Hardly a day goes by without the latest piece of news forecasting the demise of the profession. Well, may be it’s not quite that cataclysmic, but there isn’t a whole bunch of good news out there.
But, in a sense, this is also symptomatic of the legal profession and, indeed, the way a lot of businesses are run – they are reactive to the things around them.
Look at Nokia, once a model of innovation, now effectively admitting that the development of their operating system has failed before it even got going, and having to get into bed with Microsoft to inject life into the brand.
Up to now firms have been able to rely upon the lack of competition as a reason not to innovate or change their business model. But with the opening up of the market and the technological changes that are taking place, it won’t be long before even the most loyal clients will start to wonder if they are getting best value or the process can’t be improved. You only have to look at the way our shopping habits have changed over the last 30 years to realise that clients will almost always look to buy on price or efficiency, even though it is debatable whether they have got best value. Of course, we all like to talk about the “customer experience” but the reality is that most clients will not pay for it.
Let’s face it if you were starting up a legal practice right now would you select the same people, business model and pricing options? No, then why are you allowing your firm to operate in this way without considering radical change?
In reality the only way that firms can control the future is by inventing it. But how many, right now, are looking at their clients in a different way and looking to provide a service that is so remarkable so as to nullify or ameliorate the likelihood of their market being stolen by a competitor?
Next time you have a meeting, try to put yourself in the position of the client and ask the question:
How can we ensure that the client is so WOWed by the experience that they tell all their friends, relatives and acquaintances?
Customer satisfaction means just that: providing more in value than you take in payment. That doesn’t mean offering a cheap service. It means offering a service that is uncompromising and where firms do not live up to their clients’ expectations they stand for something whatever that means.
More time needs to be spent working on the edges, the parts of the firm that differentiate you from the competition. What is the fastest service you can provide? What is the most expensive service you can provide? What is the most accessible form of service?
This is not thinking outside of the box. No, it is a question of working at the very limits of your firm’s current capability.
This time round, the timetable of change ushered in by The Legal Services Act, outsourcing and different business models is sure to catch a lot of firms off guard. There will be many partners right now who have decided to adopt a wait and see approach on the basis that they can reengineer something later on. But when the provider has deeper pockets and more sophisticated systems that will be very difficult. They will innovate at a far quicker rate than most firms can live with.
Your strategy right now should be focused on seeing the future – but the future for your firm and from a client-centric perspective. Don’t let others dictate what you do. You must control your destiny. It will be those firms that are able to drive through the fastest change that are likely to stay the course and see the biggest wins. For the rest they may just find that by the time they have worked out what is going on it is too late to make the changes sufficient to keep the practice alive.