Posted by Jo Hodges, sales and marketing director at Legal Futures Associate Redbrick Solutions
According to recent consumer-facing research, reputation and trust are the most important factors when it comes to choosing a law firm.
The results are from the largest independently conducted experience research project in the legal sector, involving almost 70,000 satisfaction surveys and 5,000 experience reviews. The research was undertaken by LawNet, the collaborative non-profit network for independent law firms, as part of its ISO 9001 audited Excellence Mark.
The research responses showed that just 4% of new business is won on price, with two-thirds gained through trust and reputation. This trust and reputation group breaks down into 30% of new business coming from existing clients, 19% by recommendation and 17% because of the people or character of the firm.
In relation to cost, it was more important to clients to understand how the charging structure worked rather than the final quoted price. In addition, clients wanted to have knowledge of the benefits of using a firm and to be kept updated as work progressed.
Trust and reputation has never been more important, as more than £364m was lost by UK victims to cyber fraud by the end of 2018 according to Action Fraud. The legal sector has been heavily targeted in recent years by cyber-criminals, with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) estimating that £11m has been lost to cyber-crime.
In order to regulate the digital safety of law firms, the SRA’s new Standards and Regulations, rolled out today, place a greater emphasis on cyber-compliance for every firm’s compliance officer for legal practice’s role.
The Conveyancing Quality Scheme also reflected the increasing cyber-threat by amending its core practice management standards. Members should ensure that their firm embraces cyber-security accreditations, like the government-backed Cyber Essentials.
Cyber-security is just one way that law firms can help build trust with their clients, creating improved consumer confidence and reduced conveyancing fraud and thus protection from potential reputational damage.
Trust and security are undoubtedly important when choosing a law firm and this is increasingly so in a changing market. Figures from Search Acumen show that in the last seven years, 700 firms that were providing conveyancing services no longer do so – whether due to “mergers, acquisitions, periods of dormancy or exiting the market altogether” – and has led to the lowest number of active firms in the market since it began compiling the statistics in 2011.
But while on average 100 conveyancing providers drop out of the market each year, the number of property transactions has only slightly fallen in the last 12 months. Therefore, there are fewer firms handling the same number of matters; in fact, the largest 1,000 conveyancing firms (by work volume) handle almost 75% of matters, putting increasing pressure on smaller firms.
Law firms that have invested heavily in new systems designed to streamline the conveyancing process, whilst also improving the way they communicate with clients, are reporting increases in the volume of work they receive. By streamlining the process as much as possible, they naturally have more capacity to take on work without increasing overheads; as their reputation for providing a good service spreads, more consumers and estate agents will recommend them.
The latest case management software, such as Redbrick Solutions Case Management, does much to control, automate and drive efficiency into the conveyancing process, from producing quotes, completing ID checks and making Land Registry submissions, to ordering searches, producing completion statements and enabling electronic signatures.
Some clients will always seek low cost over individual attention, but firms that have embraced the benefits of digital technology can emphasise security, individual communication and service available to their clients.
There are many consumers who value these qualities and still require a personal service with transparency and reliability. Customers want honesty, transparency, service, thoroughness and robust communication from their law firm. It is this value proposition that must be emphasised over cost to win and retain business.