How to Future Proof Your Law Firm
Former President of GE, Jack Welsh once opined, that “when the rate of change inside the business is exceeded by the rate of change outside the business, the end is near.”
Not surprisingly, as it is with other markets that have been revolutionised by “digital,’ most stakeholders are under prepared. 3 years ago if I had said that the most recognised brand in the legal industry in the United States wouldn’t be a law firm you may have been aghast. Yet today, Legal Zoom, the legal form and advice platform has turned the industry on its head and is fast becoming the quintessential place legal consumers go with their legal problem. In the same vein, the fastest growing law firm in the UK, is not a traditional law firm but rather a hub, for want of a better term that simply disperses legal work to its network of lawyers, many of which who work from home offices all across the country. Did you know that in Canada, the global shopping giant Walmart are entering the legal space?
It goes without saying that the legal industry has been ripe for the picking for years. Not only is it potentially the last industry to be disrupted by smarter ways of doing things technologically, but both the practice of law and the resolution of legal issues are seriously antiquated. The fact that every year, 60 million people peacefully resolve their purchase disputes on the global platform, eBay is testimony to the fact that “legal” intervention is not always the penultimate solution to resolving conflict (in fact, eBay founder has recently launch Modria a platform that endeavours to resolve all types of conflict). Richard Susskind’s tongue-in-cheek reflection that it is somewhat a little odd to have a 3 year old conflict resolved in a mahogany filled room, amid men and women dressed in gowns and wigs, does strike a degree of absurdity.
What all this means for a traditional legal practice, irrespective of where they are and their specific practice area, is that if you haven’t yet been impacted by the disruption, you surely will in the future and making it difficult to prepare, is the fact that the disruption is non-linear. In other words, no thing in of itself, no specific lever or driver can you singularly apply to what’s on the horizon.
Simply put, it is much, much more than a marketing question, or a question of becoming more technologically savvy or migrating to the cloud. At the heart of it is, adapting to the habits of potential clients that they are very much acquainted with ecommerce experiences generally. On nearly every other front, consumers are both well-adapted and comfortable with making complex purchase decisions online and indications show there exists preparedness to do significantly more via the internet, as evidenced by the exponential growth of Rocket Lawyer, Legal Zoom and a number of their competitors.
In the 1960’s Jerome McCarthy from Michigan State University was trying to nail the intrinsic ingredients of successful marketing and what he settled upon was four essential elements, referred to these days as the “marketing mix,” or the “4Ps of marketing. ” Since then, particularly in recent years there has been loads of conjecture as to the relevance of McCarthy’s “marketing mix” given the advent of technology and of course that his theory was conceptualised in an era where the term “digital” related to the fingers attached to your hand.
The fact is that the “4P”s have long been associated with positioning brands, big and small in shifting markets and while there are pundits who would suggest that it no longer applies, I don’t agree. The inherent issue with the 4ps, was simply that it was locked in a marketing monologue and the fact that each attribute fell under the audacious title of the “Marketing Ps” or “Marketing Mix” type cast each of them to specifically relate to marketing. Conversely, the Fours Ps of product, price, place and promotion have a lot to offer when conceptually understanding disruption generally and of course, how to better prepare for it.
Commoditisation is having a significant impact upon the legal services industry. Legal processes that are easily adaptable to an online process, such as wills, enduring powers of attorney, advanced health directives, divorce applications, conveyancing and even personal injury claims have already a growing market share. Examples include:
Legal Zoom: http://www.legalzoom.com/
Slater & Gordon Online: https://online.slatergordon.com.au/sgo/?
Legal Vision: https://legalvision.com.au/
Quick Law Conveyancing: http://www.quickconveyancing.com.au/
Personal Injury Self Help Kit: http://www.injuryselfhelpkit.org/introduction/
In response to the growing need of legal consumers to have a better sense of legal costs at the outset, there are a range of relatively new pricing structures being introduced by numerous law firms. These price structures generally fall into three categories, free legal advice, fixed fee and subscription based pricing.
Fixed Fee: https://www.slatergordon.com.au/family-law/family-law-fixed-fees
Free Legal Advice: https://lawpath.com.au/
Subscription Legal Fees: http://www.legalshield.com/
“Place,” in a digital sense is becoming a significant disruptive charactristic that is shaping completely new legal services. The fastest growing law firm in the UK is not a traditional legal practice, but rather a dispersed law firm of which its lawyers largely work remotely across the country and internationally.
In Australia, there are numerous examples, including Hive Legal, Nexus and Keypoint Law.
In addition, as firms look towards reducing internal costs, often associated with process orientated work, outsourcing to foreign countries, particularly the Phillipines is now common place.
Dispersed Law Firm: http://www.keystonelaw.co.uk/
Promotion, particularly in a digital sense is undergoing both rapid and radical change. According to the most recent research by Lexis Nexis, 69% of people looking for legal help are using a blend multiple devices to do so. Moreover, in the same research, 74% when trying to find legal information or advice are using diverse online platforms to do so (Google Search, Review websites, YouTube, Social Media).
Corroborating such research, is that of Google’s ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth) analysis which was an extensive study that looked at user interaction online with respect to ecommerce. It revealed that increasingly those in a buying cycle are no longer predisposed to making purchase decisions quickly, but rather travel the online landscape, looking, refining their search terms, consuming different forms of media, comparing websites before ultimately engaging and then making a purchase decision.
In applying ZMOT to your law firm, the first thing to do is to research what questions your prospective clients are asking and then align your online touch points to make sure that you answer those questions. From there, its about applying an inbound marketing methodology.
In the context of the “4 Ps”, future proofing your law firm from disruption is an acknowledgement that the fourth “p,” promotion or marketing is only part of the strategy in responding to what’s on the horizon. Law firms, now more than never need to start thinking about product, price, place and of course promotion not from what their competitors down the street are doing, but amid the tectonic shift that is happening both in our industry and every other.
The truth be told, it is unlikely that your competitors are going to teach you anything new, but rather look at a start-up that is penetrating a completely different industry. In this light, W Chan Kim’s Blue Ocean Strategy is worth a re-read!