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Part 3: What law firm clients want (really, really want)

View profile for Paul Hajek
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This is the concluding summary of the latest piece of research into the legal services market produced by Peppermint Technology, which was published recently.

This final instalment will look at areas of communication with clients and what are the biggest opportunities and threats facing law firms.

You can view Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Communication

Where consumers were asked almost 50% of those surveyed cited “face to face” as the preferred option with their Solicitors or other legal service provider.

Both the bottom age range of 16-24 and the top group of 55-64 were keen on this form of communication. Maybe inexperience at one end and respect at the top end could be factors in this choice.

26% of those surveyed and predominantly the 25-34 and 45-54 year old categories favoured online communications. Telephone came in third with 15% followed by letter at 10%.

Where businesses were concerned just over half at 51% favoured online communication.

Beware “Votes for Corner Shops”

Perhaps, we should add a word of caution with the findings for a “face to face” service. Speaking at the same Legal Futures Conference where the Peppermint Technology survey was launched, Professor Stephen Mayson noted that where consumers have urged in previous surveys for the retention of corner shops, in reality most shopping is nevertheless carried out in supermarkets.

Progress of Cases and Out of Hours Services.

An overwhelming 81% of consumers were in favour out of hours services.

Hardly surprising when you consider the inexorable rise in supermarket hours to the ultimate “Open 24 Hours”

When asked for further views, 36% said they might use an out of hours service, 32% said they would definitely use it and 13% said they would not use a law firm that could not offer it

Interestingly, law firms seem to have over estimated the desire for out of hours services. 92 % of law firms endorsed it one way or another. 15% said it was extremely important and 37% said it was important. 40 % of law firms thought their clients might use such services.

My own thoughts are that when speaking of out of hours services it is wrong to just assume that means “face to face” services: the role of a law firm website is crucial.

Law firms can give answers to basic and commonplace legal questions by having quality content on their websites.

In this regard, a good content rich and consumer friendly website can give answers to consumers questions on a truly 24/7, 365 day a year basis.

On the Clutton Cox website where we have a Conveyancing Calculator we are often instructed online well past midnight! Law firms should not underestimate the power of their website presence in “offering” an out of hours service.

What are the biggest opportunities and threats facing law firms?

Legal Services Act:
Only 10% of law firms believed ABSs and the Legal Services Act represented an opportunity. Interestingly, some law firms viewed the closure of competitor firms of solicitors as an opportunity for their own firms to expand.

The commentary to the survey rightly concluded that this did not so much present a valid strategy but more just simple wishful thinking.

Technology:
9% of law firms saw opportunities for their firms with increased usage of technology; increased competition leading to faster delivery of legal services via technology with an attendant reduction in overheads.

Niche Law Firms:
4% saw hyper specialisation was a way to immunise themselves from the increased competition

Branding:
Only 3% of law firms saw this as important. This may be explained more from an historical framework where thus far no legal brands have existed.

In the same week, Quality Solicitors announced funding from venture capitalists to continue expansion of their legal brand. Clearly, Quality Solicitors are certainly here to stay in the short term.

My prediction is that Quality Solicitors the brand, can only really function nationally without the current addended sub brands of individual law firms.

The inevitable conclusion is that there can only be one “Quality Solicitors”

I am not sure the law firms involved realise that this must be inevitability.

Threats:
As others have noted elsewhere a perfect storm is brewing over the legal landscape.
Law firms face reduced income from the economic downturn and the Legal Services Act will introduce competition from new entrants with huge marketing budgets.

Conclusion:

The reports author Arlene Adams of Peppermint Technology has a stark warning:

“You don’t have to look to see……examples of businesses which have consumed technology to understand clients’ needs, deliver disruptive innovation and offer highly personalised customer experience.

I would suggest the successful legal provider of tomorrow will display similar traits to other leading companies, the only difference being their product is of a legal flavour”

Neil Rose of Legal Futures at whose conference the survey was released, wrote a foreword for the survey remarks “the research is particularly useful in highlighting just how different the needs and expectations of businesses are compared with individual consumers. You need to know your market”

In this regard, two of the conclusions mentioned in the report and already mentioned by me in an earlier post are cast iron: Know your client and one size does not fit all.

Where I would deviate from the other conclusion is my disagreement that “Clicks and Data” will prevail over “Bricks and Mortar”

I favour a mixture and successful law firms of the future will adopt a strategy of “Clicks and Mortar”

After all, even for Tesco, it is not an either or decision: Tesco does exceedingly well in both their supermarkets and also their online businesses.

You can view a video of the main findings of the Peppermint Technology report here or go direct to Peppermint Technology website to purchase the report for £49.99

 


 


 

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