The Lexpo ’17 innovation event offered plenty of food for thought. The change in the legal industry is inevitable, and in order to succeed in the highly competitive market, law firms have to find new responses.
Client is the king
Jordan Furlong highlighted the fact that law is today a buyer’s market. Digitalization has made buyers of legal services more knowledgeable and demanding. They require better service and cheaper prices looking also for alternatives for traditional legal services. Internet offers them information, discussion forums and even opportunities to handle things as self-service.
As a result, law firms are under pressure. They operate in a low-growth market, competing also with new players offering non-traditional service and pricing models. The more independently customers handle their legal issues the smaller is the share of their wallet left for lawyers. Their invoicing is already suffering from the use of artificial intelligence and automation in information search and document management.
To survive, Ron Friedmann recommends law firms to focus on active sales, cost-efficiency and development of their service offering. These should be complemented by systematic brand building.
Develop a sales model
Traditionally, law firms have had more customers than they can take, with existing cases leading to new ones. In this new situation, they have to get active in marketing and sales, too. They need a sales process that converts prospects to customers and suits their organizational culture. They also have to identify opportunities for additional sales to existing customers.
Finding suitable tools to support marketing and sales activities is another challenge. To support systematic sales, law firms should apply a proper CRM system. However, motivating busy lawyers to use new applications is hard. It is much easier to implement tools that help automating marketing activities and collect information about prospect reactions. Thus, a company can track how prospects develop, and get active in sales only when the timing seems to be right.
Maintaining competitive pricing requires focus on cost-efficiency. Therefore, AI, automation and innovations were strongly present at Lexpo. Richard Tromans called AI the best thing that has ever happened in the legal industry. By automating laborious and boring duties, lawyers’ time is released for more meaningful and productive tasks. Besides, AI can offer significant cost savings without affecting the end result.
Good management of the entire legal case process is naturally crucial when looking for efficiency. Former legal cases provide a good basis for evaluating duration and costs of new cases. To support an efficient legal case management there are plenty of alternative methods available. For example, the scrum framework, generally used in software development, could ensure smooth progress of cases through smart phasing, close collaboration of the team and daily checkpoints.
Focus on developing services
In order to succeed in developing the service offering it is crucial to understand what law firm clients really want. Furlong claims that many law firms still have false assumptions on their customers’ needs.
Measuring customer satisfaction is important as well; companies should understand how their customers feel about actual results vs. promises given. Lisa Hart Stepherd told about a legal industry survey carried out annually over the last decade. It proves that there is still place for improvement. 75 percent of the law firms responding to the survey told that they collected customer feedback. However, only 16% of their customers felt they had been offered an opportunity to provide feedback.
Naturally, collecting feedback is not enough. Law firms also need to be ready to react on it. Issues should be addressed before a dissatisfied customer is lost forever or disappointment shared publicly. In any case, feedback enables deepening customer understanding, strengthening relationships and developing services according to customers’ emerging needs.
Build a Successful Brand
David Wilkins reminded that in spite of digitalization, customers needing legal support still want to deal with humans, not machines. Most attractive law firms are well known and have a professional and reliable brand. Typically, they employ a number of top lawyers who, respectively, have been successful in building their personal brand.
Kevin O’Keefe reminded that the world has completely changed since the time when knowledge of good experts was spreading slowly from client to client. Nowadays many law firms and lawyers build their brand and credibility systematically through social media. Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook offer cost-efficient platforms to share e.g. links to interesting industry-related articles. There is also an increasing number of law firms sharing their own content in blogs.
The legal industry is thus changing faster than ever. One does not have to be a psychic to guess that in this competition those law firms who succeed in their sales activities, cost hunting and service development will rank high. And those who simultaneously strengthen their brands by communicating successfully about these changes.
CSI Helsinki, Managing Director, Partner
Fills his calendar with finances and reporting. Focuses on time management and encourages others to do the same. Ensures that the business develops in the right direction but strongly believes in self-management. And after years in the business, still gets excited about new software development projects.