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Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The End of One World - welcome to the new!

I am always interested to know what influences clients in their choice of lawyer.

I was brought up in the days when solicitors were banned from advertising and all work was introduced by word of mouth, previous clients or just having a ‘shop front’ office on the High Street. That has of course now changed beyond all recognition since the advertising ban was lifted and the introduction of referral fees, which saw some firms buying in cases at an industrial level.

All of this is likely to change again with the proposed ban on referral fees and the arrival of the ABS which brings well known brands into the market. So what will influence peoples’ choice?

According to a report on the legal futures web site a significant majority will look online. The figure is 68% overall but rises to 75% in the 18 – 44 age range –

Interestingly a similar number of clients in the younger group, would look to supermarkets for legal advice.

This is certainly a challenge to those of us working in traditional law firms. But it should be seen as a challenge rather than a threat. Firms need to seriously examine where they need to change rather than simply bury their heads and wait for the worst to happen.

The main concerns about lawyers relate to cost and communication.

There is no doubt that there will be a reduction in the fees that can be charged. The expectations of business clients combined with impending changes to personal injury claims, make this inevitable. The days of the hourly rate are numbered. Fixed fees are the future, whether we like it or not.

So there will be a need to have that part of the work which involves process – more than you think – done by non lawyers and by using effective technology. The lawyers then focus on the work which requires their expertise. So a greater number of cases will be done; at a lower overall cost.

Social media is the key to better communication. I recently heard of a survey where only 5% of clients wanted their lawyers to communicate by letter. Facebook, Twitter and emails are how people speak to each other in the real world.

Those new providers of legal services will embrace this – most have been doing it for years. Those lawyers who embrace this change can hope to compete. Good luck to the rest!

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