Recently, I helped a friend to assemble a bed from IKEA. His wife and inlaws thought that it looked great on the internet. It was white, it had drawers underneath it, and it was half the price of all the other beds. In reality, it was cheap particle board, required a tiny allen wrench for dozens of fasteners, and took 8 hours to assemble.

My friend’s first (and last) experience with IKEA furniture was total bullshit. He'll never go back again - no matter what his family's need.

Do your new clients come back? In between muffled curses and stripped screws, I considered how those of us with professional practices help our first-time clients to have the best experience that they can, so that they'll return for a second engagement, matter, project, or case. Our clients are already thinking Caveat emptor, so let's help them love us.

Does your marketing plan reflect the reality of working with you? IKEA pushes price and convenience, pains that evaporate once you open the first box and see the dozens of parts.

Does your sales process create expectations for both you and your client for the first week or month that you'll work together? Once you've found and loaded the heavy boxes onto a wobbly IKEA cart, IKEA won't let you roll the cart to your car and you are restricted to a tiny loading area with concrete barriers.

Does your onboarding process lay out the reality of working with you and the expectations for everyone involved? IKEA buries its instructions inside the boxes, in which they lay hand and hand with Pandora herself.

That new client (in which you invested heavily to acquire) will be as disappointed as my friend in our day-long IKEA bed project if we don't make "some assembly required" as easy as possible.

This week, I'm going to assemble some key documents (a checklist, some templates, and project materials) that I can email to my prospective customers as part of the sales experience. My clients will know what they can expect of me, what I expect of them, and why they pay me to do it. I know some great small firm lawyers whose smart use of paperwork makes them A LOT of money. I'd be happy to introduce you to one of them.

Coda: We actually had two beds, and I built the second one alone. I had identified the trouble spots, laid out the fasteners ahead of time, and brought better tools. While it still took 8 hours to assemble, it required 2/3 the effort and angst. That's why repeat customers are so valuable to our practices.