Repeat clients are main source of solicitors’ work, says major survey

Online marketing: still a small work generator for most firms

The importance of law firms marketing to their existing client base has come through strongly from major new Law Society research that shows repeat clients are by far solicitors’ biggest source of work.

The 2012 Survey of Solicitors’ Firms found that 57% of firms generated at least half of their work from repeat clients, compared to just 22% who got the majority of their work from referrals and recommendations.

The web is still only delivering a relatively small number of new clients – nearly half of firms polled found less than 10% of them that way. Firms were more likely to source new clients in other ways, such as telephone enquiries and people walking in off the street.

The survey found that nearly two-thirds of firms engaged in media advertising, with the Internet (54%) and local newspapers (30%) being most common. Firms with a lower proportion of repeat clients made more use of advertising channels.

It also reported that 78% of firms drew at least half of their clients from their own region, adding: “Just 7% of firms reported that 20% or more of their clients were based in another jurisdiction, potentially limiting the demand for non face-to-face delivery of legal services.”

The survey – commissioned from independent market research agency TNS-BMRB by the Law Society in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice and Legal Services Board (LSB) – is part of a longer-term project to assess the effects on firms of the regulatory, economic and legal aid changes occurring in the legal sector.

These early findings were revealed yesterday in the final version of the LSB’s baseline report on the market impact of the Legal Services Act 2007, which has been updated since the interim study published in April following comments and the availability of new data. The full survey, which will include details of how many firms were surveyed, should be released by the end of the year. It is likely to be a substantial number.

The survey revealed that turnover over the last three years had remained the same for 27% of respondents, increased for 32% and decreased for 42%. For firms reporting more than a 10% increase in turnover, just over half had invested in new technology (54%) and increased the number of permanent fee-earning staff (51%) – although 10% said they had reduced the number of fee-earners. Four in ten of these firms had increased fee levels, a third had changed the breadth of their practice, and a quarter had changed their method of charging. Just 7% had merged.

The survey also found that while 87% of firms outsourced one or more activities – particularly IT support (44%) and accounts and finance (35%) – only 13% made use of legal process outsourcing.

It also revealed that 21% of respondents reported problems with finance, such as availability of finance and obtaining investment.



    Readers Comments

  • While this contradicts yesterday’s report of business and commercial law firms pulling in clients via online legal marketing, I understand the differences in the target client market.

    I wonder, however, how instrumental social media, an engaging legal website and/or effective email marketing were to retaining these clients. In my experience, clients are MUCH more likely return if they are engaged with online. Of course, there is no substitute for a professional service but legal marketing can make the difference, there is no doubt.

  • Alan Dring says:

    The findings do not surprise me at all and are indeed a little more encouraging than my experiences have led me to believe over the last 5 years. Repeat and referral business has to be the foundation for any growth model and the legal fraternity as a whole are very poor at generating bottom line growth from this base, CRM systems do not deliver and if they can the majority of practices lack the commercial accumen to turn the data into opportunities. Selling remains a freightening element for most and the lack of a structured robust action plan will inevitable see a further growth in the quarterly numbers of firms ceasing to practice, The full findings of the survey to be published at the end of the year will I hope provoke more in the sector to review their approach to growth and try and get back to the times when they knew a great deal more about their clients. These days most practice’s extent of their client knowledge goes no further than, a name, a post code…and perhaps an email address. Time for many to wake up and smell the coffee and be proactive in ensuring they have the right resouce to GROW. That resouce is likely to involve an investment in expertise not currently available in the practice or, if it is, it is stretched and will struggle to deliver. Alan Dring The Mad Approach

  • The firms interviewed in this survey must be those who undertake very little or no marketing (and who will struggle in this new competitive market).

    Most firms that I know and work with receive a lot more than 10% of their new leads from the internet. This is because they use a proactive approach, add regular and informative content to attract free traffic and also use Google Adwords.

    There is plenty of work out their for those who actively go looking for it.

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