THE STAMPEDE FOR CHANGE IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION
An unwarranted intrusion or a necessary consequence of firms failing to allow for (real) competition in the market?
Are you fed up being talked at about the cataclysmic changes that are or are likely to beset the legal profession?
- Legal Aid.
“Under siege” is how one practitioner expressed things to me. I said: “No, it’s a War”.
For a sector that has had to grapple with the (sudden) downturn in business with some sectors like property being particularly badly affected, not to say the annihilation of the interest earned on client account monies, frankly the last thing you need right now is a heap of substantive changes coming down the road.
For me what is so surprising is that save for the obvious cost savings point which lies at the heart of the Jackson report and latterly Legal Aid, I don’t recall a hue and cry from the general populous nor, indeed, the popular press that the legal profession was an improperly regulated profession that needed to be massively opened up for the good of the consumer. And although it may seem heretical I believe that there was a certain kudos for clients in instructing a solicitor of their choice. Dare I say that it felt *special*.
Of course a lot of clients would have had little or no contact in a litigation context (my bag) but when I think back would they have voted with their feet if there was an uber, consumer brand down the road? It is conjecture, but I doubt it.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favour of competition and making sure that clients are offered the very best service but I am not convinced that all this change, coming as it is at such a delicate economic time, is warranted.
Yes I know there will be commentators who will say that the legal profession had got fat and needed some trimming but I think the market has, in the majority of cases, put a severe brake on things.
For a lot of firms they will struggle to unravel the complex mix of challenges. Should they:
- Change their business model?
- Look at their mix of work?
- Change their income streams?
- Ditch LSC work?
- Hire in additional rainmakers?
- Scale up?
- Scale down?
- Close offices?
- Open offices?
- Consider a merger?
- Promote people aggressively?
- Change the career progression path for those individuals who are not partner, member or director material?
- Spend more money on a new website?
- Embrace on-line trading?
In reality all of these, in differing degrees, will need consideration.
But the fact remains that the profession cannot and indeed must not stand on the sidelines and wait to see what happens. Those running the show must take the initiative, pick a general direction for the firm and execute like hell around it. Why? Because if they adopt the usual reactionary style to the market it will leave them High and Dry [aka dead]. They will have so little room for manoeuvre that there is a risk of a lot of them disappearing on the basis that their business models are unsustainable.
It is important that those in charge grasp the nettle and look at all the sacred cows and challenge any accepted orthodoxy.
If I wanted to build a programme around one single word it would be URGENCY. If you want a great book on this subject then you can do no better than to read John Kotter’s book, A sense of Urgency.
Bring it to bear with all your might, tenacity and grit your teeth with an ardent desire to bring about necessary change. Be persistent and don’t wait for adoption in all respects. If it feels right then there is likely to be a strong synergy with your vision for the future. And Good Luck. Whatever else those with their hand on the tiller can expect some choppy waters ahead.
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