An expanding market, increased competition and the licencing of the first alternative business structures (ABSs), are leaving high street and traditional firms feeling they are facing a ‘David and Goliath’ scenario – so they need to choose their weapons carefully to outmanoeuvre their competition.
This was the message to more than 120 delegates at the ‘New Dawn – Succeeding as an independent law firm’ conference, held by Legal Futures Associate 360 Legal Group and Words4Business last week.
Sir John Madejski, successful businessman, multi-millionaire and chairman of Reading Football Club, added his voice to the discussion, making a surprise appearance and reminding law firms that “the more you tell, the more you sell”.
In a period when new challenges – from demographic and economic pressures to ABSs and outsourced operations – are bearing down on law firms, many still have no goals, strategy or vision to see them through and are continuing to work in, rather than on their business, according to conference speakers, with partners commonly blaming internal resistance and pressures of time for always doing what they’ve always done.
But the conference was urged that rather than being “paralysed by fear” over whether their law firm would still be around or able to compete, solicitors should look into all the potential weapons in their armoury, including restructuring the business for profit, working to objectives, introducing client service ‘magic’ to reverse the steady decline in customer satisfaction, maximising staff potential, accountability, using process and technology and tapping into the affordability of the Cloud, good marketing, communication and using the web to build influence and business.
“No one is saying high street or traditional firms are dead – in fact we believe there are huge opportunities for independent law firms to survive and prosper but the clock is ticking for law firms who insist on keeping their heads stuck firmly in the sand,” said 360 Legal Group chief executive Viv Williams.
“We are seeing niche practices emerge, a new wave of sole practitioners working from a low cost base and using online documents and, of course, ABSs entering the market. To carve a slice of the growing but changing market, law firms need to become more focused and creative in the ways they offer their products and services.
“By differentiating the firm from its competitors, taking a fresh approach to marketing and learning new skills to convert leads, packaging and bundling services and, of course, keeping the door open to private equity, independent law firms can emerge triumphant.”