Talking to Scotsmen and Scotswomen about money

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10 July 2014

By Richard Burcher, Chairman of Burcher Jennings

I’m a New Zealander, so please excuse me if I misunderstand the stereotypes. But I’m led to believe that certain Scots have a reputation for being careful with money. What I find surprising is that this might be considered a matter for embarrassment. Certainly every law firm manager, wherever their firm practices, should have their eyes firmly on the twin issues of pricing and costs.

In April this year, Burcher Jennings was created, bringing together unparalleled expertise in pricing strategy and costs management. I’m pleased to say that being between consenting adults, this marriage did not require the help of any Gretna Green blacksmith.

Nevertheless, flying in the face of three centuries of peaceful Union, in the last few weeks Burcher Jennings has led cross-border incursions. I spoke at a Law Society of Scotland big firms conference on current trends, challenges and opportunities in pricing legal services. I also presented a CPD session north of the border, attended by a broad range of Scottish firms. And alongside other Burcher Jennings colleagues I have been working closely with two significant Edinburgh and Glasgow firms to help them devise pricing strategies and manage costs.

The jurisdiction of Scottish law remains firmly independent from its English and Welsh neighbours, along with a different appetite for liberalisation of regulatory and ownership structures. However, clients’ expectations are moving in the same direction in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee as they are in London, Cardiff and Manchester.   Contrary to the assumptions of many, credible research suggests that business clients aren’t necessarily looking for the legal services at the cheapest price.

What GCs are looking for is predictability, transparency and value – in other words they desire an honest partnership with those providing professional legal advice and support. The success of such brands as Waitrose and BMW suggests that many consumers also are prepared to pay for quality and service, even in austere times, though increasing promiscuity of the online generation sees those same consumers buying essentials in Lidl and a parking a Dacia alongside the BMW in the drive.

Whatever the outcome of the September 14 vote, it’s clear that the most successful law firms on both sides of the border will be those who adopt effective pricing strategies and manage costs efficiently.  Getting price and costs right is the key to winning and retaining clients, building income and increasing profitability.

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