Words matter: Customers, not Clients

Client is defined as a person (or entity) who uses the professional advice or services of another.  So, for lawyers, ABC company is a client, but for an IT vendor, ABC is a customer?  The example illustrates that the term client or customer does not result from the customer’s nature, but from the seller’s.  In other words, lawyers are special.

But they’re not.  Lawyers live in a parallel universe that my friend (and customer) Jeff Carr refers to as “Lawland.” Candyland, but without the fun.  Lawland is the place where lawyers are special, non-lawyers merit no consideration, and the traditional rules of math, business and physics do not apply. It is not the real world, to be sure.

Why words matter

So strike 1 for client. It perpetuates a stereotype that deserves a rapid and permanent death.

Strike 2 is that the line between law and the rest of the world is becoming hazy at best.  Effective solutions today tend to be multi-disciplinary. The best teams involve far more that simply lawyers, and there is no reason why the language of lawyers trumps the language those dreaded non-lawyers, I mean people who live in the real world employ in their business dealings.

The last issue, aka strike 3, is that lawyers have abandoned the entire experience arena. Whether we call it client experience or customer experience, lawyers tend to suck at providing great experiences.  The rest of the business world has recognized that customer experience is the key to having customers (or clients) in the 21st century.  I choose to use the language of those leading the path in providing great experiences for buyers of services and goods.

Where I come from, strike 3 means you’re out.  And that is why this blog is about Great Customer Experiences.


Patrick Lamb is a partner with ElevateNext Law, a Chicago law firm aligned with Elevate Services, one of the world’s leading law companies. Widely honoured in his profession, Patrick is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and serves on the College’s Board of Trustees. Pat has authored two books on alternative fees, including the highly acclaimed Alternative Fees for Litigators and their Clients, ABA Press (2014).


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