C. Pritchard ~ Director of Communications
I consider myself an expert on Client Service. My whole life, to varying degrees has been spent meeting the needs of clients. As a young boy, hawking Hartford Courants, on the corner of Hillside and New Britain Avenues, I learned early the reality that the client is always right. Dodging cars for a dime, to deliver the morning news, earned me gratitude and generous tips, both of which were much appreciated. Later, as an adult, I would weave a unique employment history, all centered on delivering the finest client service possible. My first boss was a CEO named Jesus, and I still hear the admonition of the Bishop, as I was ordained to “Go forth and serve.” Seven years later, after some deep soul searching and organizational disagreements I would change uniforms, and become a police officer, sworn to “Protect and Serve.” My first CEO would still be my mentor, but now I worked for a police Chief, named Leroy Bangham, who allowed me, and enabled me to pioneer the concept of Community Policing, within a suburban community. The need to listen and respond, to people often not listened too, was critical to this experience, and I loved it. This chapter of my client service experience would close, when a large truck slid into my cruiser and ended my career in law enforcement. And that brings me to my present day, which actually began several years ago, when Atty. Vincent Trantolo invited me, with basically the same invitation as all those gone before, “Chick, we want to be the best at helping our people,” and I was honored to become a part of his team. Actually, service has been the lifeblood which coursed through the veins of all the institutions in which my life has been proudly and humbly involved. I must admit though, that I hate “Client Service.”
The practice of law is much more that a matter of meeting Court dates and filing briefs. The practice of law is a business, but it is much more than some static, monolithic institution. At its very best, it brings a hallowed honor to Justice. At its worst, it staggers through the empty halls of arrogance. The reality of client service has been at the very heart of our legal system, since the very beginning. Serving others was at the core of all legal action, and all legal practices. Service was the reason of all action. Actually it was the only valid reason. I do not believe that this is true today.
I believe the term “Client Service” has lost its meaning in our modern world. Ironically, as our communication has so dramatically increased through out the past decades, our abilities to be personal, seems to have lessened. While our law schools continue to graduate highly qualified attorneys, how many begin their careers with even a hint of what it means to be an advocate. This reality is not unique to the world of jurisprudence. Waitresses seem no longer to wait. In our barber shops and salons, we have become “heads”, instead of friends. When we make a telephone call, to complain or congratulate, often we are answered by computers, who politely advise which button to push. Also, sadly, some of us have sometimes objectified the people we seek to help, and they have become statistics, “cases”, and “files.” Service has become a function of law, in my opinion, not its very meaning. It has taken a back seat to the needs of dockets and depositions. In this very competitive world of ours, client service has become a function of a well-oiled machine, and sometimes, a not very important function at that. Client service has for some, become an impersonal experience, relegated to asking clients for facts and data, and seldom seeking to really communicate, in a conversation of care and real personal interest. I know this is not true of everyone. There are awesome attorneys and administrative staff members, whose warmth, empathy, optimism, and love for what they do, are obvious to all with whom they speak and work. I am honored to work with some of them.
I have given hundreds of talks through out my years, on the importance of real communication, and the need for each one of us to proclaim the value of one another, for one another. “Client Service” is more than conversation. It is more than informational and functional. It is personal. It is a proclamation by an attorney, and his staff, loud and clear, of care, commitment and compassion. I think this reality is best expressed in the experience of engagement. This experience is a deeply relational one, not merely a functional need on a very long schedule. Engagement is about dedication. People have chosen each other, and want to be the best they can be in that unique relationship. Engagement is about communication, in which we are transparent with one another, in a unique bond of trust and commitment.
I think I’m going to stop using the term “Client Service” for a while. Client engagement is a pledge and a privilege. It is a declaration of importance, declared loudly and boldly, by both word and deed. I’m not sure Client Service means the same, anymore. Client Service has become a bother for some, including me, at times, and the calling of law, for some perhaps, just a job. I believe engagement is a promise, to myself and to others, that I will be the best that I can be. If I don’t have time, I will make time. If I don’t feel like it, I will change my feelings. My client is worth my effort. I will learn to listen with my heart and care deeply about the needs of those who have asked me for my help. No matter what we do within its world, this is what the practice of law must truly be all about.