How Small Law Firms Can Punch Above Their Weight in Brave New ABS World

Posted by Paul Hajek on Wed, Mar 12, 2014 @ 04:38 PM

Small law firms pack a punchLet's begin with a glimpse in to the future ABS landscape for small law firms.

Here is a sneak preview from the opening chapter of my unforthcoming book entitled "Conveyancing Firms: 24 Hours from Tulisa?"

‘Two Tick’ Tulisa, an 18 year old, highly experienced one-to-one, customer-facing conveyancing coordinator with Inter Galactic Estate Agents.com (and author of ‘How to Successfully Tick Your Way Through the Conveyancing Process and Wave Goodbye to Common Sense’) was delighted. The enthusiastic Tulisa, acting upon a hot lead from her punter procurement department, had persuaded first time buyers Mr Poor and Miss Unfortunate (not their real names) to use the conveyancing services provided by their sister company and fledgling ABS Your-Call-is-Important-To-Us.com. Tulisa had shown Mr Poor and Miss Unfortunate the light: their appointed conveyancers were the future of conveyancing.

The ‘future’, as most conveyancing solicitors already know, has been here for some years.

As a conveyancing solicitor for over 30 years, I have dealt with many challenges and threats from the loosening of advertising restrictions in the early 1980s, licensed conveyancers, through to estate agents via HIP providers and panels managers and lenders.

I am resigned to the fact that the past may have only just finished and the future is about to begin all over again.

Everybody’s at it: Even a Bloke with Lorries

The AA and SAGA have been the latest to join to the inexorable rise of big brands achieving ABS status. Even a bloke more famous for his lorries is at it.

Conveyancing competition is getting hotter and this raises important questions about the future for small conveyancing firms and competition.

Will small conveyancing firms (punch-drunk from unfair financial competition and over-bearing compliance and regulation) be relegated to mere spectators as the big conveyancing firms stand toe-to-toe trading blows with ABSs in their bid to reach the next level of critical mass?

Does this mean that the only aspiration for which small conveyancing firms can now strive will be a billing on the undercard of the main boxing match?

Can small conveyancing firms be clever and punch above their weight in the brave new ABS landscape?

The internet has changed client behaviour for good

Put yourself in the shoes or the mindset of a potential client looking to instruct a conveyancing firm.

What would you do; would you ring straight away for a quote?

I would ask around.

My experience is that, increasingly, clients now use the internet to ‘ask around’, to get information about conveyancing services in advance of contacting a law firm – even when the firm has been recommended or, perhaps more importantly, when the conveyancers have been referred.

Leave the paranoia behind

Legal services, including conveyancing, may just be next in line to the technology disruption that every business has been at risk from, as well as the risk of other companies using innovative ways of delivering old services and products. Napoleon Hill commented in his book, Think and Grow Rich: Your Key to Financial Wealth and Power, that ‘of all the ages of civilisation, this is the most favourable for the development of the imagination, because it is an age of rapid change’.1 Napoleon’s book was written in 1937.

‘Online’ will be the new high street

Smaller law firms without a viable internet strategy will find it increasingly difficult to survive and thrive.

‘Online’ will become the new ‘high street’.

Potential clients are looking for more depth and a more detailed understanding of the conveyancing process, what it entails, what to look out for, and any tips and advice before making key decisions and this can all be found online.  To put it another way, clients and potential clients want great legal content to answer their questions and allay their fears or problems.

Promotion of your great legal content is your challenge and the best method is through Social Media.

Social Media is the kindling and bellows to ignite and fan your law firm content fire

Great Legal Content Clients Crave

Clients can ask questions, they can read reviews, digest content (in the form of articles and blogs), start conversations online with people they have never met – and they want to do this when it suits them, at any time of the day or night and weekends.

Law firms who have a static brochure website ( nice graphics and photos ‘though) but no blog would do well to heed another of Napoleon Hill's golden nuggets:

Do not wait – the time will never be ‘just right’. Start where you stand, and better tools will be found along the way

Testimonials

Testimonials can help with law firm differentiation. When was the last time you made a purchase on Amazon without reading at least one review? Law firms, more than ever, need to be able to differentiate from their competitors. However, in my experience, so few law firms bother to include testimonials on their websites or in their marketing.

Google loves testimonials

Google loves testimonials as it sees it as proof positive that a particular company should be given more prominence in search results. It is not easy, as clients are not comfortable with the concept, but asking clients to put a testimonial against your law firm directly into Google would be a great way for instant proof without navigating around your law firm website. Better still, post testimonials on specific profiles around the web (for example, Google+ Local Pages (formerly Google Places) is becoming increasingly influential). Stars next to your website on Google can also add to the social proof potential clients may seek.

Castles and moats

Renowned business magnate and investor Warren Buffet has likened good businesses with ‘castles and moats’. Buffet once said: ‘I look for economic castles protected by unbreachable moats’. An ‘economic castle’ is a great business, and the ‘unbreachable moat’ is the strategy or market dynamic that heightens the barriers-to-entry and makes it difficult or ideally impossible to compete with, or gain access to, the economic castle.

In the internet age, the challenge for law firms and their websites will be how to fend off other law firms and ABSs from gaining traction in their local, regional, or national markets. If you visualise your law firm as a castle comprising your people, your law firm brand, intellectual capital, and your existing clients, your law firm moat will comprise search engine optimisation (key words and phrases strategy), social media, and internet marketing techniques.

Improve potential clients’ buying experience: Help them buy your services

Great content powers up a law firm’s online presence and attracts more potential clients. Used strategically, online content can help defend your law firm ‘castle’.

Content is too precious to be farmed out to third party suppliers.

Be indigenous.

Find the time for it as it will repay dividends in the end.

It would be useful to remember also that many enquirers are more likely to click on an entry with a photo rather than just text. The overall goal is to retain and acquire clients by attracting and educating them with great content.

Think about it. Would a potential client prefer to use a law firm which provides enough high quality content to answer all their questions? Would the fact that such helpful content was available from you, and not from other law firms, not make you the obvious safe and trustworthy choice for conveyancing?

And what about fees?

So few law firms are bold enough to put their fees out in the open for all to see

Many firms may have misguided worries that it is only other law firms who check the fees and would offer £5 less to win the client. 

Others perhaps petrified of offending their Conveyancing Panel Managers.

Is an email request really making it easy for a potential client to get what they want?

An online conveyancing calculator surely is a must? I’ve just updated our Conveyancing Calculator at Clutton Cox.

The whole idea is to start a conversation and begin a relationship.

Client experience audit

A law firm needs to audit every single step of its business processes. You should revisit every single interaction with your clients, and potential clients, and discover how to make the client experience better.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has an ‘empty chair’ at every meeting with his key staff. The ‘empty chair’ is reserved for their customer so the whole focus of their meetings can concentrate on how the experience of the customer in the empty chair can be improved.

Do as athletes do: Get the best coaches you can afford

To achieve gold and compete with the best takes commitment and hard work. Who can forget Bradley Wiggins last year and Chris Froome this year, both with the help and guidance of their performance director Dave Brailsford and his theory of incremental process improvements (of 1 per cent initially).

Luke Donald, last year’s world’s number one golfer, enlisted the help of Jonny Wilkinson's kicking coach Dave Alred to help with the dynamics of his swing. Luke Donald was the world's number 29 at the time. Ernie Els, the winner of the British Open in 2012, enlisted ‘eye doctor’, Dr Sherylle Calder, to help with the visualisation of his putting. He holed a long putt for a birdie on the 18th to effectively win the championship. It is also no coincidence that both Dave Alred and Sherylle Calder were part of the Clive Woodward's back room staff for England's victorious World Cup Rugby team in 2003.

Success is relative, so smaller firms will have different goals than being purely the ‘number one conveyancing firm in the country by volume or profit’, or whatever metric would satisfy. The important thing is that all firms can identify their goals and improve with outside coaching and technical help.

Brave New World– Same As The Old World

In spite of what still seems, to me, to be an opinion held by too many lawyers, the law is not a different business to which other rules apply.

Law is a people business.

Law firms exist because of the people – the clients they serve.

The way forward for law firms is to embrace the tools that the internet gives us, but at the same time to go back to the old fashioned values of client service which served previous generations so well.

Social media allows us to get closer to our clients, to engender the care and commitment of older generations who built their businesses on old fashioned virtues.

Social media is about humans and communication, and it takes time

Social Media allows us to get closer to our clients as our grandfathers and great grandfathers did with their businesses – on first name terms, knowing their likes and dislikes, and demonstrably showing that we care.

The butcher and the baker who knew all their customers’ backgrounds conversed in real time about what was going on in their lives and gave added value when it was most unexpected.

Law firms need to secure, as one of my own social media heroes Gary Vaynerchuk would say, the emotional equity of their clients.

Clients do not want mere lip service to a so-called ‘quality service’

Law firms, small or large, must make caring more scalable

Do not pass go: Care immensely about your clients or face failure

The cornerstones of what law firm businesses stood for in the past and what made them successful are probably more crucial in the ABS and digital age than ever before.

It is worth reiterating:

 You need to care about your clients. Build your law firm ethos, and its brand around ‘out caring’ everyone else.

If you do not care about your clients immensely, your law firm will ultimately die out sooner or later.

Reaching out and listening to clients has never been easier than now in the digital age, and the traditional means of telephone or in-person contact have never, and will never, go out of fashion or relevance.

Client acquisition and retention

Client acquisition is important, but client retention is key. Firms can often pay too much heed to client acquisition. Many law firms have been pretty useless in keeping in touch with or clients. Yet, if we keep them happy and loyal it is possible to ring fence against the marauding ABSs.

Death by silent cuts

The danger for many small firms of conveyancing solicitors is that the phone may just abruptly stop. The opportunity to give a conveyancing quote may suddenly disappear. The conveyancing buying experience may have already taken place elsewhere – at the estate agent office, the bank, the Co-op till (so they say) or, increasingly, on the internet. If small law firms fail to adapt to the new shift in buying patterns then those firms risk a slow death by silent cuts.

And the good news

The good news, however, is that, for most firms, we still remain ahead of the game for now.

Darwin supposedly once said that it is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.

The conveyancing landscape may yet be dominated by ABSs and large conveyancing factories, but the internet is a great enabler for small law firms who are able to compete on a level playing field with the bigger law firms.

Innovative legal services can be quicker to market and can be viewed by a greater audience.

The internet is a true meritocracy where great content (and blogging is a great example) will attract a new audience for law firms.

Great content designed, as marketers would say, with your specific ‘client personas’ in mind is an important means of standing out – think context as well as content.

I have always use my own experience of blogging as reasons why solicitors should blog. Blogging is a wonderful marketing tool as part of an overall content strategy and those solicitors who embrace it can catapult their law firm into previously unchartered waters: more new clients as well as retention of existing clients and unpaid for referrals direct to your law firm website.

Small law firms can still choose to adapt and fight the challenge head on from the bigger conveyancing firms and ABSs, and they have their destiny in their own hands. It is, however, too risky a strategy to just rely upon your pool of existing clients and the fickleness of estate agents and conveyancing panels.

Seconds Out

Any small conveyancing firm with the right strategy and commitment to improve and innovate need not fear the world of ABSs and Two Tick Tulisa’s employers.

Small law firms must be prepared to turn their law firms into media outlets for great legal content.

And above all else must ‘out care’ the Co-op, Saga, AA and that bloke with the lorries.

Gum Shield: Gloves:Seconds Out: Ding Ding

Bring It On

Paul Hajek

A version of this post provides a Chapter in the Solicitors Journal publication “Residential Property Practice: An Expert Guide” priced £39.95

 

Topics: content marketing for law firms, content marketing for lawyers, high street law firms, social media for law firms, small law firm survival, ABS

Fixed Fees and Clarity in Tomorrow’s Legal Services:

Posted by Paul Hajek on Mon, Oct 07, 2013 @ 02:00 PM

the law wizard tom hiskeyFixed fees and clarity in tomorrow’s legal services is a guest post by Tom Hiskey, former probate solicitor and co founder of fast-growing legal technology company The Law Wizard. The Law Wizard supplies the clever technology behind Clutton Cox's fixed price probate service.

I often run guest posts over on my Clutton Cox website ( extraordinarily it would appear whenever I am on holiday) and I am grateful to Tom for contributing this post.

Tom has a couple of predictions about the future of legal services –over to you Tom.

Prediction 1: in the next few years, all but the most complex non-contentious matters will be charged by fixed fee

No solicitor costs files by weight any more (or do they?). The way in which matters are charged is changing fast. In probate the move towards fixed fees is inexorable. It must be this way, if for no other reason that consumers prefer fixed fees above all other charging methods by some distance.

According to one recent survey, fixed fee is now the most common charging method for probate.

It should come as no surprise then that the vast majority of law firms we have spoken to already offer one fixed fee probate package, and sometimes more than one. Typically, this is a fixed fee grant extraction service, usually around £350 – £700 + VAT, with £500 + VAT perhaps most common.

At least one firm we know of is already moving towards offering all non-contentious probate work on a fixed fee.

These law firms tell us that the demand for fixed fees started around 10 years ago and, today, requests for fixed fees are commonplace. This is reflected in client satisfaction rates, with 87% of consumers satisfied with fixed fee services, compared to 73% for services charged by hourly rate (down from 79% in 2012).

This 10-year shift mirrors the rise in internet users. 6 years ago (let alone 10), there were just half the internet users in the UK there are today. In 2013, 33 million of us use the internet daily. The Web has empowered consumers, who are now, as a whole, informed, educated and expect more for less.

There are growing pains. With the above fixed fee grant extraction services, the law firm typically hands some form of questionnaire to the client, or the client simply hands a completed spreadsheet or IHT205 to the solicitor. It can be a clunky, inefficient process.

The challenge of attaching fixed fees to estate administration (as opposed to grant extraction) should not be underestimated, and the same goes for many other areas of law. It requires experience, technology, processes and analysis of metrics – things that are not yet in place for the vast majority of law firms.

Progress is also hindered by misunderstandings about fixed fees: one firm we spoke to considered a fixed percentage rate to be a fixed fee.

Prediction 2: prices and service levels will be clear, transparent and capable of comparison

Law firms may be some years away from a fixed fee panacea, but try telling that to probate providers such as Co-op Legal Services, Kings Court Trust, ITC and others. They are pushing hard towards fixed fees. These specialist probate providers also tend the lead the way (some more successfully than others) on the other side of the fixed fee coin: pricing, service levels and branding which are clear, transparent and capable of comparison.

For law firms, as with these volume providers, it is a bumpy road. One firm left me scratching my head recently when they declined to tell me what they charge for their fixed fee grant extraction service, explaining that they do not tell clients their fixed fee prices over the telephone or online. These are only revealed once a client has made an appointment and is at the office. Even Co-op is notoriously coy about its fixed fee pricing structure, with no hint of costs on its website.

This may or may not be adequate for the time being, but the market is changing. Co-op intercept clients at the funeral stage, referring probate work to their legal services team. Volume provider Kings Court Trust recently received £4m VC investment. They are not alone in targeting a greater share of the probate market.

The rise of volume providers is of greater concern for law firms than mere fixed fees, and that is true not only for probate. Nevertheless, the reality is that if law firms wish to compete, they will have to do more.

Quality Solicitors hope to do just that. Though unable at present to guarantee fixed fees, their promises, including no hidden costs and Saturday openings, point towards transparent service levels. With increasingly clear and consistent messaging and branding, plus TV ads, they recognise that consumers are increasingly shopping around (even if they still do so for legal services somewhat less than they would for other services).

This trend will continue, supported by the fact that 18-34 year-olds are now more likely to find their legal service provider online than by any other means. In terms of probate, this may not be the demographic of the typical client, but it is indicative of a permanent shift. Tomorrow’s consumers of probate services will increasingly find their providers online, comparing costs and service levels as they would for car insurance and credit cards.

Unclear pricing is at odds with this future. It is even at odds with the present. All our clients publish their fixed fee probate prices on their websites. Many other law firms publish one or more fixed fee prices.

The research, stats and results all point to one thing – consumers increasingly demand clear, fixed, up-front pricing, along with consistent, clear branding and service levels. However fantastic your law firm’s service and expertise, this will be of little comfort when the internet generation skips over your website in favour of something clearer, more transparent and more appealing.

For details of how The Law Wizard helps law firms to capture more of the DIY probate market, please visit our website, www.thelawwizard.com

Topics: high street law firms, law firm marketing, Alternative Business structures, law firm websites, Fixed Legal Fees

Law Firms: Have You Looked in Your Shop Window Lately?

Posted by Paul Hajek on Fri, Mar 01, 2013 @ 12:48 AM

Law Firm Shop WindowNo, not that shop window. Silly!


A report today from PwC and the Local Data Company shows that retail chains have drastically reduced shops over the last 12 months.

The reason:  the rise of online shopping means the retail chains do not need as many outlets and they now regards their websites as their new and most effective “shop window”.

Law Firms Are Not Immune

Consumers are increasingly using their computers and mobile devices to access the internet to research and shop.

It would be naïve to think law firms will be immune from such consumer trends.

The physical shop window of a law firm and the law firm virtual shop window are but examples of multi channel access to legal services. Retail chains are now multi channel operations.

Shabby Law Firm Websites

There are still too many law firms who either not invested in their websites and some law firms who have still to commission website for their law firm.

Leaving a website with outdated content is akin to a shabby display in the shop window.

Think about it: who would want to do business with such a law firm?

What are the Must-Haves for a Law Firm Website?

    • Design: It is easy to get too carried away with over-designing a website. Obviously, you need to create a good first impression, introduce a consistent style and avoid complicated graphics which impede speed of loading.

    • Content: Content is so important to attract potential clients to your website using good SEO practices. Ed and I despair at the lack of quality content on many law firm websites we have seen.

    • Conversion Tools Once a potential client has alighted on to a page of your law firm website you need the know-how to keep them interested and to try and start a conversation and relationship with your law firm. Can you look at your law firm website and see a sufficient call to action on every page? I doubt it

    • Testimonials  It’s so important for potential clients to see what great experiences other clients have had with your law firm. Again, the more social proof the better and testimonials are a great way to achieve that goal

Act Now

Don’t allow your law firm to be just a building with a shop window.

You need to spring clean your law firm website now.

You just don’t know who will be window shopping.

Just say it’s a potential client and they're itching to instruct you?

Topics: high street law firms, law firm websites, law firm website design, 7 best kept secrets of law firm websites, must-haves for law firm websites

Small Law Firms: "We're Doomed, Captain, We're All Doomed"

Posted by Paul Hajek on Thu, Jan 24, 2013 @ 04:55 AM

Private Frazer resized 600

In case, you haven’t heard, small law firms will be “toast” by 2020: “are no more, ceased to be..” And it’s not much rosier for medium size law firms either!

My characterisation's based on Professor Susskind's predictions in his new book “Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future”.

It is decreed that unless small firms offer a genuinely specialised or personal service that the legal services market is prepared to pay, small law firms do not have much future past 2020.

Why are Small Law Firms Doomed?

In Susskind’s opinion legal services are primarily a cottage industry, so disparate, you wouldn't believe: "we should dispose of what is largely a cottage industry, in order to satisfy clients' needs, and reinvent the way that legal services are delivered"

And that nasty gobbler-up of all things High Street, the Internet, will do for us.

One mustn’t shoot the messenger for Susskind rightly provokes or should be provoking law firms to have a good hard look at themselves: repositioning or at the very least some reappraising of your law firms’ raison d’être and where your law firm is heading.

Evidence of Change in the Legal Services Market:

Susskind quotes William Gibson, the science fiction writer, to characterise the present state of the legal services - "The future has already arrived its just not evenly distributed yet."

Susskind points out that systems such as RocketLawyer (and my firm Clutton Cox is proudly one of the 20 or so Law Firms on their law firm panel) are already operational.

ABSs are coming at us thick and slow at the moment. Doubtless, many more ABSs are in the departure lounge waiting for take-off.

Is There an Antidote to Susskind for Small Law Firms?

Most people will, in Susskind’s view, turn to online legal services for basic guidance on procedural and substantive issues of law.

But here is the thing: the Internet is itself actually cottage industry writ large.

Everyone is invited (law firms included) to play but the big boys (Google et al) get to choose whom you get to meet.

Social Media for Law Firms

New tools previously unavailable make the Internet the new frontier for keeping and attracting clients.

Social Media and was too new a concept for Susskind in his first book - not even a twinkle in his disintermediative eyes.

But its affect on how law firms can engage and stay engaged with existing clients and potential clients gives opportunities for small law firms to excel and grow bigger.

New World Same As The Old World

In spite of the luddite calls of some lawyers, the law is not a different business to which other rules apply.

Law is a people business. Law firms exist because of the people, the clients, they serve.

The way forward for law firms is to embrace the tools that the internet allows us, but to go back to old fashioned values of client service which served previous generations so well.

Social media allows us to get closer to our clients; to engender the care and commitment of older generations who built their businesses on old fashioned virtues.

The butcher, the baker who knew all their  customers backgrounds, conversed in real time about what was going on in their lives and gave added value when it was most unexpected viz. why a Baker’s dozen would equal 13.

Law firms need to secure, as one of my hero’s Gary Vaynerchuk would say, the emotional equity in their clients. Clients want real not just lip service to a so called “quality service”. Social media offers an opportunity to be real.

Law firms, small or bigger, must make caring more scalable. Let’s face it with the ubiquity of social media you should be able in most cases to find out much about what makes your clients tick and dovetail your services accordingly.

The goal is to retain and acquire clients by attracting and educating them with great content and providing them with great service.

Law Firms as Educators and Legal Publishers

Part of our goal at my law firm Clutton Cox is to educate our clients in all things conveyancing, wills and probate.

We aim to provide our clients with a better understanding of how the law affects their lives at particular moments.

We provide great content in an easily understood and jargon free way.

In essence, in order to differentiate Clutton Cox for our competitors, we have turned our website in part into a legal publishing platform for the benefit of existing clients and new clients.

Social Media is Hard Work

Getting word of mouth recommendation takes no little skill, time and effort to accomplish.

What social media can now do is translate that word of mouth reputation onto an informational platform for more to see. Such social proof is a powerful magnet for attracting new clients and will be for years to come

It’s tough, it always has been tough. It’s like running a marathon but, social media allows for one to one interaction with clients and potential clients as never before.

Is There a Future for Small Law Firms?

Of course, there is.

The internet is a great enabler for small law firms who are able to compete on a level playing field with the bigger law firms.

The internet is a true meritocracy, where great content will attract a new audience for law firms.

Innovative legal services may be quicker to market and be viewed by a greater audience

Every law firm should have a blog and at least a Twitter or Facebook presence: it should be easy for you to communicate and respond to clients immediately.

Social Media will enable stronger relationships to be forged with existing clients and lure new clients to your law firm

The next big thing will be mobile: smartphones and tablets. Get your law firm strategy in place to make the most of these platforms

Don’t Panic

As Corporal Jones would have concluded to the “we’re doomed” exclamation – Don’t Panic.

But, and it is a big but, the time to act for law firms is now if you are to avoid popping out of a toaster in 2020 – or before!


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Photo: Private Frazer played by John Laurie via BBC Dads' Army

Topics: online marketing for law firms, blogging for law firms, high street law firms, internet marketing for law firms

Is Your Law Firm Caught in the Headlights of Social Media?

Posted by Paul Hajek on Thu, Nov 01, 2012 @ 05:36 AM
Headlights dazzlingSocial Media are out there!

We’re in the middle of the road surrounded by it, you can sense it but not see it; it’s whistling past your ears; it’s noisy – but what as law firms are you supposed to do with social media.

Is your law firm trapped like rabbits in the social media headlights?

Article in the Guardian

Nicola Laver in the Guardian last week published an article entitled “Lawyers struggle to take commercial advantage of social media”

In the article, Nicola asked consultants and a few biggish law firms  (regrettably no small firms were interviewed) what their experiences of social media were.

A couple of observations are worth exploring.

Big Law Firm v Small Law Firm

Size does not matter as far as social media is concerned.

Law firm, Pannone, claimed that over 30% of the firms business is generated from its website.

I would hazard a guess that is 30% of leads rather than client instructions which nevertheless is a huge step forward in client acquisition for law firms.

It is however small firms who can make greater strides in this area: Clutton Cox my law firm acquires 44% of its leads directly from our website. Our conversion rate from our special landing pages is an impressive 33%.

Social Media Icons: Really?

Law firm Thomas Eggar proudly launched their new website last month and boasted that the firm uses social media icons to encourage readers to share their content: Really?

A big black mark and stand at the back of the class for any law firms reading this who do not make their content sharable already!

Don’t be those Bunnies!

Our loyal reader will not be shocked and over the last 18 months or so wised up to opportunities social media brings to law firms.

Law firms need to take action to bring their law firms in line with what is happening in the legal services market place.

Your clients are being targeted and lured away from you with forward thinking firms who “get” social media , blogging and internet marketing. And, that’s with just a trickle of ABSs joining the party.

Dip Those Headlights

If you do not have a social media strategy the time to take action is now.

Ed and I have a Social Media Package for Law Firms who for whatever reason don’t have the time to do it themselves, but know they must take action soon.

Let us dip those headlights for you

Beep, Beep!

Topics: online marketing for law firms, inbound marketing for law firms, solicitors online success, high street law firms, social media for law firms, law firm marketing, blog

Care Immensely or Die: A Lesson for Law Firms

Posted by Paul Hajek on Thu, Sep 06, 2012 @ 04:15 AM
I popped across "the pond" last week to Boston to attend Inbound12.inbound12

Inbound12 was the self styled biggest Inbound Marketing Conference in the world organised by Hubspot – 2800 attendees there or thereabouts.

The reason for my attending was to see what small and medium sized law firms could learn from cutting edge marketers in the US.

As law firms, in England and Wales, we face huge disruption to our legal services market with the advent of Alternative Business Structures ( ABSs). Non lawyers can now own law firms and it’s probably fair to say “we ain’t see nothing yet”.

I was intrigued to learn what tools and strategies law firms may adopt not only to ensure survival but to thrive in the face of “big business” intervention into our traditional legal markets.

Law Firms: we are not alone!

And guess what? Every business is at risk of disruption by technology and companies using innovative ways of delivering old services and products.

Yet, reassuringly, the cornerstones of what our businesses stood for and made them successful are probably more crucial in the digital age than ever before.

Keynote Talk

The closing keynote talk was given by noted entrepreneur and author Gary Vaynerchuk.Gary Vee and Me

Gary is a larger than life character who is totally incapable of speaking without passion. It’s in his DNA and pervades everything he does.

And when he speaks, as we were warned, he is partial to the odd (frequent) “F-Bomb” but in a rather acceptable Billy Connolly type way.

For Gary, authenticity is crucial and that includes the way he speaks. You just can’t fail be roused and enthused. He is simply the best conference speaker I have ever witnessed and I gave him (along with pretty much everyone else) a standing ovation.

I have condensed some of Gary’s key points below.

Care Immensely or Die

This was the banner title of his keynote address: You need to care about your clients; Build your brand around “out caring “every one else.

If you do not care about your client immensely your brand will ultimately die out sooner or later.

Innovation will be critical to survival.

Client Retention

Client retention is key. Firms can pay too much heed to client acquisition.

We as law firms have been pretty useless in keeping in touch with our clients. Yet, if we keep them happy and loyal we can ring fence against the likes of the Co op and other ABSs.

Social Media

Social Media is about humans and communication. And it takes time.

Social Media has turned the world in to a village again where people can communicate and interact one to one.

Social Media allows us to get closer to our clients as our grandfathers and great grandfathers did with their businesses: first name terms; knowing their likes and dislikes and demonstrably showing we care.

Yet Social media is ridiculously hard and massively frustrating as a consequence.

To paraphrase there is no “Silver Bullet”.

There are great tools to give us data on every aspect of client interaction but it is undoubtedly hard graft.

As we are going through the biggest ever cultural shift, are we willing to do it and do we have the requisite emotional IQ to succeed?

Client Experience Audit

Gary’s closing advice was to audit every step of our business processes and discover how to make the customer/client experience better.

Gary is convinced we could shed 20% of inefficiencies.

And the Good News

Gary left us with this: If you give a “damn” (or words to that effect) about your clients and customers, you may not be surprised to know that actually caring makes you feel good!

describe the imageAs an aside, Cyndi Lauper, may have unwittingly prefaced Gary earlier in the week by singing at the Conference:

" don't be afraid to see your true colours come shining through"

So for small and medium sized law firms in the new legal landscape in England and Wales, ask yourselves this question:

Will your law firm be able to out care the Coop?

I really wish you could have been there, but if you would like a link to Gary’s hour long talk, email me paul [at] cluttoncox.co.uk. It could be the best hour you have spent “on your business” in a long while.


Topics: high street law firms, internet marketing for law firms, Alternative Business structures, blog, Inbound12

Will High Noon Hit High Street Law Firms?

Posted by Paul Hajek on Wed, Aug 01, 2012 @ 07:49 AM
High Noon for High Street Law FirmsA year or so today, The Sunday Times in it's business section, published an article, entitled “High Noon on the High Street”.



The article formed the core of one of our early posts. If anything, the position has worsened and now we are in the realms of double-dip recession.



The Sunday Times predicted that thousands of shops would close their doors that summer.



“Retailers big and small are under assault from a rapid shift to internet shopping, a slump in consumer confidence – and from some chains having too much debt and over expanded during the boom”



The pattern of shopping is changing and so are our buying habits.



The internet has become the default way to shop for millions. More and more people research and order on line from the comfort of their own home.



 The “Tesco and Chanel” model



Retail analysts are describing the phenomenon as the “Tesco and Chanel” model



There will be, they argue, at one end, Tesco selling pretty much everything at the other end the luxury high value high margin specialist retailers.



The conclusion drawn was that everything in the middle [of the High Street] was being squeezed and fighting for survival.



Parallels with High Street Law Firms



It is not difficult to draw parallels in the legal field with law firms big and small and not just on the High Street; even before we take into account the introduction of Alternative Business Structures.



In the legal sector, we will see the big brands selling transactional legal services (Co -op seem to be the front runners) and at the other or top end, the magic circle of law firms as well as niche firms advising in very narrow areas of law.



There will I feel undoubtedly also be a squeeze in the middle for transactional legal services.



Merger may well be a reasonable aspiration for firms in small towns to even out the competition.



Ensuring you have a plan to counteract the threats is a bare minimum, yet it seems that over two thirds of law  firms are seemingly content, unaware or not concerned with the looming threats.



The Role of the Internet in Law Firm Strategy:



The internet is becoming increasingly influential in all retailing, the legal services market will not be immune.



The internet can provide ease of access, growth and an alternative way to sell legal services. This will only increase in popularity.



What a law firm needs to put in place is an internet strategy and ways to offer legal services on line; at the very least make it easier to instruct your law firm on line.



The internet and internet marketing can facilitate your law firm competing on a level playing field.



Your law firm website needs to be the hub of your internet strategy.



And the good news you can start right away.



But, more importantly, there is simply no time to loose.



This was an imperative for law firms a year ago and it is even more pressing today.



If you would like to know how to kick start your law firm website and learn how your law firm website can be the starting point of your on line strategy, get Paul and Ed's report entitled “The 7 Best Kept Secrets of Law Firm Websites”



 

Topics: high street law firms, internet marketing for law firms, Alternative Business structures, high street solicitors, General, blog

Law Firms: How Strong Are Your Castles and How Deep Are Your Moats?

Posted by Paul Hajek on Wed, Jul 11, 2012 @ 04:29 AM
How srong is your law firm castleWarren Buffet likes businesses with "castles and moats".



In business, Buffet says, " I look for economic castles protected by unbreachable moats".



An "economic castle" is a great business, and the "unbreachable moat" is the strategy or market dynamic that heightens the barriers-to-entry and makes it difficult or ideally impossible to compete with, or gain access to, the economic castle. . ."



Now that got me thinking:



Law Firm Website - Castle; Internet Marketing and Social Media -Moat



"Online" the new battleground on the High Street:



I've posted before about how smaller law firms without a viable internet strategy will find it increasingly difficult to survive and thrive.



In the internet age, the challenge for law firms and their law firm websites will be how to fend off other law firms and new entrants into legal services from gaining traction in their local, regional or national markets.



If you visualise your law firm castle comprising, your people, your law firm brand, intellectual capital and your existing clients, then your law firm moat will comprise: search engine optimisation (key words and phrases strategy); social media and internet marketing techniques.



"Weapons Grade Content": The New Molten Oil



Great weapons grade content powers up a law firm's online presence and attracts more potential clients. Weapons grade content is the new molten oil pouring your law firm content all over your competitors output and the new upstarts



The search engines such as Google and Bing seek, devour and feed relevant content to eager search enquirers-potential clients in other words.



Search Engine Optimisation (SEO):



All law firms who have a website should at least of heard of, although, may have not done much about, SEO.



Any firm embarking or being serious about an internet marketing strategy will need to pay some heed to SEO. But, be careful and avoid slavish adherence to SEO. Once found on line ,if your content is bloated, uninteresting and focuses too much on keywords, it is likely to remain unread.



Google Wants To Index Your Content



The more great and relevant content that appears on your website the more readily Google will send its robots to your website to discover it.



Sure, it may be intermittent when you first start, but the more regularly you post or add content and articles, the greater the frequency of revisits will be.



My record at Clutton Cox was a blog, which was posted by me, indexed and available for search by Google within 43 minutes!



SEO Tip: Are You Solicitors of Quality?:



Yes, at the very least you should incorporate the fact that your law firm is a quality firm of solicitors in whichever suburb. village town or city you reside. Hopefully, no explanation needed on that one!



Keywords and phrases, and not just the obvious, but what are known as "long tail phrases"; clever less fought over phrases which you try and call your own - type into Google the phrase "guaranteed fixed fees with no hidden extras" and see what comes up?



Don't get hung up on the word Blog



A word of advice, don't get hung up on the word "blog".



Blog is but one part of putting content on your law firm website. It is actual content that is paramount, in whatever form that takes.



Blogging allows you to create a more relaxed style for potential clients to frame a personality for the firm. But, if you prefer to call your content articles or legal briefings, please do "knock your self out".



The golden rule is to create content which is of interest to your clients and potential clients, not to show how great your legal mind or research capabilities are.



When can I stop and admire my internet moat?



Not until ,it is the deepest and widest moat, filled with the iciest waters ,oversized sharks and piranha fish. Simple, don't stop.



If you stop you risk a breach and your preeminent position challenged.



My law firm does not have time to blog or create content



I hear it all the time. We, as a law firm, just don't have a enough time to blog or create content.



Even if you decide that lack of time and inclination prohibits you from creating your own blogs and content, there really are no excuses: Outsource your great content to some one who can do it for you.



Do you think you can really afford not to protect your law firm castle?



If you haven't already started to build your internet moat, start digging now!

Topics: internet marketing for solicitors, high street law firms, small law firm survival, Alternative Business structures, Content, paul hajek

Susskind: Is Your Law Firm an "Irrational Rejectionist?"

Posted by Paul Hajek on Thu, Jul 05, 2012 @ 04:45 AM
prof richard susskindProfessor Richard Susskind has been ruffling legal feathers again following a pretty hard hitting and vibrant talk at a future of law conference (yes another one!) last Friday.



Two of my virtual friends (although we have actually met in person) have provided their eye witness accounts and views on the conference,
Neil Rose here and Brian Inkster here.

“Irrational Rejectionists”



Caught in Susskind's crosshairs are law firms and lawyers whom he characterises, "irrational rejectionists" would dismiss how technology and the internet will alter the legal services landscape in the next few years.



As Susskind pronounced:-

"It just cannot be that the Internet is transforming all corners of society and the economy and yet it doesn't apply to lawyers"


Technology and the Internet



Professor Richard Susskind was speaking about the liberalisation of the legal services market by the Legal Services Act, the more for less challenges facing law firms and of course technology and the Internet, ahead of the publication of his new book "Tomorrow's Lawyers: an introduction to your future" in January 2013.



I explored a similar theme of changing attitudes to selecting lawyers on the internet in my post last week "Nearly 8 out of 10 Cats Prefer Lawyers on the Internet"

Wheat and Chaff



Susskind argues that the law will be reengineered and reprocessed by new entrants in to the Legal Services market.



He points out that by braking things down into their component parts, only then can we discover what part of the process actually needed lawyers.



Lawyers were, if one takes litigation as an example, only "uniquely qualified" to undertake just the two of 9 components: strategy and tactics; the rest could be outsourced -e.g. document review, research and e-discovery.

The March of Technology



Susskind is more optimistic than he may have been when he coined the phrase the "disintermediation of legal services" in his first book "The Future of Law" in 1996 which foresaw the impact of information technology on legal practice.



In the brave new legal landscape we as lawyers will need to get to grips with "Legal Knowledge Engineering", "Building On Line Content" and building online legal advisory systems.

Building Online Content



So much talk about the future, yet building online content is what a few law firms have been assiduously doing for a little while *doffs my Clutton Cox hat*.



I have been, yes frankly, banging on for a longish while that to compete against the invading hoards of ABSs building up a digital stronghold or castle is an essential , and for sole practitioners and small law firms, the paramount strategy to survive and thrive.

Back to The Future



Although, I will have to wait for publication of Professor Richard Susskind's book, as Shakespeare, so succinctly put it "time and tide waits for no man".



As solicitors and law firms, you will need to look the future but start shaping the future now - and get help if you don't think you can do it alone.



Photo: Legal Futures

Topics: high street law firms, small law firm survival, Alternative Business structures, blog, susskind, legal services act 2007

Nearly 8 Out 10 Cats Prefer Law Firms on The Internet

Posted by Paul Hajek on Tue, Jun 26, 2012 @ 06:37 AM
Another day: another survey about shifting client attitudes to the provision of legal services.



Another survey, but the overwhelming evidence is that law firms who do not devote time and energy to their websites risk being overlooked altogether.



The latest survey released by LexisNexis in the US last month found that 76% of consumers seeking a lawyer over the last twelve months used online resources at some point in the process.



The usual suspects were rolled out; advent of social media, smart phones and most importantly, search engines.



All have had and are continuing to have a dramatic effect on the way clients research and choose their lawyers.



Law Firms: The train is leaving the platform



Last summer in a post "Law Firms Slow to Grasp Internet Opportunities" we digested research here in the UK about the increased usage of the internet in finding law firms. Yet, so few firms have grasped the opportunity to use internet marketing to promote and attract clients by way of their law firm website.



This latest Lexis Nexis survey from the US surely blows out of the water the argument that a website and internet marketing have no relevance for solicitors and law firms in the UK



Law firms need to get on board the internet marketing train or risk losing out to their internet savvy competitors, both law firms and new entrants via Alternative Business Structures.



Why the Internet Makes Choosing a Solicitor So Easy



Consumers have access to more information from more resources than ever before.



Potential clients will have no need to ask law firms directly for all their answers, when everything they might need to make a choice is at their fingertips.



In today's competitive legal landscape:



Clients can ask questions; Clients can read reviews, digest content( in the form of articles and blogs) start conversations with people they've never met.



And here's the thing:



All of this will be done on the web, all on their terms and at a time day or night of their choosing.



EASY!



The Internet has Changed Client Behaviour for Good



Put your self in the shoes or mindset of a potential client looking to instruct a firm of solicitors e.g. in a conveyancing transaction.



What would you do - ring straight away for a quote? Is that what you would do if you were booking a flight or a holiday?



My experience at my law firm Clutton Cox is that potential clients now use the Internet to get information about conveyancing services in advance of contacting conveyancing law firms.



Potential clients are looking for more depth and a more detailed understanding of the conveyancing process, what it entails and they would like that information at their fingertips -right here right now.



And what do you think would be the most obvious feature a client might be looking for from a Conveyancing website? Cost.



Conveyancing Calculator



The Clutton Cox Conveyancing Calculator is a huge boon for potential clients and us!( by the way, contact me if you would like to have a Conveyancing Calculator on your law firm website)



Yet, so few law firms, are bold enough to put their fees out in the open for all to see ( misguided worries perhaps that its only other law firms who would check the fees and offer £5 less to win the client?)



Improve Potential Clients' Buying Experience



Think about it.



Would you prefer to use a law firm who provides enough high quality content to answer all your questions. In the potential clients' eye would not the fact that such helpful content were available from you but not other law firms make you the obvious safe and trustworthy choice for conveyancing?



Validation by Testimonial



Let's face it we all have dipped into Trip Advisor to justify a choice of hotel or restaurant.



It would be natural to show testimonials from existing clients to ram home your advantage, yet again so few firms have sufficient testimonials on the law firm websites.



Slow Death by Silent Cuts



At Clutton Cox we have great content, a Conveyancing Calculator and multiple testimonials.



No surprise then that a significant number of new clients see no need to go elsewhere or ring another firm of Conveyancing Solicitors - they are happy to instruct us on line!



Many traditional firms of Conveyancing Solicitors will not even get a phone call requesting a Conveyancing quote, the Conveyancing buying experience has already taken place elsewhere - on the internet!



The danger for traditional law firms is that if you fail to adapt to the new shift in buying patterns you risk a slow death by silent cuts. It is a risk to rely solely on your pool of existing clients.



Are You Sitting Uncomfortably?



Most of you may not, some will be luxuriating in a warm glow of partial accomplishment



Never mind 8 out of 10 cats: 3 out of 4 existing clients and potential clients are showing you the direction your law firm must take.



We can help your law firm step up to the plate and win business



Topics: internet marketing for solicitors, high street law firms, small law firm survival, internet marketing for law firms, General, Content