Your Biggest Competitive Threat for 2011 (and it isn’t ‘Tesco law’)

Yesterday’s Financial Times (“FT”) headline on page 3:

“Legal Firms set for Tesco law’.

And there then followed a short piece on the ever pressing date for the Legal Big Bang and the likelihood that at least 7 of the top 30 law firms were looking to raise up to £50m in external capital. The evidence: a survey by Smith & Williamson.

The survey, as reported by the FT, “found law firms wanted to raise finance to fund long-term development and to recruit new teams and do acquisitions”.

None of this should come as any great surprise, and no doubt the report’s findings will confirm a lot of the professions own views on the way that the legal market is heading. Ipso facto any market that is liberalised opens up the opportunity for greater competition.

However, the liberalising of the market is not the biggest competitive threat. No, it is something much more obvious than that – You are your biggest competitive threat!

In short, a failure to adapt quickly enough or certainly with the zeal, vision and sense of purpose that is and will be required to tackle bigger and more commercially atuned firms.

If you have thought about how you climb the next rung of the ladder or how you can outmanouvre your nearest rival, then the Legal Services Act will be a game-changer. Not only will you be facing bigger firms, you will also have to deal with the merger of other professions who will be chasing as hard as they possibly can for the same clients that you have taken for granted up to now.

In yesterday’s post I referred to the need to get better and whilst that post was focused on a lawyers’ personal skills, the same applies with those running law firms. They need to get better at what they do. Chief amongst those will be a programme to retain the existing clients. But the old order will no longer cut it. You will have to think about:

  • Client loyalty programmes;
  • Money back guarantees (see Valorem Law);
  • How you can deliver the same or a better legal service for less reward;
  • Genuinely treating your clients as ‘consumers’;
  • Cherishing the existing relationship and actively seeking Word of Mouth Referrals;
  • Superpleasing (see Managing the Professional Service Firm by David Maister);
  • Under promising and over-delivering on every single occasion;
  • Giving clients remote access to their files.

……..etc, etc

But the point is none of this is going to happen unless you acknowledge that you have to be the catalyst for change.

N.B. One small point. If you want to make a meaningful difference then start by speaking to one previous client of yours every day for the next month to wish them a happy New Year. Hopefully you won’t run out of people to call. Better still go and see a few clients.

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