Posted by Steve Rowley, business development manager at Legal Futures Associate Allianz Legal Protection
I read with interest a recent report by Citizens Advice on litigants in person (LiPs) that said the “distrust of lawyers is exacerbated by stories in the media about ‘fat-cat’ lawyers who overcharge and underdeliver”. And it led me to think – where does this image come from? I can only think the public’s perception of law firms is somewhat confused having watched too many Americanised legal dramas, such as Suits, The Good Wife and, if you’re of a certain age, LA Law.
I can’t recall the phrase ‘fat cat’ being directed at other professionals such as doctors, surgeons, architects or accountants; so what is it about lawyers?
For my part, the many solicitors I meet with and to whom Allianz Legal Protection (ALP) provides after-the-event insurance, are, more often than not, pleasant, professional and always wanting to do the right thing for their clients.
However, for those individuals who have taken on the court system as LiPs, their experience appears to have been less than pleasurable.
The report suggests that 70% of people would have concerns about taking a case to court by themselves (if they couldn’t afford a lawyer) and 90% find being a LiP a negative experience.
There are lots of positive results shown in the report, however, which recognise and support the valuable work and expertise that having a ‘fat cat’ on your side can provide.
So what can be done to change this stereotype of the legal profession?
The insurance sector itself has not been immune from image problems. At ALP we’re very aware of the importance of how a brand instils consumer confidence. This is evident in the way we design our products and in what we deliver for our solicitor partners. We recognise that our service and products reflect not only on our own brand but also that of the solicitor recommending us to their clients.
To maintain our trusted status, we’ve embedded the importance of certain values into the business. To remove the ‘fat cat’ stereotype, law firms could also possibly look to these points:
Tone of voice – how you communicate is a large part of any business and is what makes successful firms stand out from the crowd. Tone of voice is about how you sound in customer communications and, if done well, demonstrates that you’re a firm which is easy to do business with and understands the needs of the customer.
We are all experts in our respective industries, but remembering who we’re dealing with and using appropriate tone of voice will ensure customer expectations are managed and exceeded.
Client feedback – analysing and understanding feedback is probably the best way to attain actionable insights. This data can then be used to improve business performance. At ALP we use Net Promoter Scoring as the foundation of a measurement framework that is tightly tied to the customer journey.
Value – the perception a customer gets from a service can go beyond a financial measure. Price will always be an important factor, so how can additional value be delivered beyond price, especially in a sector where there are no tangible goods to speak of?
For us, it’s about partnership and trust; a mutual understanding of risk management which ensures we’re there for the firm, and their clients, throughout the entire claims journey.
Some of the best and most successful law firms we work with have proven best practice embedded throughout their firm. They do the simple things exceptionally well, such as ongoing and timely client contact to make sure that the client doesn’t feel abandoned, even if nothing of significance has happened since their last contact.
I truly believe that the ‘fat cat’ is a myth, and the perception that lawyers are not great at providing a valued service can be challenged. The most successful law firms are able to create the reality of value not only through what they do but how they do it.