Going it alone in the new legal world “is simply a drawn-out closing down”, a leading law firm consultant has warned – while another has told law firms not to overlook “the power of the solicitor brand” when rushing to align themselves with national brands.
In a report for Evident Legal, which is behind the new franchise Simplify the Law, Chris Bull of Edge International said the key question firms should ask themselves is with whom they will collaborate to meet the challenges of the new market – such as “peer firms, larger/smaller firms, legal process outsourcers, investors [and] other professions/services”.
Mr Bull – a former chief executive of regional law firm Osborne Clarke and a retained adviser to Evident – wrote: “My conclusion… is that the answer cannot be ‘nobody’. The extent, nature and result of collaborations and combinations in the new legal market will be decisive. Going it alone is simply a drawn-out closing down.”
He added that he was heartened by the fact that so much of the innovation already being seen in the market is being driven by lawyers. “The picture is not of a sector suddenly at the mercy of external investors and predatory corporates, too slow to change, but one generating genuinely new models for itself.”
Meanwhile, Viv Williams, chief executive of the 360 Legal Group, argued that “what is being missed by many law firms in the rush to align themselves with nationwide brands is that the brand ‘solicitor’, which the public associate with quality, is an immensely strong proposition”.
Speaking at the group’s recent conference – which explored how law firms can get a slice of the action in a market which is seeing the big brands setting out their legal stalls – Mr Williams said: “There will always be a place in the community for quality law firms. However the power of the solicitor brand is being overlooked by law firms rushing to buy into new brands being brought to market instead of strengthening their own offering.
“Identifying their market, analysing, understanding and communicating with their clients, and underlining the difference between cheap legal advice and the guarantee of quality and service that comes from a local solicitor is the starting point.
“Maintaining independence, restructuring and proactively taking services out to clients and customers are all tools in the armoury and law firms need to start using these tools now to ensure their offer is right in preparation for the changes ahead.”
But Mr Williams said law firms “must make decisions now on how to move forward”. This message, he said, is still being missed or ignored by some 70% of the market, “with many law firms still in denial or demanding to know why they have to change”.