I read a piece by Dennis Kennedy recently (If you don’t read Dennis’s blog https://www.denniskennedy.com, you should). The piece was about innovation by lawyers to help clients. The piece contrasted what lawyers, usually do – send a client alert about something that might be relevant to someone, somewhere, to everyone.

It got me thinking about what clients want and how we meet that. One answer is in talking to people. However, it is a conversation that takes a while, probably an ongoing conversation. My conversations with clients about what a law firm can do for them are typically not satisfying because they are filled with concepts but not applications. I know, and the client knows that we want to “partner.” But what does that look like. We have to have a lot of conversations until we hit on a thing that we can see and touch. Getting from the theoretical to the practical is difficult. For me, I stumble from moment of enlightenment to moment of enlightenment with miles and miles of plodding in between.

Maybe there is another way.

I am reminded of Steve Jobs comment: “Some people say, “Give the customers what they want.” But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!'” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”

So what can we think of to give out clients to make “partnering” and “transparency” and other words have distinct meanings?