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

Captain’s Log:Star Date 2020“I Discern No Life Among Small Law Firms”

Posted by Paul Hajek on Fri, Feb 07, 2014 @ 03:16 PM

toastThis 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!

Why Not Keep in Touch?

Topics: online marketing for law firms, inbound marketing for law firms, internet marketing for solicitors, small law firm survival, high street solicitors

Law Firm Marketing: Circle the Wagons or Come Out All Guns Blazing

Posted by Paul Hajek on Wed, Sep 18, 2013 @ 11:58 AM

Circle the WagonsThis is a version of my first article for the Solicitors Journal which was published last week.

Life was so much simpler in Westerns: good guys wore white hats and the baddies black hats or used bows, arrows and tomahawks. The good guys usually won out.

In our new legal landscape post Alternative Business Structures (ABSs) we have new “black hat” marauders to contend with who are looking at taking our real estate in a legal services land grab.

The first shots have already been fired.

Law Firm Strategy in the New Wild West

In this new Wild West, I can characterise the available strategies for small (and not so small) law firms as follows:

"CIRCLE THE WAGONS"; carry on as before, drive down costs and drive out inefficiencies and keep fingers crossed that the Cavalry or the Lone Ranger in some form of regulatory or combined marketing venture or other will come to your rescue;

SURRENDER: wave the white flag, simply give up conveyancing, PI or legal aid and concentrate on other more contemporary or bespoke areas of the law;

FIGHT BACK; come out all guns blazing and truly set your law firm apart with great service, innovation and embrace the challenge of ABSs.

From my experience at my law firm lawyers can take up the fight using the Internet as the weapon of choice.

Why Now for the Internet and Law Firms?

The internet has been around for a while now, but many law firms in particular have been slow to recognise its benefits. The web is changing pretty much everything it touches.

Patterns of shopping are changing and so are buying habits including how clients look for and evaluate legal services. The Internet is increasingly the tool of choice for people preselecting solicitors and law firms.

Potential clients are able to judge the expertise of a law firm for themselves simply by the look and feel quality of the website content.

The power of pre selection without the need to have any interaction other than viewing a website cannot be underestimated.

Differentiating Your Law Firm

Differentiating yourselves from your competitors on the internet will allow you to grow your market share significantly.

At our law firm we’ve made our website the hub of all our marketing efforts, both on and offline. It’s a dynamic tool for attracting existing and potentially new clients alike by:

  • CREATING remarkable content

 Type “Chancel Repair Liability” into Google to see. As a result of that one post (often revised) we contacted by the BBC, Radio 5 Live and the One Show

  • OPTIMISING that content for search engines (SEO)
  • PROMOTING that content in social media, e-mail marketing and other channels

We’ve developed own law firm brand by blogging and writing articles and showing personality through social media channels such as Twitter.

Let your potential clients know who you are (and indeed your existing clients who may not be aware), where you are; what you do and hey presto, they will get to understand that you may indeed be bloody good at what you do.

Go Get Them

We received few Conveyancing instructions from a nearby town such was the blanket coverage of corporate Estate Agents.

Now as more people undertake their own research on the internet, Google obliges by pointing their enquiries to our blog posts. We as a result have regained large numbers of clients.

Will the Cavalry Save Your Law Firm?

Whatever strategy your law firm adopts, without an internet presence it will be increasingly more difficulty to compete, survive and thrive.

And for the winning law firms the internet and their internet marketing strategy may well be the cavalry coming round the mountain in the final reel

Would You Like Me To Help?

 Paul Hajek

Topics: inbound marketing for law firms, blog marketing, small law firm survival, law firm marketing, Alternative Business structures

Solicitors Get Off The Golf Course And Get On Social Media

Posted by Paul Hajek on Thu, Oct 25, 2012 @ 05:25 AM
Lawyers stay off golf courseAn interesting report and entitled “Generating Business Online” has some solid advice for law firms facing up to the new realities of the Internet and  Alternative Business Structures.

The new report by Moore Legal Technology and previewed in Legal Futures this week, argues that:  Successful[law] firms will have to move from a “passive marketing model to a more forceful one… The traditional model of opening an office and generating business through the golf club, old school contacts or clients wandering in through the door will no longer suffice

Over the 70 or so blogs Ed and I have published on Solicitors Marketing Success, our loyal reader will have noted that particular drum banging loudly and clearly here in Nearly 8 Out of 10 Cats Prefer Law Firms on the Internet and here in Small Law Firms: Online is the New High Street.

Marketing or rather Internet Marketing is set to play a crucial role in law firms’ future success.

Law Firm Internet Marketing Skills

The critical skills required for law firms competing with new ABS who are already skilled retailers will says the report be “networking, selling, social media, internet marketing, branding”

Furthermore: Law firms will have to embrace technology… As modern, dynamic firms engage more with technology and import expertise from other industry sectors, traditional law firms will have to embrace the internet for marketing purposes and automate those parts of their work which they can.”

Law Firm Internet Marketing Strategy

The report should be music to the ears of those law firms who are already pursuing an internet marketing and social media strategy.

There are however few firms that I can see that “get it”

The report encapsulates what law firms should be considering as part of any Internet Marketing and Social media strategy namely:

In place of simple websites, firms must make use of sophisticated marketing techniques, including search engine optimisation (SEO) to drive internet traffic and attract customers with content such as blogs, videos, podcasts, articles and news items – the object is to build an online brand.

Twitter and Facebook the New Golf Course

As the report points out: Social media facilitates conversations and connections. In this way, Twitter and Facebook are the new golf course… Your name, your firm’s name and your brand are passed on to others who may potentially become clients.”

Golf Lessons for Law Firms

The good news for law firms is, that as with golf, in order to improve you can take lessons.

Your law firm should not be handicapped by a lack of knowledge about how to implement an internet marketing and social media strategy.

And as a bonus, assuage you fears of golfing sartorial inelegance, by taking Richard Branson’s advice that no tie is required for social media.

How Lucky Will Your Law Firm be in Attracting Clients

I’ll leave you with the oft quoted Gary Player’s retort when asked about his golfing success:

“it seems the more I practice the luckier I get”

Start planning your law firm internet and social media strategy now and find out how you lucky will be in retaining and attracting clients to your Law Firm.

Topics: internet marketing for solicitors, social media for law firms, small law firm survival, blog, solicitor websites

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

Conveyancing: Whither or Wither for High Street Law Firms?

Posted by Paul Hajek on Wed, May 23, 2012 @ 03:00 AM
[caption id="attachment_1104" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Where Next for High Street Conveyancing Solicitors?"]High Street Conveyancing Firms[/caption]



If you were to explore deep into the conveyancing jungle, you may come across an occasional pygmy tribe of conveyancing solicitors known as the "wherethehellarewe" tribe.



This tribe (which includes some sole practitioners and small conveyancing firms) can be seen running at pace, intermittently jumping out of the long grass and exclaiming "where the hell are we?"



Other larger conveyancing firms live in the open, and in significant numbers, but nevertheless are fearful of what might come rushing headlong out of the bush.



Darwin said "It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change”.



The conveyancing landscape is set to change again.



What can conveyancing firms do to ensure that it is they who survive and plan for the future and not wither?



ABS and the Big Brands



There are undoubtedly fewer conveyancing firms and fewer conveyancing firms doing more conveyancing.



The market is beginning to stir and big players are shifting.



Australian firm Slater & Gordon have already pounced and devoured Russell Jones & Walker and vowed to enter the conveyancing market. Others are waiting eagerly in the ABS departure lounge.



Differentiate or Die:



I have lost count of how many future of law conferences I have attended over the last few years. The overriding thrust of the conferences has been unequivocal: there appear three main options for law firms:



"CIRCLE THE WAGONS"; carry on as before, drive down costs and drive out inefficiencies and keep fingers crossed;



ABDICATE; simply give up conveyancing and concentrate on other areas of the law or



FIGHT BACK; truly set your conveyancing firm apart with great service and innovation or embrace ABSs and set up your own joint ventures.



 A Solution for Small Conveyancing Firms:



The internet has been around for a while now, but conveyancing firms in particular have been slow to recognise its benefits.



The web changes pretty much everything it touches: conveyancing is no exception.



Patterns of shopping are changing and so are buying habits including how clients look for and evaluate legal services.



Potential clients can already judge for themselves the expertise of a law firm simply by the quality of the content available on its website.



Do not underestimate the ability of consumers to pre select a law firm without the need to have any interaction other than viewing a website.



The internet will be the battle ground where High Street conveyancing law firms can more easily differentiate and fight well above their weight: “online will become the new High Street”



Be renowned for what you are bloody good at!



My law firm Clutton Cox has been able to grow its market share significantly by differentiating itself on the internet.



My website is the hub of all our marketing efforts, both on and offline.



My website is a dynamic tool to attract existing and potentially new clients by



• CREATING remarkable content



• OPTIMISING that content for search engines (SEO)



• PROMOTING that content in social media, e-mail marketing and other channels



You can develop your own personal and law firm brand by blogging and writing articles and showing you personality through social media such as Twitter.



You can now more than ever before control your own message.



The Way Forward for Small Conveyancing Firms:



What small conveyancing firms need is a strategy to offer conveyancing services on line; at the very least making it easier to instruct on line.



My conveyancing practice has seen a huge increase in on line instructions for Conveyancing.



We now receive 42% of our Conveyancing leads directly from our website and clients can instruct us online with a minimum of fuss.



We are largely in control our own destiny are neither reliant upon the uncertainty of panels nor the pressure to pay referral fees.



Conclusion:



There are clearly no guarantees nor merely one winning strategy for conveyancing firms



Conveyancing firms of whatever size should be wary of conveyancing instructions from limited sources; panels can be cannibalised by other larger panels.



If experience from other fragmented markets is anything to go by, we are in for further consolidation.



The conveyancing market is likely to have a few big players at the top and small, nimble, client-focused and innovative firms at the bottom. Inevitably, I fear there will be a squeezed middle.



Whatever strategy your conveyancing firm adopts, without an internet presence it will be increasingly more difficulty to compete, survive and thrive.



At Clutton Cox our conveyancing future is most definitely more about whither than harbouring any thoughts about wither!



 



If you would like to know more about how a blog can revolutionise your Conveyancing practice, learn more about our recently launched "Blog in the Box" here.



 A version of this blog first appeared on the ETSOS search provider website.



 



 



 

Topics: blogging for law firms, high street law firms, small law firm survival, Alternative Business structures, high street solicitors, blogging

The New Dawn: Succeeding as an Independent Law Firm

Posted by Paul Hajek on Tue, Apr 17, 2012 @ 05:36 AM
new dawn succeeding as an independent law firmThe New Dawn: Succeeding as an Independent Law Firm is the title of a conference for law firms on May 3rd at the Madejski Stadium in Reading.



That, Reading FC, a premier league club in all but name, should be the venue for the conference is wholly appropriate with an enthralling forward line of speakers lined up.



I am delighted to be speaking at the conference on social media.



The idea for the conference was Joe Reevy's of Words4Business, supplier of legal content to many law firm websites, including my own at Clutton Cox.



Joe has freed himself from the rigours of supporting Exeter City, by fielding a star studded dream team.



How the team lines up



Jo's modus operandi for the conference has an important feature not normally associated with day long law firm conferences.



Speakers will speak on their particular specialities throughout the day, but the speakers will also be available for one to one sessions with delegates.



There will be 7, 20 minute sessions available with the speakers during the day on a first come first served basis.



Team News



Viv Williams, CEO of 360 Legal Group has helped with the organisation of the Conference and kicks off the day with "Planning the Strategy for a Successful Independent Law Firm"



Anthony Allen an accountant with South West Chartered Accountants, Francis Clark plays a holding role just behind Viv Williams with "Structuring for Profit"



Marauding down the wings we have two more speakers from 360 Legal Group, Sally Claverley with "Knowing your clients and meeting their needs" and Stuart Thomas on "Maximising Staff Performance"



And then that psychologically important time just before half time will be Richard Bretherton of Ochresoft and "Using Process and Technology to Compete in the Current Market"



The Second Half



No better time to score a goal than just after half time to rub home an advantage so step up "On line services" by Richard Cohen of Epoq -which sounds strangely like a prefix for a Greek football team,



Boyd Butler of Great Legal Marketing will use his commanding knowledge of every blade of grass of the Madejski stadium (he was Reading FC's  Commercial Director: Sales Marketing, after all) with "Taking it all to Market"



Joe Reevy will the "stiffen up the sinews" for an aerial bombardment (I'm guessing) with "Build influence (and business) on the web"



Then, peppering your defences with a classy, nimble attack with clever interplay will be me and my strike partner Julian Summerhayes on "Using Social Media"



Finally, you may think it's all over, but it isn't - as Guy Barnett of Lawyers2You will be available for penalty kicks with his eponymous talk on "The New Dawn"



A hugely enjoyable day which I am very much looking forward to, tinged with a little regret that I may not get to hear the other great speakers during the day.



It would be great to meet up with some of you for a one to one, but remember it is on a first come first served basis.



Back of the net!

Topics: high street law firms, social media for law firms, small law firm survival, Alternative Business structures, law firm websites, blog, tesco law

Quality Solicitors: for whatever life brings, but whatever next for other law firms?

Posted by Paul Hajek on Tue, Mar 27, 2012 @ 05:48 AM
[caption id="attachment_935" align="alignright" width="210"] QS chose Dancing on Ice to launch new advert[/caption]



The new Quality Solicitors advertising campaign was triple lutzed into the middle of Dancing on Ice on Sunday evening.



If you had a subsequent engagement or an aversion to the erstwhile Bristolian accent of Robin Cousins and missed it you can see for yourself here on YouTube "Quality Solicitors: For whatever life brings"



Law as an Emotion



Solicitors see law as black and white; clients see everything in 3D.



Quality Solicitors, flush with an advertising war chest of £15,000,000 (or so reports would have us believe) have set out to show how the law is an emotional journey for clients. A journey, where Solicitors guide clients through the beautiful and not so beautiful threads of life's rich tapestry - sadness to contend with, yes, but at least on completion days, the sun is shining!



The new advert is a breath of fresh air and inclusive: hitherto members of the great British public may be forgiven for feelings of ostracism for not numbering amongst those who have suffered an accident at work or been sold a duff policy within the last three years.



So a "hat tip" to Craig Holt, the founder of Quality Solicitors, whom we should commend for daring to sell legal services based around the emotions of life, thus avoiding the crass and lumpen ambulance-chasing approach.



Fear Marketing, but only for solicitors



The message for clients, is far from the plaintiff cry, Quality Solicitors first used to attract law firms to their cause.



One of my first posts on Solicitors Marketing Success (read the post here) centred on a Quality Solicitor advert in the Gazette "If Tesco Law wins will the last lawyer to leave Britain please turn out the lights". It also sported a sandwich man predicting “The end of the world is nigh: Legal Services Act 2007”



Craig Holt stung solicitors and law firms into action with deliberate shock tactics. Lay on the doom and gloom and law firms will start to take note.



The notion that revolution is born out of hope can for most law firms can safely be reversed. One can conclude that revolution can only be born out of despair: if you will, a lightening "Holt" was required



Shock and Awe



The shock and awe recipe seems to have worked and through Craig Holt's drive and charisma around 350 law firms have tied their futures to his Quality Solicitors mast.



Craig Holt has become a standard bearer for the solicitors' brand, although Craig's fervent wish would be predicated on an all important prefix.



The Threat of Alternative Business Structures (ABS) started the branding revolution.



ABSs are here to stay. There is no going back.



Law firms must work out how they will fight back against the gathering hordes of ABS vultures. Quality Solicitors is one route to the new legal services market.



The Law Society and Solicitor Quality



The Twittersphere has been a buzz with lawyers and legal commentators lamenting a lost opportunity. How wonderful it would have been for the Law Society rather than Quality Solicitors to have produced such an advert.



But, lest we deride the Law Society too much, the Law Society has been instrumental in trying to wrest the "Quality" from Craig Holt's grasp by its own Quality campaign.



The "Barry Norman" Effect



I recall in the cornucopian days of mortgage finance in the late eighties that there were two companies with similar names; the Household Mortgage Corporation and the Mortgage Corporation.



I can't remember which, but one was heavily promoted by BBC's film critic Barry Norman. In practice, from my anecdotal evidence from Conveyancing mortgage instructions, it seemed the main beneficiary was the other non Barry Norman mortgage company.



It remains to be seen whether the Law Society's attempts to stress the quality of all law firms will piggy-back the Quality Solicitor campaign and give a positive uplift to other law firms.



Strengthen Your Law Firm Brand



The initial and ongoing costs of joining QS will be beyond most small law firms.



But, what the new advert has done for all law firms is to give an impetus to change the way solicitors market their law firms.



Even the smallest law firm has a brand. And it's not what you perceive it to be but what your clients and potential clients perceive it to be.



You can develop your own brand by blogging; writing articles; self publishing; adding killer content to your law firm website and show you personality through social media



You can now more than ever before control your own message



Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help



Craig Holt asked for help. He's bagged Saatchi & Saatchi.



Small law firms however will need to use their time and marketing spend wisely to ensure a sufficient return on investment.



And the internet is where small law firms should make their battle.



Law firms who use the internet to market themselves, show an understanding of how buyers of legal services make decisions, on which solicitor lawyer or law firm to instruct.



Clients and potential clients use the internet to learn about products and services that best meet their needs.



Whatever life brings for you as a law firm you will, without an internet presence, find it increasingly more difficulty to compete, survive and thrive.



 

Topics: small law firm survival, internet marketing for law firms, Alternative Business structures, blogging, blog, tesco law