the emperor's new clothes
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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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