The recent case of Devil Is In The Detail v Perfection Kills Momentum brought to light some interesting issues. The impact of the case for the legal profession was considered so important that it was transferred to the High Court for the final hearing.
Devil Is In The Detail argued that when it came to the attraction of clients to a solicitors practice it was absolutely vital that no promotion of the firms services should take place unless or until the supporting evidence was completely perfect. He argued that to promote any law firms activities with any materials which were not of the usual high and exacting standards expected of any legal document would lead to ridicule and mocking amongst colleagues and peers, and may indeed deter certain clients from ever using the said firm in the future.
Perfection Kills Momentum responded vehemently to the claims made against her. She argued that for too many years solicitors had faced challenges and assaults to their livelihood from a number of different sources, citing Government change of policy and new entrants to the legal services market place as just two major reasons why many law firms were now having to work longer and harder to even stand still.
With these challenges Perfection Killed Momentum pleaded that it was vital solicitors understood that the promotion of their services to attract new clients is not of itself ‘the provision of a legal service’. She went on the state that whilst in the provision of said legal services ‘the devil is of course in the detail’, the promotion of them is a creative process which is designed to deliver new clients to the firm in question on a regular basis rather than create a document, website or other marketing collateral which never leaves the firms premises.
The Devil Is In The Detail presented several exhibits showing minor errors in the promotion of different firms’ activities, including an advertisement promoting Probate Services which did not include any footnotes whatsoever detailing the full probate process, along with a website from one firm, which remained nameless for the shame that Devil Is In The Detail thought would be caused to it, which failed to list their legal services in alphabetical order. Devil Is In The Detail argued that the website should never have been published until this heinous error was corrected, and whilst that may have taken many months for the partners to agree such a change, it would have been in the firms best interests.
Perfection Kills Momentum responded to these exhibits with what she believed to be her trump card. She presented evidence detailing the demise of no less than 10 firms of solicitors, all of which closed due to a decrease in business. However, in each case the firms were ‘in the process of’ putting in place new, automatic promotional activities which would generate new business for the practice with very little input required from the partners, save for signing off the process in the first place.
The most harrowing case was that of a firm which had all but completed a website and instructed a company to handle all of the promotion of it which would almost certainly generate enough new instructions to keep the business profitable for a number of years, but they had failed to ‘go live’. The two partners had spent the last 12 months before the practice closed arguing whether blue or green should be the dominant colour in the firm’s new logo on the website. This one argument had prevented the website being completed and in the meantime the partner’s had run out of money.
Lord Justice Hackson presiding ruled as follows:
“For too long now solicitors have been all but paralysed by The Devil Is In The Detail when it comes to the promotion of their services. This has led to the closure of countless practices across the country, as demonstrated by Perfection Kills Momentum. This simply has to stop and so I have no hesitation in playing my part and stopping this now.
When it comes to the promotion of legal services, solicitors must remember that they are not dealing with a legal document, such as a contract of employment, or pleadings in a High Court matter, but just that, the promotion of their services. For this promotion to have any chance of working for the firm, it must be set free from the law firm and allowed to go out and find new prospects and clients for its master. A brochure cannot extoll the value of its masters services if it is left sitting in a box under reception, no less than a website can do so if it is never published because the firm and the designer have ‘creative differences’, whatever that may mean.
The evidence from Perfection Kills Momentum is quite clear and for that reason I have no hesitation in finding in the Respondent’s favour. Quite clearly Perfection Does Kill Momentum, and without momentum a firm’s marketing will never do what it is intended to, that is to regularly deliver new clients to the door of the firm in question.
The Devil Is In The Detail has caused too much hardship to too many law firms, and accordingly this action is dismissed and Devil Is In The Details must pay punitive costs.
Any firm reading this judgment should take heed: The Devil Is In The Detail can no longer stop them from attracting new clients. They are now free to promote their services even when the perfection required for the provision of their services is not present in their marketing collateral. They must remember that good is good enough, and that any marketing collateral can be amended as many times as they like once it is set free, and unlike pleadings they do not need to apply to the court for these amendments and nor are they required to show these amendments underlined in different colours, the order of which no one can ever remember in any event!”
N.B. Anyone obsessing with any punctuation or typographical errors in the judgment should be reminded that they have missed the point. These may or may not have been intended by the court report, Mr Nicholas Jervis.
Author: Nick Jervis