Law Firms Fighting 400 Years of History

Client relationships are misunderstood and sometimes twisted affairs. So many attorneys have so many viewpoints on exactly what a client relationship is and what it should be. The reason—and solution—behind this widespread debate may lie in history.

Clients rule today’s market. But this is a relatively new phenomenon in the context of history. In ancient Rome, clients were the commoners and peasants who paid the more wealthy and powerful for protection and influence as well as other favors—including trying to arrange a marriage with their client’s bride of choice. The wealthy, who received the payments, were known as Patrons and had on obligation to look out for their clients. The Patrons also had a responsibility to understand their client’s needs.

Over time, clients asked their Patrons for legal services—most obliged or arranged for these services. These client relationships were little changed until the time of Shakespeare. This is the point in history where the word “client” became associated with lawyers.

The roots of the word “client” come from a time when the working class relied on the nobleman and the clients had an obligation to the Patrons. This contrasts with current times where clients pick and choose their law firms—although clients still pay princely sums.

The real lesson lies in the component which has not changed—the obligation to understand your client’s needs. This innate need sits at the centerpiece of the client relationship, as it has for 20 centuries, despite the radical changes in the nature of the relationship.

As we have discussed before, clients need:

  • Excellent client service
  • You to understand their business
  • Delivery on their core need
  • You to go well beyond any expectation

Meeting these needs will give you the insight to keep your clients no matter how the relationships are redefined.

MBR