According to an article in today's on-line edition of The Lawyer, a 56-lawyer English law firm, Munday's, has introduced a "mystery shopper" scheme to test their own client service functions.

The firm's business development manager explains, Jonathan Robinson, is quoted in the article:

...We are looking at how the whole process works from the initial inquiry to the follow up. The aim is not to name, shame or embarrass individuals but to benchmark ourselves and find out where we are. If there is an issue we will work on it. ...

Mr. Robinson has squarely hit the proper purpose of "mystery client" exercises: to detect vulnerabilities in client services and to fix them. These flaws are almost never the result of individual shortcomings, such as "bad attitude." Instead, they almost always arise from serious systemic problems that probably have been undermining a law firm for years: inadequate communication of priorities, poor training, and weak documentation and followup. Unless this is made clear to the "front line," i.e., receptionists and assistants, the "mystery client" program can do more harm than good by arousing suspicions and breaking down trust.

The other caveat that my colleagues and I would offer, based on our experience and observations, is that the "mystery clients" have to be knowledgeable enough to be credible. Most people involved in responses to inquiries by prospective clients and in client intake are sophisticated and experienced enough to spot a phony.

Norman Clark