Selling Personal Service vs. Running “a Business”

Personal service is getting scarce. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some services we’re happy to accept from a machine: a quick car wash, the convenience of an ATM. But some help (and the price paid for it) requires personal service.

But have you heard of the difference between “having a job” and “running a business”? It’s a popular idea among professionals of all stripes. It can confuse and hurt you, if you don’t know it and recognize it when you start your search for your divorce lawyer (or any other kind of lawyer you may need).

You reap what you sow.

Who wouldn’t enjoy a thing that brings customers in and spits money out the other end? With the exception of owning a slot machine in a Wendover truck stop, the idea is a fantasy. You reap what you sow. What a divorce lawyer sows is his effort within the context of his skill and expertise. Selling personal service means the lawyer is literally offering to give of himself in performing those services.

Would you patronize a physician who focuses on how to bill the patient, yet spend as little time with a patient as possible? Consciously hire a lawyer who doesn’t work on your case, has a junior associate do all the work, and then takes the credit (and bills for) the work as his own?

As tempting as it is to sell one thing and deliver another that’s nothing but bait and switch.

Did you know that Betty Crocker isn’t a real person? Never was. Neither was Atticus Finch, the patron saint of lawyers. Lawyers look to a fictitious person as their exemplar. But I digress.

The face of law?
Atticus Finch (not really) – fictitious lawyer


Other People’s Time, Other People’s Effort

Granted, a one man band will rarely outperform the well-run orchestra. A good professional must not run faster than he has strength. No one expects a good doctor to do routine work like administering shots. The good lawyer need not waste time scheduling his own appointments. Every savvy businessperson must organize his/her business and have administrative help, or he 1) can’t do his best, highest work; 2) can’t develop professionally; or 3) (ironically) grow his business.

But this “build a business that runs without you” mentality does not apply (it cannot apply) effectively, morally, or ethically for people who offer and provide personal services personally.

Selling Personal Service, but Delivering Something Else (even if it’s not bad)

If you market “a law firm,” as opposed to “Bob Smith, Esquire,” you’re offering the services of a business (a group of people and equipment–like a corporation–that provide the service, and it doesn’t matter who or what they are specifically, so long as they deliver). ‘Nothing wrong with that because you’re being transparent about what you offer and who and what does the job.

If you market YOUR legal services you’re marketing yourself, your skill, your expertise, not just “your system”. It’s cheating the customer to market yourself, then deceptively hand off the client to your “system” to process them through, never to have any further help from you. If you personally offer to care for someone, you (not an army of surrogates) are expected to provide the care offered. That’s what you sold, that’s what is paid for. That is what you are obligated to deliver.

Who’s with me?

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