Yesterday evening I attended The Great Legal Reformation, an event organised by Shaun Jardine of Brethertons. The very fact that the event was organised by a law firm rather than say, Legal Futures or a bank is unusual. Add to this Mitch Kowalski as the main attraction and a venue change due to sheer weight of numbers and you will start to see that this was a special event.
Mitch himself is a great speaker. Relaxed, assured, knowledgeable. He can see into the crystal ball and what he sees there is exciting: a vision of teams of people working together to solve clients' legal problems efficiently and effectively, supported by cool technology. Mitch and the panel of experts (including Stephen Mayson, Amir Ali and David Gilroy) were equally clear on the direction of travel and what was going to be required to get there. During the polling part of the evening and the Q and A, everyone agreed: the Great Legal Reformation is coming, it will be driven by technology, will invite non lawyers into the inner sanctum and will result in prices being driven down to a point where the pent up demand for legal services will be released. The business model is dead! Long live the law firm of the future!
Happy New Year! No, I’m not going to talk about new year resolutions or diets or cutting out alcohol. You’ll get enough of that elsewhere during January. Instead I’m going to talk about what it means to be a human being.
Woah! That’s a bit heavy, isn’t it? Bear with me. We’ll soon get back onto the subject of how to better manage a law firm in 2017.
So – being a human. What’s that all about?
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At the Legal Futures 2020 conference a couple of weeks ago, I sat muttering like an old lady at a bus stop. Speaker after speaker talked about how ABSs and online solutions would fill the as yet untapped (and unproven) demand for legal services.
I work with SME firms, the so called high street firms who provide the sort of day to day advice and help that makes the world tick in provincial towns: wills and probate, divorces, conveyancing. Business advice for local firms. That sort of thing. The everyday bread and butter stuff that the big brands hope to win.
I hear the stories of a young woman who arrives on the doorstep sobbing, having reached the final straw in her marriage. The bereaved son who has just lost his mother and is completely confused by complicated forms. The solicitor who is at court for one client but sees someone else struggling with court forms and helps. None of these people would find a website helpful – because a website does not offer kindness, help or understanding.
People who would use our services are often scared, stressed, sad or just plain worried about being stupid. They might use the internet to research their problem, they might even do some price checking or see if your firm is recommended. They might even fill in a fact filling form online. But they will want the reassurance of a friendly face, a kind word and someone who can guide them through the process.
The answer is not the big brands – I understand that none of them are making money, at least yet. The network organisations are talking a good story but it is said that Dynamo Law has fewer than 50 members and Quality Solicitors only just over 100. The success stories in this market are the businesses that are not looking to online and ABS structures not to provide the complete answer but to provide part of it: iSolicitor who has unbundled family law services to provide better client service in an area of need, Schillings who have also vertically integrated to provide a one stop shop for people with reputations worth protecting.
The true disruption will come not from the “suck it and see” private equity backed businesses that are yet to really find a foothold, but from those law firms who take a long hard look at their client base and design services around their needs. And then use every tool at their disposal, whether that’s technological, structural or experiential to achieve that.
Now that’s would be something worth cheering.
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