Aug 9, 2018 4:00:00 AM / by Asmahan Akam


In their efforts to manage the business and practice aspects of the firm, law firms often tip the scale away from focusing on the client experience.  It should be no surprise to learn that excellent client service is a crucial part of growing and maintaining a thriving business. The question is, how does a law firm achieve balance between management of the business, clients, staff and delivering legal solutions?

The concept of design thinking and its model may be the answer to this question.


Design thinking is a reiterative process that seeks to understand the user in a given scenario, find unique ways to define the problem and develop creative working solutions.   The process must be refined constantly to accommodate changes and create alternative fixes. People use design thinking to identify and implement the best ideas, not just good ones.   


Design thinking has a process that you should follow closely, especially the first time you use it, to gain the most benefit.  The design thinking process is comprised of four steps plus the implementation phase.

  • Empathize/Define.

Empathize with your users’ needs by fully immersing yourself in the users’ shoes.  The best way to do this is to have your users tell you stories about their experience with your firm in as much detail as possible.   In addition to stories, you may create an environment where you observe the behavior in the context of the issue you want to resolve. For example, if you want to know if your intake process needs improvements, you could observe it and see if you gain any insight.   

Use your insights to ask verifying and scoping questions.  The more granular you go, the better the outcome.

  • Ideate

Now that you know the scope of your clients pain points with your firm and services, start ideating by coming up with ideas and challenging the first solution that comes to mind.  Remember that the purpose of this process is to come up with solutions outside the box. In this phase, your job is to come up with as many ideas as possible, going horizontally (wide) not vertically (narrow).  Continue to confront yourself and push to go beyond assumptions and obvious solutions.

  • Prototype

We are at the fun part!  Now that you have many ideas, start generating prototypes with the purpose of getting closer to the best answer.  The point here is to design a solution based on the ideas you generated in the ideate phase. The prototype does not need to be elaborate, or at a final stage - basically do not spend too much time on it.  People use sticky notes or objects that represent the solution to get the idea across. Keep in mind that whatever solution you create will not be the final one.

  • Test

This is the phase during which you will be soliciting feedback about each prototype you created.  You may find that some prototypes do not make it far, and others appear to be viable, possible solutions.  This phase will not only help you narrow down and identify the best ideas, it will also help you better understand your users.  It is very likely that after this phase you go back to the beginning of the process because you discover some new problem or find a new way to look at an existing one.   This is great! It means you are getting closer to the ideal solution that will make your clients happy. Expect for some or all ideas to fail. However, failure in this stage is quick and cheap.  The process is designed to help you eliminate ideas that seemed suitable in theory, but in practice do not work.

  • Implement

After narrowing down your solution, identifying the best idea, testing it, and getting wide approval from everyone involved, it is time to implement the solution.  This may mean purchasing technology, designing content, or creating a process or system. It may also involve training your staff on the new solution and monitoring implementation to ensure its success.

Remember that the design thinking model is a cycle, and based on the outcome, you are likely to find yourself going back to any of its four steps at any time during the process.  However, once implemented, you will see vast improvement in the clients’ feedback, which will lead to an increase in your bottomline.

Topics: For Candidates

Asmahan Akam

Written by Asmahan Akam

Learning, teaching, yoga and cooking are Asmahan's (Asma) favorite things. She loves challenges and creative solutions. When not writing, reading or watching Youtube, you can find her practicing law, designing content, or debating ideas with others. Asma's interests expand beyond formal education to include working on a blog and podcast idea, being an entrepreneur and managing a small market and deli business in the small town where she currently resides. Asma is happy to help solo and small firm practitioners improve their practices and lives by implementing out-of-the-box solutions to very square problems.

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