Challenging the speed of change

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A challenge has been laid down for solicitors firms. Ajaz Ahmed, co-founder of the award-winning Legal365, outlined what he believes firms need to do to compete in the changing legal services market. Speaking at the recent LawTech Camp London he urged: 'Reduce complexity; don’t sell law - sell solutions to customers’ actual problems; make your prices affordable; teach everyone in your company to talk in a language that your customers will understand; be totally transparent; and make loyalty dramatically easier than disloyalty.'

This is also the approach being taken by any business with serious intent to enter or stay in the legal services market. While most of the points are already well known and discussed widely in solicitors firms, the last point of loyalty is the most challenging. How can you make a loyalty to your firm stick in the minds of your clients? This is about influencing the actions of potential clients so that they contact your firm first. If they do, then your firm has the ability to make the most of the engagement.

The recent Legal Services Board Consumer panel YouGov research reports that the clients are still on your side. It continues to show that people usually stick with the first ‘lawyer’ that they go to for advice (few shop around). When Mr Ahmed states that it’s 'still all to play for' in the market, this evidence would indicate that Legal365 have to do most of the ‘playing’ to tempt clients away. However, his final point is again the most challenging.

For your firm to compete in any future legal service market sector, you will need to demonstrate the value of the services you offer in terms that your potential client understands. Loyalty will only go as far as paying the next bill for the client. If they see a comparable service they feel they can trust to deliver a similar solution then Mr Ahmed wins. That’s not to say that Legal365 or other new services will get the matter, but your firm has lost the loyalty.

In a previous article, Pinch Point, I outlined one element that’s needed in most firms. Alongside that is the need for constant meaningful communications with those client types your firm wants to have in the future. Tell past clients why they should call you first if they have any need for advice. If you are not regularly telling them why they should call you an increasing number of other businesses will be.

What is now more important to the challenge for solicitors is the speed of change in the market. Most change is unnoticed by hard-working solicitors because they’re not in the target market so don’t see the advertising and promotions aimed at their clients. Most firms are thinking about and some are making the changes necessary to compete in the changing market. However their pace of change is a ‘solicitors' pace of change’ and we are now not in that closed market. Others are driving the pace of change and many firms will be left behind, even those with radical plans and the finance to push forward.

Solicitors are not moving quickly enough to secure their future clients, leaving the clients to try out new legal services - not necessarily because they want to but because it "looks like a good deal", it’s easy for clients to contact rivals and for them to get a solution to their current problem. And because their solicitor didn’t tell the clients why they should call them first.

Alastair Moyes is a director at Marketlaw and co-author of Marketing Legal Services, the current marketing handbook from Law Society Publishing

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