Getting your priorities right: how SME law firms can achieve long-term success

Posted by Chris Pucci, CEO at Legal Futures Associate Osprey Approach

Pucci: A digital-first culture needs a people-focused mindset

A recent report from LPM found that most (62%) senior leaders at SME law firms consider their peers – similar firms in their geography – to be the biggest commercial threat to their future success.

The report also found that the top three strategic objectives for SME firms are improving the client experience, building a more agile and digital-first culture, and becoming more data-driven in decision making.

Understanding the strategies of your competitors can help you plan and prioritise your commercial objectives – and with competition literally on your doorstep, there’s never been a better time to evaluate your practice and consider how best to implement these objectives effectively for long term success.

Improve the client experience

“It’s important to define the difference between customer service and customer experience. I like to define customer service as what you do, and customer experience is how you make people feel.” Paul Roberts, CEO at My Customer Lens

Improving the client experience is about looking at the entire client journey, from initial enquiry through to case completion, and beyond. It’s a rethink and review of every customer touchpoint throughout your organisation; from the way the phone is answered, to your hold music, reception waiting room and website home page.

In the latest Lexis Nexis Bellwether Report, 81% of SME law firms ranked attracting new business as their number one challenge, closely followed by retaining current clients (79%).

Having a client-focused mindset helps you overcome both challenges simultaneously. Enhancing all touchpoints ensures more clients are satisfied, which means an increased likelihood for five-star reviews and recommendations for your services; more potential clients will choose your firm; and existing clients have no reason to leave.

According to the LPM report, 94% of SMEs predicted they’d grow over the next 12 months. The Bellwether report showed similar predictions, further stating that firms plan to do this through acquiring new business.

Enhancing your operations with a client-focused mindset is the cheapest and easiest form of marketing.

Despite the Bellwether showing that intentions of SME firms to invest significantly more in marketing this year than previous years, firms without a marketing budget or resource can still have an impact by enhancing their client experience and improving their competitive advantage.

Investing in legal technology creates a solid and necessary foundation for growth and efficiency. Both internal practice management systems and client-facing tools help meet the needs and expectations of modern clients.

Legal tech helps to support communication and collaboration, administrative tasks and compliance requirements, and data analysis and planning.

Build a more agile and digital-first culture

A digital-first mindset underpins all of the fundamental business habits that modern law firm should adopt. It provides the agility and flexibility required to meet client needs, manage a hybrid team, and innovate for long-term success.

A digital-first culture isn’t about specific tech or products: it’s a people-focused mindset that requires effective ongoing communication.

It helps to connect your people, processes and goals to enable tangible outcomes and benefits. It enables your team to take advantage of opportunities to stay ahead of the competition. This is why thorough planning and a clear strategy is key before investing in any tech or software.

Adopting a digital-first culture is crucial for achieving the other strategic priorities, which are important for SME legal practices. It help you improve return on investment on your existing systems (ranked fourth in priorities); it’s crucial in becoming a data-driven firm (priority number three); and, of course, it aids with improving the client experience – the top priority.

With plans to increase revenue and acquire new clients, legal software makes it easier to grow and scale, streamline operations, and meet your goals. It will also ensure your marketing and sales efforts are maximised, rather than diluted, by internal inefficiencies and workload stress that can lose you money over time.

Become more data-driven in decision making

Driving your firm forward using data-driven decisions, as opposed to gut feelings, is crucial for long-term success. Whilst 34% of firms are looking to become more data-driven, it’s not currently common practice for SMEs, so provides an immediate advantage over your competitors.

There are three key reasons why SME law firms aren’t data driven:

  • They are missing the right tools, or multiple disconnected systems, to track and record data;
  • They don’t know what data they need for effective decision making; and
  • Leaders believe they have all the data they need to make decisions.

This presents an opportunity to implement a data culture at your firm and take advantage of the insights you collect, helping you continuously improve and optimise, which is beneficial for your clients, employees, and your bottom-line.

Connected digital tools are important, enabling you to collect and extract the data you need so you can create insights that turn into actions. But, ultimately, becoming data-driven is a people focused mindset – a cultural change.

Your teams need to use the tools available to them to input the data, understand the data that needs collecting, and recognise the importance of capturing quality data. Without firm-wide involvement, your data will provide bias insights that can affect your resourcing and planning.

Access to accurate real-time data is game changing and helps you to succeed in all four fundamental habits: being digital-first, thinking client-focused, continuously improving, and empowering employees. Ensure that data management is considered when you’re implementing a digital-first culture.

How modern law firms are out performing their competition

When implemented effectively, the top three priorities for SME law firms work in tandem and will put your firm on a strong footing to achieve your long-term goals, giving you a competitive edge. Effective digital tools can help to collect data – a powerful weapon that can help to improve the client service.

Ensuring all strategic, operational, and commercial decisions are supported by the right tech, data, and keeping your clients’ needs front of mind, will inevitably improve your competitive advantage and help with long-term success.

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