It’s that time of year.  One of the more interesting phenomena is that Americans give an astounding amount of money to charity every year–apparently primarily because they get that warm glow inside from doing so.  Sure, there may be some social advantages, like supporting friends, or reputation bennies, like seeing your name in print, but it really boils down to believing that even though you get nothing concrete in return, you get value from handing over your money.

Then there is the current legal situation where very few clients think they have gotten value when they hand over money to lawyers. Ok, admittedly a very different situation.  No one mistakes a law firm for an eleemosynary organization, and no one really expects a warm glow from that transaction.

But the research on charitable giving may illuminate other types of money transactions as well.  A recent article in the  New York Times Magazine entitled “Bucket Racket” discusses the ice-bucket challenge that raised more than $115 million for A.L.S. research this past summer and “the strange reasons we give to charity.”  It notes that research has shown (not surprisingly) that people actively avoid being hit up for charity but also that those solicitors who make eye contact and speak about their cause raise 60% more than non-engaging solicitors.

There is an indication of this effect in client/law firm interactions. Although “pricing” is often the name given to a client’s dissatisfaction, it is also called “value”–clients aren’t satisfied with how they feel about what they’ve gotten from the overall service.  Lack of responsiveness and personality issues are often cited as the culprits behind law firm firings.

So if someone personally and directly engaging with us makes us more willing to give “for nothing” in return, might it also make us more satisfied in situations where we got something, like adequate legal advice?

We don’t want to strain to make this point.  Let’s just say that at least a part of the value clients expect may well be as simple as a direct and honest engagement with their lawyer.