Something seismic is happening in the independent legal market.
Smaller firms are doing new, different, interesting and challenging things. We keep meeting firms that have ripped up the rule book, that are addressing their clients’ needs in new and different ways. We work with firms that are using technology to drive fundamental changes to the way they deliver their services; firms that are partnering, thanks to ABS, with other businesses to do things that were unheard of a decade ago; firms existing without premises; firms offering their customers entirely different services, at different prices. The market would seem to be in revolution and not evolution. To ignore what’s happening at the leading-edge of the independent legal market now, is to turn a deaf ear on the future of the whole market.
Firms that are winning in independent law (and the sector is growing), are on the front foot and pushing back on their clients. They push back on suppliers and push back on their competition. There are now endless models for what a law firm can be – and for what a law firm can do. Success for many firms now looks very different from the traditional model.
The 2014 Bellwether Report tested this thinking. We interviewed 170 firms from across the market and found more and more that could not be pigeon-holed, or put into a traditional box for what a law firm should be, do, or act.
There is a theme which joins many of this new generation of entrepreneurs together. A belief that being good at the law is no longer good enough. The entrepreneurs start from the assumption that ‘good law’ is a given and that their point of difference needs to offer something else. This something else comes in a variety of different forms but, almost always, is founded on an understanding of their client’s needs. Breaking the traditional model, these clients are increasingly being seen – and treated – as customers.
The customers of legal services are changing the way they operate faster than ever before in commercial history (this is equally true for consumers and businesses). It is obvious, therefore, that the expectation customers have of what they want from their legal providers, is also changing rapidly. Many law firms, particularly big law, are struggling to adapt to this change in demand. Larger law firms are looking to cut costs, to manage customer/client engagements more effectively or to steal market share from their competitors.
The new winners – the entrepreneurs – are looking at their markets and seeing customer pain that traditional law firms aren’t taking away. The new winners are coming up with disruptive business and delivery models for legal services, that look after the evolving needs of customers and which take away the pain of traditional law. Independent lawyers are creating new businesses to deliver what customers really want and building organisations that are fit for that purpose. Anything seems possible in these revolutionary times. What’s next? You decide.
Jon Whittle, Market Development Director at LexisNexis, will be speaking on The New Entrepreneurs at the Legal Futures annual conference on Tuesday 18 November.
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