Based on interviews with 118 independent lawyers (from sole practitioners to firms with up to 20 fee earners), and 500 private clients,The Bellwether Report 2015: the Age of the Client, has identified a huge shift in the balance of power in the client/lawyer relationship. A new type of client – more informed, more demanding and more price-sensitive than ever – is challenging traditional working practices and forcing lawyers to adopt a smarter approach, not just to client service, but to every aspect of the business.
The report reveals practical steps lawyers need to take to meet this new challenge and deliver the smart client service that will secure the future of their business. We’ve identified three key themes: smart clients, smart firms and smart people.
Clients are more informed and more demanding than ever before. They’re expecting outstanding service, but there’s a big gap between lawyers’ and clients’ views of the service that firms actually deliver. Most lawyers (80%) believe their service is ‘Above average’, but only 40% of the private clients we interviewed say the service they receive is at this level. It’s now critical for lawyers to get a better understanding of what clients need throughout the progress of their case. Currently, what clients want and what lawyers think they want doesn’t align. For example, ‘Providing regular progress reports’ ranks second on clients’ priorities, but lawyers rate it tenth.
More and more independent lawyers are acknowledging that continued success means they’ll have to revisit many different aspects of the business, from client service to business development planning. Although there’s still some resistance to the sorts of changes other service industries have embraced (such as bringing in external consultants and enabling remote working), many firms are redefining their business models as they search out new revenue streams.
The entrepreneurial spirit we identified in last years’ survey is still going strong. Ambitious entrepreneurial lawyers are more willing than their counterparts to question existing practices to find a competitive edge. In the Age of the Client, a deep understanding of the critical importance of marketing, technology and clients’ needs gives entrepreneurs a real advantage over their counterparts.
For the smartest firms the opportunities are waiting to be seized, but it will take a dynamic and questioning mindset, and an ability to look at the business from the client’s point of view, to be consistently successful.
Get your copy of the Bellwether Report 2015: the Age of the Client here on the Business of Law Blog. You’ll receive a free copy of the research, along with a series of helpful business guides to support your firm.