We were taught in law school, especially as it relates to witnesses at trial or depositions, to not ask a question that we didn’t know the answer to. It’s a preparation thing – as in 90% preparation and 10% inspiration to take some liberty with an old adage. Unfortunately, some lawyers carry the concept over to their client relationships and marketing.

Not a good idea, as it is counterproductive in developing business and building client relationships. In addition, there is the “assumption-factor.” And that involves the thinking by too many of us that we can assume to know all there is to know about the clients’ businesses, concerns, values, and the clients’ knowledge about the firm. This is not only bad thinking, it is dangerous as well.

Both of these concepts are addressed by Janet Stanton in the current issue of Adam Smith, Esq.’s newsletter where she talks about “The Power of Asking.” She tells an interesting story of what Sloan-Kettering discovered when it sought a better “understanding of the real concerns of patients.” Like so many things in life, they learned among other things that communicating is key.

So should law firms. And the benefits of doing so are significant. Law firms could learn, whether by asking clients themselves or using an outside firm like Sloan-Kettering did, that clients are not reluctant – in my experience welcome – the opportunity to tell their lawyers what they need and value. As Stanton puts it, “you are likely to hear ways to increase your work, and high-value work at that… The important thing is to ask.”