Where is the concept of Care in Legal Services?

Last weekend, I attended some sessions of a Design Symposium at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design. The topic was ‘Transition Design’ — how we as designers can plan for a rapidly changing society, as well as how we help individuals through challenging transitions in their own life stages & well-being.

One of the speakers is a service designer, who works in a hospital system to change how clinicians interact with patients. He sits in on these conversations, to observe how they typically go now, and to propose interventions which could improve the patient’s experience.

There are clear (and huge) parallels with legal professionals’ conversations with their clients — especially on matters that involve high emotions, major effects on life quality and freedoms, and uncertain futures.  But what I noticed was also the difference. The speaker centered on two words as central to his work in improving patient experience: Care and Mattering.

He said his overarching goal as a service designer is to make the system care about the user, and make sure the user feels this sense of care. And interlinked with this is attention to what matters — the designer is saying that every clinician should be tuning into what really ‘matters’ in any interaction, patient experience, moment in their own working day. Rather than getting caught in other metrics & pressures, there should be constant readjustment to direct your energy to the things that ‘matter’.Health Care has a problem with care for its patients

In his presentation, the designer emphasized that most clinicians aren’t trained well to provide a sense of care or of ‘mattering’ to their patients. It made me realize that lawyers tend not to speak in these terms either.

Even if medical professionals aren’t always great at providing care, this word is in their professional lexicon. In law, I don’t recall people using the concept of care when it comes to lawyer-client relationships.

That’s stuck with me over the past few days as something that’s worth paying some attention to. Perhaps the concept of ‘care’ may seem too emotional or touchy-feely for many legal professionals to use when thinking of how to relate to their clients. Maybe there’s another concept that could still capture that recognition of ‘mattering’, and of all the life pressures, changes & emotions caught up in legal matters. It makes me think that there must be more emphasis on serving the human factors involved with legal problems, that we as lawyers should be finding new ways to deliver value or coordinate support for the ‘care’ of clients.