Legal Practice: You.. Reap.. What.. YOU.. Sow..
I have listened many, many times to the late Jim Rohn‘s CD, “The Art of Exceptional Living”.
I think I first heard of him through a eulogy that Darren Hardy of Success Magazine gave, and then realised that he was Tony Robins‘ early inspiration.
The thing that I like about Jim Rohn is that his material is grounded, pithy and doesn’t try to bamboozle you with clever strategies, endless to do lists and a leaning towards pseudo science. No, as he says, he was a simple boy raised on a farm in Idaho and a businessman first and foremost, before he ever decided to become a speaker on personal development.
I have not sought out any more of his work, but he talks about a book that he wrote premised on looking at personal development in the same way that the seasons evolve. In other words we cannot expect to continually reap our crops in the summer, if we have not put in the grunt work throughout the rest of the year.
Now you might ask what this has to do with EXCELLENCE in legal practice? Well, quite simply, too many people have been doing exactly the opposite of what they should have been doing for a very long time. They have continued to take, take, take without an eye for the future. Of course there will be some practices that have been preparing but not nearly enough. I read yesterday on Neil Rose’s site Legal Futures the article by Craig Holt of Quality solicitors comparing the demise of Optometry to the likely demise of the legal profession. And whilst you may not agree with the analogy, nevertheless the point that is spot on is that just like Optometry the independents did not give Specsavers (and others) sufficient credence and that left the door wide open.
In my view that is what the independent legal profession is doing. They are not gearing up their firms to tackle, as best they can, mega brands but rather still worrying what the firm half-a-yard away is doing.
The Clementi reforms and the Legal Services Act have been on the horizon for some considerable time, and surely anyone with half an interest in their business (or is it their livelihood) would not have left things to the last minute? Of course they would. That is exactly how the professions deal with reform. Usually they have to be dragged kicking and screaming to adopt any meaningful change.
If more of the leaders had listened to Jim Rohn’s work or been less concerned with preserving the status quo one thing is certain. There would not be this feeling that the sea wall was about to be breached by ABS’ or the equivalent of Specsavers suddenly appearing on the high street.
I don’t want to be the one that told you so, but I am quite sure there will be a few people who will take great delight in seeing things unravel. My raison detre has always been to see the client receive the very best service, everyone fulfil their potential and for the profession to evolve at something more than a snails pace. That is one of the reasons why I have been so stricken by the social media bug because I can see the potential power it offers the little guy to compete with the Uber brand.
Change is hard – monumentally hard in some cases – and trying to garner enough support is always going to be hard when so many people have been quite content to continue harvesting without sufficient reinvestment in their people, infrastructure and information systems. But if you cannot lead a movement in the direction of Excellence in client service, Excellence in people development and nothing short of a paradigm shift then you better way have a decent plan up your sleeve. As I have made clear over the course of the last week (see http://juliansummerhayes.wordpress.com/) marketing is not a battle of the brands – even the brand solicitor (if there is such a thing) – but rather it is premised on the perception of the client. The Uber brands have some superb form going for them whereas the fragmented, ‘small business’ firm is already carrying so much baggage (e.g. solicitors are slow and not very responsive) that it will take a massive jolt or more likely something so out of left field for the client to be persuaded to stay put. Of course technological wizardry may help them but when this starts to dip and price becomes the only component then I can quite easily see service lines practically being given away to make sure the client is retained.
Coming back to Jim Rohn. Now is not the time to be thinking too long and hard about which season you are in but rather to stop thinking of what’s in it for you, how you can keep the practice fresh, vibrant, innovative and discernibly different from the competition. This is extremely difficult when everyone has gone for the middle ground, the profession is so heavily regulated and clients demand so much but the more time you can spend working on the business rather than in it the more likely it is that you will survive.