissenter, here. Most GCs do not hire lawyers they trust--in fact the most desirable lawyer for a Fortune 500 company is the least desirable individual---someone who will say or do anything for money, and not much money at that. GC's want control and loyalty, not trust.

This is especially true in the post Central Bank of Denver/Stoneridge case; companies only want to hire lawyers who will aid and abet--counsel and encourge---their frauds. This is a simple application of Gresham's law---bad drives out good

last, there is an excellent lawyer sociologist who has studied the one-shot project matter. His name is Mark Suchman and he did teach at Wisconsin's law school. He is on leave and I believe teaching at Brown. He gave an incredible speech to a Bar Organization in Chicago a few years ago on this subject. Moe would strongly suggest that DH make connections for Suchman has extraordinary insights into the interplay between Specialization,big law, and the practice of law generally.

Suchman makes the case that it is not Specialization that drives toward "one-shot projects," but is the nature of information. Law is a knowledge business and over time non-lawyers have been able to do more and more of the work formerly done by lawyers. This has left only hard, difficult one-shot projects for clients to hire lawyers. It just so happens that this work goes to the most specilized lawyers, but the force at work on the client relationship that is driving one shot project work are principles of information, not specialization.

By contrast, medicine is the exact opposite when its comes to information. The more information people have about health care, the more health care they demand. This is why big Pharma advertises those blue pills you use. How many phone calls are going to be made to doctors for the three days following the Super Bowl?

Posted by: Moe Levine at January 24, 2008 05:26 AM

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