In an environment where change happens overnight and new competitors emerge every day, law firms have to differentiate themselves to survive.
Yet, many lawyers are unable to articulate a reason clients should choose them over the firm across the street.
“When asked if their law firm projects a distinct and compelling value that differentiates them from other similar firms, a full 50 percent of firm leaders said no,” according to this Altman Weil survey. “In a market characterized by intense competition for limited and shrinking demand, this [is] an enormous problem.”
Put Your Money Where Your Words Are
Go to the average law firm website and you’ll find many of the same words: We strive for excellence. We make every effort to meet your objectives. We take pride in our commitment to our clients. We excel at providing optimal solutions to complex business problems. And so on.
This is all well and good. But what do these words mean? How do they translate into action? And how do they differentiate you from any other firm?
Law strategist Patrick J. McKenna suggests a fresh, bold approach by setting out in writing some “some hard and fast service standards” such as:
- We will determine with you a ‘Preferred Communications Protocol’ and set out under what circumstances you would prefer a face-to-face meeting, versus a telephone conversation, e-mail or other mode of communication. That written protocol will then be communicated to every professional and support staff member serving your organization.
- We invite your in-house counsel to convene one special session semi-annually at our expense (airfare / hotel included) for the purpose of briefing us on matters related to better understanding your current business goals and new developments in your industry.
- We will have our IT professionals work directly with your IT professionals to determine how technology can be employed to our mutual advantage. We will institute electronic data links to provide for communications, support, project management, work product retrieval, and on-line research.
5 Other Ways to Make Your Practice Stand Out
- Provide transparency and collaboration in pricing. Offer flat fees, hybrid billing or alternative price structures. Ask your clients what works best for them. Above all, avoid surprising them when the bill arrives.
- Recruit great people. “Never settle when it comes to hiring,” writes Aaron George for Lexicata. “Salaries are always the biggest source of overhead, so make sure you commit those salaries to the right people. If you are paying a subpar staff member, you are putting an unnecessary strain on your precious resources, which is why making a poor hiring decision can inhibit your growth and reduce your chances of long-term success.”
- Listen to your clients. “Firms should consistently be talking to clients about what they want them to change or do in a different way (delivery of services and servicing of clients) and then act on those comments and suggestions,” says Tea Hoffmann of Law Strategy Corp. “Firms who differentiate themselves in some way and have a compelling message are more attractive to clients and retain them longer.”
- Improve your workflow. “Lawyers simply must make better use of their time,” says thought leader Jordan Furlong of Law21. “Map out, upgrade and automate legal work processes. Engage in people and project management.”
- Offer a great client experience. This is not the same as client service. It is based on empathy and not merely doing things for your client. How do they feel about their time spent with you – from the first phone call to the file closing? Were they treated with courtesy and respect? Would they recommend you to their friends and family?
- Altman Weil “Law Firms in Transition Survey” http://www.altmanweil.com/index.cfm/fa/r.resource_detail/oid/BDDC1407-58F5-4D68-BA93-CCF94BA381BF/resource/2018_Law_Firms_in_Transition_Survey_Released.cfm
- Law21 https://www.law21.ca/
- Lexicata https://lexicata.com/blog/tactics-to-differentiate-your-law-firm-from-the-competition/
- Legal Business World https://www.legalbusinessworld.com/single-post/2017/05/02/How-Can-You-Really-Differentiate-Your-Practice
- Law Strategy Corp http://lawstrategycorp.com/about-lsc/
Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. During the course of his 35- year career, he has been a solo practitioner, corporate lawyer, legal editor, Legal Aid staff attorney and insurance risk manager. Today he helps lawyers and firms succeed through marketing, work-life balance and reclaiming passion for what they do. He is available for consultations, retreats and presentations (www.yourlawlife.com). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-619-2441 to learn how Jay can help your practice.