Friday, 16 January 2015

The Market is Changing...Still

"The market place for legal services is changing..."

I've been hearing this sentences, and versions of it, for more than five years. Even in 2008 when I was helping to run a  (reasonably) big UK law firm, most discussions about market starting with some facile statements along these lines.

I don't disagree with the statement - I think that change is, of course, happening. I do, however, think that law firms - and barristers chambers - need to stop talking in vague terms about market changes and actually start to do something about it. I sit in far too many Board/Management Committee/Marketing meetings where the change is referred to but there is no discussion about a new strategy or even a plan to address this new market. Instead a few things are said:

  • "We need to re-brand"
  • "We need to change/upgrade the website"
  • "We need to update everyone's profile"
  • "We need more pictures on the site"
  • "We need to have video on the website"
  • "Who here uses Twitter - we should all be using Twitter. And Facebook"
It's usually about this time that I put my head on the table. None of the statements above are doing anything to look differently at a changing market. None of them are trying to find better things to do - and precious few are even seeking to do  things better. My usual contribution is to suggest that we speak - in depth - with existing clients in order to see what we can do better for them. This is usually greeted with derisory statement along the lines of "we entertain clients all the time". Now (a) this is not always the case. One client entertaining from a few partners a few times a year is not good enough; and (b) I'm talking about taking some real time to speak with a client about the way that we are working with them - not a quick chat over a glass of wine or seven.

So - it's easy to criticise. What should be done.

Well, as I have said above, spend quality time (from good people) to talk with clients. Meet them at their offices and have a structure to see what they think about the work that is done now, and about what could be done better. Analyse that. Change things. Go back to the same clients and ask how the changes are working. Repeat.

As with almost everything in business, communication is the key. Find out what people want and them give it to them. And then tell them that you've done it. Or - if you really are innovative - spend the time with your clients and potential clients to explain why this new way of doing things is better. Show them that you believe it. Work hard to sell it. And then go back to them and ask them how it is working.

The market is changing - so get on and do something about it.


For the sake of clarity, here are what are usually my detailed responses to the statements above:
  • "We need to re-brand"
    • Not yet! What is the strategy that you want to portray with the re-brand. What market are you trying to secure? What's the plan! Don't spend money on a re-brand until you are absolutely sure what you are trying to achieve with it.
  • "We need to change/upgrade the website"
    • See above...
  • "We need to update everyone's profile"
    • This should be done already. It has nothing to do with a marketing strategy - it's basic operations. Everyone's profile - everyone's - should be updated every three months
  • "We need more pictures on the site"
    • Why..?
  • "We need to have video on the website"
    • Really - why? Unless time is spent on the quality (mostly the lighting, background and sound is appealing in in-house productions) these will look dreadful. In any case, see above about making sure you produce videos that people actually want,  or can be 'sold'
  • "Who here uses Twitter - we should all be using Twitter. And Facebook"
    • Engagement is vital - and very dangerous. So most lawyers should use Twitter - but there should be a training course for people and a reminder every year about what engagement actually is. Clear guidelines (i.e. short - so probably not written by a lawyer...) must be available. Quite why the firm/chambers should use Facebook is a mystery to me....

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