This article first appeared in Solicitors Journal but without my title and ending
Small law firms are doomed. And it’s not much rosier for medium size law firms either!
No need for 20-20 hindsight by 2020 small law firms will be toast. End of!
How do I know? - As Freddie and the Dreamers sang – “Everybody Tells Me So”.
And not just Richard Susskind telling me so.
Legal Services as a Cottage Industry
Let’s take Susskind’s view that “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"
The Internet, that nasty gobbler-up of all things High Street, will do for us small law firms.
Most people will, as Susskind predicts, 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 to play (small law firms included) but the big boys (Google et al) get to choose whom you get to meet.
The Internet: A great Opportunity for Small Law Firms
New tools previously unavailable make the Internet the new frontier for keeping and attracting clients.
Social Media 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.
“Meet the New Boss Same As The Old Boss”
Small law firms exist and continue to exist because of the people, their clients, they serve.
Law firms should embrace the tools that the internet gives 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, 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.
Banish Thoughts of Commoditisation
Commoditisation is a race to the bottom.
Provide your clients with a better understanding of how the law affects their lives at particular moments. How they can have successful outcomes.
Provide great content in an easily understood and jargon free way.
You need to set your law firm apart.
So Are Small Law Firms Doomed?
Success like failure is purely optional.
The internet is a true meritocracy, where great content will attract a new audience for law firms.
By utilising the internet your great content can flourish and innovation and differentiation can reach a wider audience. Innovative legal services will be quicker to market.
Social Media will enable stronger relationships to be forged with existing clients and lure new clients to your law firm
But, and it is a big but, the time to act for law firms is now, heed Susskind’s exhortations to have a long hard look at your law firm.
But as for me, beam me back on board, Scottie!