Disneyland Service For Lawyers

Disneyland promotes itself as the happiest place on Earth. But it is not happy simply because it has a collection of entertaining rides and activities. Any showground might have that. Nor is it the particular intellectual property of Disney. Instead, in my view it is the attention to detail and the service that makes the difference between a mere fairground with rides and the happiest place on Earth. What can lawyers learn from this? I hope my explanation can make you happy. (Note: This may simply be a spurious article that seeks to justify a trip to Disneyland as work related and hence tax deductible.)

Don’t Give Clients What They Ask For

1. Part of the service training in Disneyland is that all staff are instructed that they are not to simply answer customers directly. Instead, they are to give answers that answer the underlying question the customer has. So, if a customer says, “What time is the parade?” They are not to simply to respond with, “The parade is at 4:20pm”. Although that could be helpful, it is often the case that customers will desire to know something entirely different than what they have expressly stated. So instead the employee is meant to answer something like, “The next parade is 4:20pm and occurs every 20 minutes. The parade is located on West Avenue, which is down the street to your left and continues all along West Avenue”. In that way, all the potential questions of the customer are answered.

2. As we will often be asked direct questions by our clients it is easy to give a direct and literal answer. But all those questions come within context. For example, I had a client ask the other day “Who are the shareholders of their discretionary trust?”. The direct answer would be to explain that discretionary trusts do not have shareholders. The Disneyland answer though is to consider that the reason the client was asking for the shareholders was because their bank had asked them this question and they were simply passing the question on. So instead it would be to explain that discretionary trusts have beneficiaries and say something to the effect of “the listed beneficiaries are found in the attached Trust Deed and the shareholders of the corporate trustee are in the attached Corporate Resolutions ASIC Extracts”.

No-One Likes a Dissertation

3. There is a trope that the lawyer’s answer to any question is “it depends”. Clients often find this frustrating. In my view an ambiguous answer is not suitable most of the time, and instead Depends should be for when you have incontinence issues (there are a brand of sanitary pads of that name). You might have a preliminary view, or only partial facts and therefore draw caveats around a position, but when fully considered you should take a position. You might justify your answer. You might explain alternate views. You might explain the Commissioner’s views and whether the Commissioner agrees with your position. But you don’t need to agree with the Commissioner. You don’t need to agree with anyone else. You need to truly look at what the law is, come to an opinion of it and state that opinion. If the client is paying good money then you need to provide them a service concomitant with that expense and give them something useful, which is an opinion. And if you have thoroughly thought-through that opinion in a reasonable manner, even if it is not agreed with by an administrator such as the Commissioner or a judicial body then you have done your job properly. Note that judges too can be wrong, hence the reason for appeals. Attempting to avoid ever being wrong does a disservice to the client. No client likes paying large amounts of money for your dissertation on explaining that “it depends”.

There’s No Rubbish in Disneyland

4. The attention to detail in Disneyland is remarkable. Two examples stick in my mind:

4.1. The first is the perfection of the soundscape. Each area has its own theme and suitable background music. Appropriate music constantly fills the air. Western Land has western music. Tomorrow Land has space music. And the Classic Disney has classic music. Just as your neighbour’s party music might bleed into your apartment and cause discomfort at 2 a.m., so too would you expect that the music from one area would bleed into another. It does not. There is an almost seamless transition from the music in one area to another. The ever-present speakers are hidden amongst the background. It is an amazing attention to detail;

4.2. The second is there is no rubbish in Disneyland. Rather, there is such attention to cleaning up rubbish that any that exists is there for mere seconds or minutes. Surprising about this is that any area with large crowds of people consuming disposable items generates an immense amount of rubbish, and there are always bad actors who do not dispose of it thoughtfully. There exists an army of people in Disneyland who pick up this rubbish (while dressed in suitable costumes to fit the background) and leave the area in pristine condition.

5. Of course there are countless more examples of this attention to detail, and this is what makes Disneyland the way that it is. And herein lies the lesson for lawyers. This is a lesson that will be dear to the hearts of lawyers: attention to detail is highly important. For it is the process of making every part of the work perfect that ensures that items which are critically important are correct. Someone who is likely to skip over proper citations is likely to skip over properly considering those cases and may misattribute what they actually mean. (Lawyers who don’t read cases they cite are now getting fooled by fake cases generated by ChatGPT). While it may seem frivolous to have a perfectly formatted, grammatically edited document, it is the process of refinement that problems are discovered and remedied. The cockroach principle applies to legal work: if you find one cockroach at a restaurant, there are surely more. If you find one error in a piece of legal work, then there are surely more. We must endeavour to remove all cockroaches from our work as if we are a cleaner at Disneyland picking up rubbish.

It’s Actually About Fun

6. Disneyland refers to all its employees as “cast members”. This ranges from the people dressed as Mickey Mouse or Cinderella to the ride attendants and cleaners. They are all putting on performance for the customers. On average, Disney employees have higher levels of job satisfaction than comparable workers. The reason for this is because the culture of Disney is fun and is about providing fun and enjoyable experiences for customers. And it is enjoyable to make people’s lives happier (if you are acting happy all day, then it may lead you to actually becoming happy). And this element of fun is something that is often missing in law. Law has terrible and pervasive issues with overwork, depression, burnout, and lack of job satisfaction. One important factor in countering this negative set of related experiences is to have fun in the workplace. Now this may sound strange for a tax lawyer to say that work should be fun. For most people, tax is tremendously boring and horrible. And that’s OK for them to think that. That’s why most people don’t do my job. But I love this work. I think it is a lot of fun. In this (perceived as boring) area of tax, I find lots of opportunity to play. To find interesting interactions of legislation. To find applications of law. To fix things that are broken, and to break things that are fixed. In my view, a sense of fun is essential to creative and thoughtful work. While play may not make the practice of law into Disneyland, having fun at work can make it something that you were eager to get to every day.

This Article Was Created By.

Adrian Cartland

Principal Solicitor at Cartland Law
Adrian Cartland, the 2017 Young Lawyer of the Year, has worked as a tax lawyer in top tier law firms as well as boutique tax practices. He has helped people overcome harsh tax laws, advised on and designed tax efficient transactions and structures, and has successfully resolved a number of difficult tax disputes against the ATO and against State Revenue departments. Adrian is known for his innovative advice and ideas and also for his entertaining and insightful professional speeches.