Law firms have been getting a lot of attention in recent weeks. Whether it is about the level of service they provide to their clients, the number of complaints they receive or a lack of transparency in pricing. This has also been accompanied by news that deregulation of the legal services market in the UK has now come into force with the introduction of Alternative Business Structures (ABSs), which mean that any business can offer legal services, providing it’s granted a license by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and employs at least one qualified lawyer.
The following are some of the articles that I saw that talk about many of these changes (I’m sure there are others):
- The Law Society Gazette on 6th March published Treat clients as customers or you’re doomed, says Ombudsman warning the legal industry that changes are afoot and that resistance to change amongst many in the legal profession is futile.
- The Guardian wrote on Jan 6th ABS big bang? Yes, but legal market is already changing and followed this up with Lawyers beware: your clients are rebelling on Tuesday 6th March. Both articles (and the previous Law Society Gazette one) are interesting and contain some fiery and detailed debate (with some mud slinging) in the comments sections. Worth checking out for a few laughs and for evidence that dinosaurs do still exist.
- Meanwhile, The Institute of Customer Service wrote on March 20th in 5 ways legal services providers can retain and grow their customer base, which reflected on some of the changes and offered some useful and straightforward suggestions as to how law firms can become more client centric and provide better service.
In many of the articles that I read there was is some interesting debate about the difference between a client and a customer (click on the blue links to see the difference according to the Oxford English Dictionary). Apparently, law firms don’t have customers they have clients and the nature of the client-lawyer relationship is such that the client cannot be king unlike many other businesses where the customer is king. It is my understanding that this is based on the asymmetry of understanding of the particularities, details and nuances of the law.
That may or may not be true. However, whatever the nature of the relationships that law firms have with the people or organisations that they do business with, one thing is clear: the market within which they operate is changing. Therefore, they will have to change if they are to survive and prosper.
“A staggering 45% would actively not engage the law firm or provider and would tell others not to engage them as well”
“72% of legal advisors scored zero or demonstrated little ability to empathise, build rapport or deal with objections sensitively”
In this world that we live in where we, as people or businesses, have a voice and huge amount of choice….
- a failure to respond to requests for transparency in pricing;
- a failure to build rapport with the people that you are dealing with; and
- a failure to respond to market changes
is not acceptable and not a winning strategy for greater client spend, retention, loyalty, number of recommendations and future business growth.
Let me be clear. I believe we do need experts, experts in the law and great lawyers but we also need more modern legal firms, ones that are responsive to the needs of their clients, ones that deliver a better experience and are more responsive to changes in the market whether they like them or not.
Which law firms do you know that are embracing the changes and delivering a better, human and more responsive client experience?