Since I started the BigWigNetwork Twitter account, I’ve been finding interesting legal people and firms to follow. I’m delighted that some of these are now following BigWig too. Whenever I can, I spend some time browsing their sites, looking for ideas and approaches that chime with my hopes for BigWig and for the UK legal profession.
Of course, the simple fact that they’re using social media already indicates awareness that online affordances can support, enhance and in some cases transform business for solicitors. Other initiatives, not specifically related to being online, also suggest that people are realising that even lawyers need to do business differently in the 21st century.
Most of us didn’t need the Clementi report to tell us that legal clients are becoming more sophisticated, more demanding and more able to compare costs for legal services from several different providers. However, it is very difficult to change the assumptions and customs of any established profession and particularly of one whose lifeblood is “precedent”. One thing that helps is to study the example of pathfinders who are already succeeding through doing things differently.
My mobile is wonderful!
It is a phone, an MP3 player, a voice recorder, a calendar, a video player and recorder, a web browser, a camera, etc, etc. I have it on contract, but, if purchased over the counter, it costs about £400. Great value as I no longer need an MP3 player, a camcorder, a desktop web browser……..really?
In truth, I have an MP3 player and a camcorder and a desktop computer, as well as the mobile phone. The computer cost three times the price of the phone. The camcorder was a similar price and the camera cost about half as much as the phone. I even have a land-line at home which I pay for monthly.
Why? Well, think about it. For really good, clear pictures of your holiday, are you going to trust your mobile phone or will you buy a camera that is a specialist device? If you were going to leave your children with someone at home all day, would you want a qualified nanny or someone who was “probably OK”?
I have these extra, more expensive gadgets as well as the ubiquitous mobile phone because I am willing to pay for a level of experience (and service) that is higher than any old Tom Dick or Petra can offer, i.e. if I can see added value in the particular product or service.
It is the same with solicitors. Some clients may be happy with an adequate legal adviser. Will they pay top dollar for adequate? No. They will pay top dollar if they believe their problem is serious and needs resolution urgently by an expert in that field.
Does your potential client know why you are worth what you charge?
This may sound ridiculous, but do you know what you spend most of your working days doing? At one level, you might feel that this question grossly insults your intellect and your memory as well as your professionalism. So why do I ask?
Well, the obvious is not what I mean. For someone to want to buy your services, they need to know and understand what you do. I have had potential and actual clients like the look of me and then ask me to do things of which I have no experience at all, simply because I matched some preconceived notion they had of an accountant.
Let us assume you meet the Managing Director of a medium-sized corporate. You are a litigator. He says, “What do you do?” It is your big opportunity to open the door to billing heaven. You draw in a breath and say, “I’m a litigator”, or perhaps, to more enlightened souls, that you work in dispute resolution. The MD looks interested and then moves on to the weather. No problem, you think. If the MD ever needs a litigator, I’ll get a call. The MD will know I am the best litigator in town.
In fact the MD may be wondering what a litigator does that is relevant to his business, or whether appointing a litigator may signal that his business skills have failed. Or, whether his existing law firm already has a litigator, as all solicitors do the same thing kinda?
Well do you? According to comments from lots of recruiters, the answer is no!
Until his early retirement in the 1970s, my late father-in-law was a partner at a well-known establishment law firm catering for the rich and landed. His ill health prior to retirement was not due to his work, and he was in most material ways very comfortable. The family lived in an idyllic country house with a huge garden and sufficient parking for four cars. Beyond in the paddock were two horses. His children were privately educated. He did have unlimited liability for the firm’s debts, but that did not seem to bother him and in reality never proved to be an issue. Family holidays involved overseas travel, usually by ship.
How would his working life compare with that of today’s Partners?
The Clementi Review of 2004 was simply a set of recommendations which did not have the force of law, so many people did not notice it or paid it little attention. The prescient amongst us suspected it meant that legal firms would have to change—whether for the better or the worse depended on one’s point of view. Even though the implementation of the underlying regulations of The Legal Services Act of 2007 was delayed until 2010/11, and may be delayed again, changes are most definitely afoot. What are the implications of the introduction of “Tesco Law” to the UK? Can legal practices afford to ignore it?
Posted in clementi review, Legal Services Act, Legal System, UK Law
Tagged Alternative Business Structures, barrister, clementi review, law firm, lawyer, legal service, Legal System, solicitor