Like Me? Follow Me.
It still amazes me when I speak to legal firms, solicitors or practice managers, when they tell me the web is not for them! Or that they have already invested in the Web, and they are now waiting for the returns to come flooding in before spending another penny. Personally I think a reality check is needed!
Times are changing! The world is a different place to how things were back in the 70’s. Surely this is obvious to everyone! After all people don’t wear platforms anymore, a pint of beer doesn’t cost 15p, and consumers are a completely different breed as well.
In relation to Legal services, consumers are now putting in a lot more time and effort in choosing which solicitors to engage with to best suit their needs, rather than simply turning to the closest available local solicitor. So, how do we research what companies to do business with, or which firm may have the best specialist experience in a particular field?
All together now.... ‘The Web!!!”
I’m sure everyone has had their fingers burnt at some time, by agreeing to buy a product or a service that’s not quite turned out to be what was expected! I’ve purchased an apartment in Bulgaria, so believe me, I know! So I do have some sympathy for firms where this has happened.
But for a legal firm to dig their heels in and refuse to join in the digital revolution is plain foolish. Just because a company they may have previously chosen to do business with in terms of Web design, or online marketing - has not lived up to expectations! This is no reason to dismiss what the web could be offering, with a proper online strategy! Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face!
Recent studies show that 75% of all ‘Legal services’ consumers used online Resources at some point in making their choice of who to do business with.
What’s the point in a firm in hoping they’ll get a good share of the other 25%. When they could be actively expanding their access to work and getting stuck in to the full 100%!
The effects of the ‘Legal Services Act, are still yet to be felt properly by the industry. Although the warning signs are there for all to see, regarding what effect ABS’s will eventually have. Let’s remember, that the Legal services Act is a response to the growing pressure from consumers following: increasing complaints to the SRA and the desire for greater value for money from the public!
ABS’s will eventually transform the legal services landscape in this country! The Co-op has developed a £25 million turnover from their legal services division in only 5 years (and through a recession), just this week they have also announced they to intend to expand the number of personnel within their legal services arm by over 500%.
I firmly believe many big, recognisable brands will eventually look closely at the legal services market as a great opportunity, ripe for the picking! Remember these will be companies that already understand what ‘good customer service’ looks like, and importantly how to market themselves and how to raise the profile of their brands.
“ABS’s are going to kill-off the commodity firms at the bottom of the (solicitors) food chain. I don’t think they have an inkling of what’s going to happen to them”
Sir Nigel Knowles, DLA Piper (Law society Gazette, 16th June 2011)
Now, I don’t believe its all doom and gloom, there’s some great examples out there of progressive legal firms looking to push on and build their businesses by grabbing the online opportunity firmly between both hands, or through diversification! I know because I personally work with some.
Some firms are looking to rise to the challenge either through developing their identity / service model through mergers, JV’s, or through forming strategic partnerships; evolving in to MDP’s like those promoted via networks such as http://www.sifa.co.uk (where financial services and legal services are offered hand in hand)
There’s a great chance for firms to calve out market share; either nationally in relation to niche services or geographically based on their brand exposure, and Law firms will always remain the true “Legal experts” in the minds of many consumers. I’m sure some of the times where legal support is needed throughout our lives, that many consumers will feel compelled to ensure they are speaking directly to an ‘expert solicitor” rather than some teenage telephone handler. However there will also be certain legal areas, where the threat faced by traditional firms will be that much greater.
If Rightmove started offering residential conveyancing services, would anyone really expect this not to take a huge chunk of the market?
As time goes by the impact of the Legal services act will begin to become more apparent. Legal firms will need to carefully consider how their “access to work” may be affected, and the steps needed to ensure they can sustain themselves over the coming years in line with changes in consumer attitude and the market itself.
The way Legal services are offered will become more in tune with consumer needs in the 21st century. It was not that long ago when 24 hour shopping did not exist, this is now the norm with all the major supermarket chains – Why? Because the market demanded this change! At present many legal firms would not dream of opening their offices at the weekend still, but If I can walk in to WH Smith and get legal advice on a range of issues will legal firms be forced to consider the customer’s needs in the same way???
Considering all of these possibilities should be high on the agenda for all legal firms not wanting to get left behind. Building a brand / an identity that means something to the consumer or a community is more achievable than ever before, even for very small firms.
Online channels offer great potential for firms to invest in protecting their market share and indeed to grow both their revenues and their brand. The internet can help firms connect with consumers, and communicate what they can expect when dealing with a brand, synonymous with “legal expertise”.
Buying in to this belief can play a significant role in helping legal firms to come to terms with the changes afoot and to carv out their own piece of the future market.