The legal profession is not known for its proclivity to change. In spite of this, there is plenty of evidence that supports a new approach: adoption of new technology, the de-emphasis on billable hours, and a greater focus on non-attorney legal professionals (such as paralegals and law assistants) are all good indicators that change is alive and well in the legal landscape. The question remains, then, will law firms and attorneys act quickly enough to keep up with the changing tides?
Larger corporations continue to spend less on professional legal services, which has resulted in heightened competition for the same available work – a pool that continues to shrink as companies run leaner and smarter. The companies that continue to use outside counsel are depending more and more on firms with a strong technological business model in order to automate and consolidate their day-to-day legal needs. Smaller firms and solo practitioners are more often being pushed out of the running, as they can’t compete with what is seen as a more efficient way to conduct business.
On the other side of the coin, small businesses, entrepreneurs, or the average person have new options when it comes to choosing legal services – options that do not include hiring an attorney at all. Innovative services like LegalZoom, for instance, provide customers with better access to legal advice and assistance, and there is a certain pressure on lawyers to remain competitive, especially solo practitioners and new lawyers who are just building their practice. As a result, attorneys are slowly losing business.
During this nascent time, and as the industry and new technology continue to evolve, here are some helpful strategies you can put into place to give yourself, or your firm, a better chance at success in the face of constant change:
Focus on Client Retention
Develop a business model that is aimed at maintaining what you have already worked so hard to achieve. Reach out to your clients to make sure that the work you are doing for them either meets or exceeds their needs. Solicit feedback, and be open to new ideas. Find out about your client’s future plans, and identify ways in which you can help. Keep the communication flowing, always follow up, and if possible, enhance your efficiency in a way that they will notice. Your existing clients are probably the most important part of your practice. Putting them first is never a bad idea, as it leads to referrals and a better overall satisfaction quotient.
Evolve Slowly: Baby Steps are Often the Smartest
You need to expand, but you also have a business to run. Placing too much focus on change may take away from what matters most, which is business continuity. Start with one or two ideas, for instance, you could publish a timely industry article, or organize a client presentation on a hot topic before you dive into a full-blown content marketing initiative. The first two can be a lead-up to the marketing plan, but it’s always better to start small before diving into the big plan.
Find Different Ways to Discover New Business
This also extends to how new clients find you. Think outside the old referral-and-networking box, as it just doesn’t work like it used to. The issues tend to be about mutual fit: having the right kind of expertise at rates that are competitive is a good baseline, but marketing yourself or your firm aggressively is not the way to go. Online platforms such as Google, LinkedIn or legal-specific platforms such as directlaw.com can help you reach more people in less time, while leveling the playing field in the process.
Remain Proactive, Finesse the Approach
Bottom line, it is important to be proactive, but the changing face of the legal services market, as well as public attitudes towards technology and marketing necessitate a more finessed approach. Strive to keep what you already have, improve customer service, and find out what the next generation of legal clients really want in a firm – then give it to them.