Our latest sub-report, “The Art of Keeping Up” reveals lawyers’ attitudes towards change against the backdrop of a shifting balance of power between the lawyer and client – where the well informed ‘customer’ is strongly challenging the traditional working practices of legal professionals.
Whilst the statistics suggest that firms are working hard to appease the client – by developing a client servicing policy, measuring client satisfaction, investing in marketing and technology and so on – one does wonder whether they are spending their money wisely and to what end?
The majority of the lawyers in our survey see the “business” of running a law firm as secondary to the ‘practice’ of being a lawyer. This attitude clearly persists and one cannot but help question if law firms fully appreciate the degree to which clients are increasingly dictating the purchase of legal services – and therefore the extent to which they must change their ways to thrive. Lawyers recognise the changing behaviour of clients of course and are trying hard to be smarter. However, many are making the assumption that the promiscuous and demanding client demeanour is a direct function of cost-consciousness and indeed good presentation on their part (e.g. website, marketing, technology).
Following an interrogation of our research results, I believe that clients are looking for value for money. This is determined by how “well” their requirements are met by the law firm they instruct. To elaborate, clients very rarely care much about the ‘law’. Most make a reasoned assumption that they will get “good” law when they appoint a lawyer. Nevertheless, what clients most keenly care about is whether their lawyer will help them resolve a business or personal issue that they are unable to fix on their own.
A simplistic example – a couple hires a conveyancing firm to complete on a house purchase before the arrival of their first born. So regardless of the potential conveyancing-related obstacles that could arise, thus preventing them from moving into the house – in their minds the lawyer’s success will be determined by whether or not they could occupy their new abode before the baby arrived. That is their number one issue, not good conveyancing, which they consider an absolute given.
As long as law firms focus on the law they input and don’t prioritise on how their output is perceived by their clients, there will be a disconnect. The crux lies in genuinely understanding and defining “good-service”. It’s this kind of change in attitude and mindset that will allow law firms to flourish.
The survey shows that those who are embracing change are in a growth situation three times out of four. Also, firms that are resistant to change indicate negative views towards conducting business and demonstrate a lack of attention on their part, which is reflecting in their performance.
If you would like to read the ‘The Art of Keeping Up’ report, it can be downloaded here.