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Is anything about legal research pleasurable?

By Jason Wilson

In a recent article for UX Magazine, Nathan Hendricks explores how brands can make better connections with people through desire.

Unearthing desire isn’t always easy. Freud wouldn’t have had much of a career if it were. Some desires are simply difficult to talk about in polite company (sex, power, vengeance, status). Others are too subtle and intertwined to detect (acceptance, curiosity, idealism, honor). This is why desire rarely makes an appearance at a focus group. Pleasure, however, does.

Think of pleasure as how you feel when you satisfy a desire. It tells your brain it’s on the right behavioral path. In fact, neurologists tell us that we make decisions based on predictions of pleasure. You can hear pleasure in the language people use to describe how they think and feel. It shows up in the adverbs and adjectives they use to describe things.

Detecting pleasure requires you to engage people in real conversation—something that doesn’t always naturally occur in the unnatural setting of a focus group, where people are compelled to provide rational explanations about why they do or don’t like a certain product. But if you listen closely enough when they describe how they interact with brands, categories, and experiences, you’ll detect the keywords that, when put together, begin to reveal a manifestation of pleasure. When you can get people to tell you what they need to feel in order to truly love something, you’ll be much closer to a consumer truth. The qualities of what they love are the attributes of pleasure.

When I finished the article, I wondered what is it about legal research, and the brands we associate with it, that we find pleasurable. What is the vocabulary we use to enable us, as Hendricks puts it, to “design in desire” and thus form a connection between a brand and the people?

[Image (CC) by Runs With Scissors]

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Richard Maseles January 25, 2012, 4:25 pm

    I find two things pleasurable– first, because I know that, the more experience I have practicing law, the better researcher I am, I enjoy putting that knowledge to use to find difficult answers. In other words, I know what to look for and where to look for it, which is not at all the same thing as throwing key words into a case law database search box and hoping for the best (or that a secret algorithm will throw a good, or at least passable, answer back at me).

    Second, when I was a litigator, I deeply enjoyed winning through superior research.

    • jasnwilsn January 25, 2012, 7:22 pm


      Thanks for the comments. There is a definitely a deep satisfaction in knowing you've won a point because you had better research, but I wonder if we associate the brand with the discovery or ourselves as the researcher? You know where to look for it, but do you see the brand as providing the correct answer for you?

    • Richard Maseles January 25, 2012, 8:03 pm

      The brand is largely irrelevant. I use Westlaw because it's provided, and if I were buying I'd probably use WL (Classic– I like the control), but I don't think of them as "providing better answers." Quite the opposite– it's just a bunch of databases I know how to query, with just enough tools (a digest and a citator) to make it a reliable toolchest. Now, our baby lawyer and our second-year student intern would probably be big on branding legal research products, but then they're just babies and subject to imprinting.

      Even when I practiced in Texas and used Judge O'Connor's then-new books, they were just tools to an end. I think practicing lawyers kind of outgrow brand loyalty to primary research platforms over time, although I've seen more loyalty to something very practice-specific, like Standard Tax Reporter or Nimmer on Copyright.

    • jasnwilsn January 25, 2012, 8:18 pm

      And yet that is what Hendricks' article is about: brands. As the publisher of O'Connor's, the brand's relationship to you, the end-user, is extremely important to me. That's why the pleasure-desire question intrigues me. I think you've correctly framed the issue, but simply because something is a tool doesn't mean you don't take pleasure in using it, and associate that pleasure with the brand.