September/October 2018


Learn about Design Thinking at the ABA Lawyer Retreat

Joshua Kubicki and Kim Craig

The ABA Lawyer Retreat is a unique and inspiring experience happening in beautiful Vail, Colorado, on Oct. 5, 2018. Its mission is to help lawyers have more power and control over their personal and professional lives. Given that law schools and most legal careers do not promote formal training or practice of human-centered skills such as team collaboration, listening or conflict resolution, or how to engage clients beyond their direct legal needs as users of the legal system, many lawyers simply are ill-equipped to address the challenges that arise from the business and personal demands that the profession creates. The ABA Retreat is seeking to offer a time, a place and a curriculum that will be immersive, practical and empathetic, creating new mindsets that will resonate deeply for participants and present them with tools and techniques that they can begin to use immediately to better their lives.

One of the concepts that participants will be exposed to at the retreat is the Design Thinking session.

So, What is Design Thinking?

Lawyers are hired to provide legal services. This is true regardless of whether you are in-house or outside counsel. But to deliver these legal services, both you and your clients are required to interact with other people, processes and systems used by your team and within the organization that fulfill the delivery of legal services. Law may be a profession, but legal services are, in fact, a business. By providing as seamless an experience as possible throughout the life of the legal engagement—from intake to representation, from budgeting and billing to relationship maintenance and matter resolution—lawyers can distinguish themselves as well as make working with them an even better experience.

According to recent research conducted by McKinsey & Co., looking at business-to-consumer and business-to-business organizations, “customer-experience leaders gain rapid insights to build customer loyalty, make employees happier, achieve revenue gains of 5 to 10 percent and reduce costs by 15 to 25 percent within two or three years. But it takes patience and guts to train an organization to see the world through the customer’s eyes and to redesign functions that create value in a customer-centric way. The management task begins with considering the customer—not the organization—at the center of the exercise.”

Balancing Efficiency with Effectiveness

Service design is a method used by service providers to look at their services from the outside in, challenging their assumptions and interpretations of their customers’ needs and wants. It’s essential to get as close as possible to what your client experiences—from a functional, social and emotional standpoint—basically taking a walk in the customers’ shoes. One of the many devices in the arsenal of design and process improvement tools used to expose the customer experience is a “service blueprint.” A service blueprint illuminates a service journey, specifying and detailing each aspect of a service along a related time line. This approach ensures that all business-to-customer interactions are as seamless as possible. The service blueprint examines a defined service from two different points of view—the customer’s and the service provider’s.

A service blueprint is created in a visual, easily consumable format, allowing you to more easily involve the customer and capture their reactions to the re-engineered design. Additionally, and of utmost importance, it’s critical to involve the representatives of your delivery team (i.e., the employees and partners) in assessing and designing solutions that balance efficiency with effectiveness. Gaining their buy-in, and being in tune with their happiness throughout the process, has beneficial impact—generally, happy employees equal happy customers.

It’s imperative to use a collaborative approach to build out the service blueprint in order to achieve a shared understanding between consumer and provider. This effort will allow different departments to gain an appreciation of how they impact the customer, each other and the overall workflow. This collaborative effort goes a long way in obtaining organizational buy-in and removing barriers to change.

Benefits of Experience Design

The benefits are clear: An experience-driven mindset within your business helps keep customers, as well as your employees,  satisfied. The return on this approach can be seen in loyalty, increased spend and more referrals from your customers. For employees it usually results in greater work satisfaction, which helps to reduce attrition and burnout. A customer-experience approach can be a game-changer, and as consumers have an increasing number of choices, even within the legal services markets, you want to have the competitive advantage to attract and retain your customer base. The Customers 2020 report predicts that pricing and offerings will be overtaken by customer experience as the key brand differentiator. This is why the largest consulting groups, such as McKinsey and Accenture, are investing so heavily in this realm as they seek to prepare their clients, both business-to-consumer and business-to-business players, to compete and win through experience design.

Law firms are increasingly focusing on this element as well. As an example, Baker McKenzie has publicly committed to becoming the first law firm to truly become design-centric and is filling legal service design roles to help in that effort. We have worked within this arena for decades and have built experience-driven services within law firm and legal teams, large and small. As competition increases within the BigLaw and local law markets, finding a winning advantage is becoming more than a nice-to-have—it’s simply a must-have. While others refuse to put in the hard work and don’t have the gumption to look at their services with a critical eye, you can move ahead by taking customer experiences seriously.

You can learn more about design thinking and many other subjects at the ABA Lawyer Retreat. We urge you to attend. Information and a registration link are available at

Joshua Kubicki

Joshua Kubicki is a seasoned business design expert working within the legal industry for two decades helping law firms create competitive advantage and corporate counsel generate business value. His senior executive experience, coupled with his intrapreneurial capabilities, make him an effective and creative change agent within the business of law.

Kim Craig

Kim Craig has worked in the legal industry for over 35 years, of which the last 15 have been focused on building client-facing capabilities for law firms using her expertise in legal project management, Lean Six Sigma and client experience engagement. As a legal business professional, she has been an industry leader in change management and brand differentiation.