Posted on March 27th, 2013 by Chrissie Lightfoot
A version of this article was first published in The Global Legal Post 26 March 2013 and is reproduced with kind permission.
Yes, the last couple of weeks have been yet another hum-dinger kick in the teeth for the legal profession.
I’ve been bombarded with RSS feeds full of reports from copious legal journals about personal injury practices facing financial meltdown as a result of the LASPO reforms. It looks like the demise of Blakemores (Lawyers2You) is only the tip of the iceberg as the SRA painted a miserable picture of financial instability among law firms in general and the Law Society revealed that the number of private practice solicitors has fallen for the first time.
Reshaping the high street
The society warning of the threat of ABSs reshaping the high street coincided with an article in The Times recently entitled ‘Farewell tweedy high street, hello online’ suggesting that “the mix of internet, reforming legislation and the demise of legal aid is creating an evolutionary jolt in the legal high street, consigning traditional practice to a museum of professional history.”
Let’s face it, the predictions for many years and depressing potential outcomes related to the changes and challenges for ‘traditional practice’ in a crowded marketplace from many respected legal strategists and consultants now appear to be the reality.
In his recent crystal ball gazing captured in his latest book, Tomorrow’s Lawyers (2013), Professor Richard Susskind talks again about the future of legal services, wherein he predicts that legal markets will be further liberalized and the legal landscape is set to change more radically over the next twenty years than over the last two hundred.
Since the dawn of Man, humankind has experienced, embraced (not without kicking and screaming) and survived the many challenges, radical changes, disruptions and ‘Ages’ during its quest to evolve: The Ice Age, The Industrial Age, The Digital Age and The Data Age. In relation to these latter two Ages, and due to the evolution of the world wide web, we are witnessing the revolution of UnSales (relationship sales), UnMarketing (relationship marketing), UnBranding (relationship and social branding) and UnBundling of legal services throughout the legal marketplace.
Opportunity in adversity
Arguably, for us lawyers, consumers and businesses alike, we are now experiencing the Age of UnLawyering, where the traditional way of lawyering is being questioned, superseded and/or supported by other ways of operating and delivering legal services. I am confident that due to mankind surviving in the past, it will survive this transition (and transformation) too; but not without some serious casualties. However, when in adversity, there is opportunity…
We’re now experiencing the new face of law where the Americans, Aussies, Kiwis, Chinese and entrepreneurs have arrived in the UK legal market space. We cannot ignore the recent new entrants: Legal Vision, Brilliant Law, Legal Zoom and RocketLawyer. When Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic launches into space in 2014 who knows, the Martians may even arrive too with a new Virgin Law world order furthering the legal space frontier. Little green men aside, the rest are here to stay, agitate, disrupt and quite possibly, help…
The latest enabler
In the past fortnight, amongst the fall-out in ‘law law land’, I noted that Law Plain And Simple, a home-grown website and legal service, was launched as a response to legislative reforms, the demise of legal aid and the imported challenge to help consumers, businesses and law firms.
This latest kiddie on the block in ‘law law land’ is an online legal information and advice service linked to 400 law firms in England and Wales. The website was master-minded by Dave Lister, director at X-Press Legal Services Ltd., which has developed and funded the service, and has been providing property searches to law firms and licensed conveyancers for many years.
It’s a win-win
The website explains the fundamentals of the law and its standard processes, as well as translating its terminology. It has step-by-step guides covering 39 of the most common legal categories, ranging from property law, bankruptcy, wills and trusts and business law to guidance about social media and social networking and even image rights.
Dave commented: “We wanted to take the mystique and fear out of the law for ordinary people. The website avoids legal jargon and has been written in very basic English to help people understand the law and how it might affect them in particular circumstances.” Law Plain and Simple has been written by qualified solicitors – no, this is not a misnomer or a joke. Co-director Lynne Lister says: “We intend that our website should give people the facts in words they understand, so they can move forward in resolving whatever difficulty they are in. We believe that “A little knowledge is a wonderful thing.”
The idea for the website grew out of enquiries from members of the public directly to X-Press Legal Services Ltd. about legal terminology, particularly in the housing market. Dave and Lynne commented: “We recognise the importance and value of professional solicitors with their extensive experience and knowledge so we are keen to enhance the service they can provide – not detract from it.”
The website is free to use for consumers, businesses and the law firm clients of X-Press. The website receives no referral fees and doesn’t do data grabs. The law firms in the local search directory are clients of X-Press and these law firm clients set their own fee rates when advising the visitor who has come through the website, as well as providing a continuous stream of legal articles for visitors to read on the site.
With the numbers of users (consumers and businesses) visiting the website set to increase significantly due to publicity and awareness raising through offline and online activity by X-Press HQ, its 40 franchisees and 400 law firms in the network, and deals being struck with high traffic websites, this radical new business model and service is set to be a win-win for all concerned – consumers, businesses, law firm clients of X-Press who are in the directory and providing legal articles on the website, and X-Press itself. Clearly, as more visitors use the website and are pointed in the direction of the client law firms in the directory (whereby those firms may experience an increase in enquiries and instructions), X-Press may no doubt receive more conveyancing searches from those client firms succeeding in serving existing clients further as well as new law firm clients.
I believe the real story behind the success of Law Plain and Simple is its history, business model, culture and ability to see around corners. For what the Law Plain and Simple website service is really about is X-Press helping their clients clients. They help their law firm clients to be more successful by marketing to, providing for, and helping the law firms clients by delivering a free helpful legal resource as a first point of call. This ‘client client’ strategy and model is common place for smart marketeers and savvy business people, and proves successful.
And to think, all of this started with a Cadbury’s creme egg …
I dare say X-Press (and Law Plain and Simple) wouldn’t be what it is today if Dave didn’t manage to woo his childhood sweetheart, Lynne, with an enticing choccy egg during one fine Easter break. For X-Press Legal began many years ago as a husband and wife team, and is now a family run business with a nationwide network of franchisees with a totally entrepreneurial and customer-centric culture.
Perhaps what it will really take for lawyers and law firms to succeed in the Age of UnLawyering (at the very least) are these three things:
1) the ability to see around corners – to anticipate the radically unexpected; and
2) create a service or product in readiness for the unexpected; and
3) embrace a truly customer-centric business model which includes marketing to and providing for (and helping) your clients clients.
Back in August 2011 Stephen Mayson wrote an entertaining and thought provoking piece entitled ‘Breaking News: Humpty Dumpty falls off wall’ wherein he stated “it will come as a shock to many to hear that Humpty Dumpty (also known as the traditional law firm business model) has taken a tumble. Worse still, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again. Yes, it’s true: however you look at it, Humpty is well and truly scrambled.”
Actually, it’s clear that in many instances, the traditional law firm business model is well and truly fried.
Lawyering but not as we know it
But all is not lost. We can pray along with our new Pope. A couple of weeks ago The Lawyer website bulletin stated: “The Catholic church and the legal profession have more than a few things in common. Both are ancient, slow to change and sometimes require senior members to wear ridiculous costumes. Oh, and both have a fondness for latin, though that probably harks back to the fact that both are a bit ancient.”
Dave Lister et.al will have no need for prayer. Law Plain and Simple doesn’t entertain any of these things, as is apparent in its homepage mantra: “No legal jargon. Certainly no latin.”
In this Age of UnLawyering if Dave and his X-Press crew happen to blag a seat onto the pioneering good ship Virgin Galactic, and bump into Captain Kirk on his Starship Enterprise at the final frontier, no doubt the conversation by those who boldly go where none of us have gone before would be:
“It’s lawyering Jim, but not as we know it.”
The Entrepreneur Lawyer
Author of The Naked Lawyer: RIP to XXX – How To Market, Brand & Sell YOU!
Please do feel free to comment on this post. I’d love to hear your thoughts…
Posted on December 23rd, 2011 by Chrissie Lightfoot
What the client wants for Christmas and why “Brand,You” will always trump “Brand,Firm.”
This article was first published in the
“>Law Society Gazette 23rd December 2011 and is reproduced by kind permission.
As Christmas comes but once a year, I’d like to share with you now a simple verse:
‘And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’til his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more…’
The above is a verse from my absolutely favourite piece from the Christmas movie The Grinch. You may be thinking where’s Chrissie going with this? So, here’s my take on it…
‘And the Grinch Lawyer, with his Grinch Lawyer-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? They used to come without ribbons. They came even in rags. They came with bribery packages, gift boxes and loadsa cash bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ‘til his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch Lawyer thought of something he hadn’t before. Why don’t clients, he thought, simply walk through the door anymore? What if clients, perhaps, are opting for more. And whilst scratching his puzzler to the very core, trying to figure out how to give clients much more, Grinch Lawyer began to experience a fuzzy feel, as he mumbled and grumbled… WHAT’S THE DEAL?’
As the Grinch begins to understand the true meaning of Christmas I liken it to us lawyers understanding what our clients are really all about and what the true meaning of extraordinary customer service actually is. Have you ever found yourself thinking, feeling and suffering with Grinch Lawyer Syndrome? I have…
Three years ago I was sat at my sparkly desk in Grinch Lawyer Ivory Towers R Us Lair, *hands cupping face and elbows supported on desk*, staring at the office door, glancing every now and again at my email inbox, the telephone and my mobile phone. After a while, I realised that the new legal world order had actually kicked in and things were definitely not going to return to the way they used to be. We were in a new enlightened digital consumer age. Clients weren’t simply going to walk through the door anymore.
What to do when clients are opting for more, I thought? What is more? Why do clients go somewhere else? Who do they go to? Where, when, why? What do clients really want?
Let me share with you now a secret in true Spice Girl style – I’ll tell you what they want, what they really really want. For some of us, it will come as no surprise, but for others it may be rather enlightening… I read a recent survey (research report published October 2011) by Peppermint Technology – only a couple of months ago – entitled What Clients Really Want from a Legal Service Provider. It is the first fully comprehensive research into the role of the customer experience in legal services, post the Legal Services Act.
Obviously, I cannot share with you the entire findings (copyright ‘n’ all). You will have to read the research for yourself. But, I believe I can share with you one wee part of the report, a particularly intriguing piece, no less. The survey report asked a series of questions to law firms, consumers and businesses. Here’s just one example, I think, that will help us understand what our clients would like for Christmas, and beyond.
The following question was asked to consumers and businesses (buyers) of law firms (suppliers): ‘If you were purchasing legal advice how important are these factors?’
Respondents then had to rank six factors in order of importance. One of the six factors to be ranked was ‘they have a trusted brand name’ in relation to the law firm – “Brand,Firm”.
Upshot? Businesses ranked ‘they have a trusted brand name’ LAST; consumers ranked it fourth from last.
This confirms what many people outside the legal profession (and arguably legal industry and legal market) have long since suspected, meaning, clients couldn’t give a rats about “Brand,Firm”. Law firms have zip visibility in terms of their firm brand names and have been wasting their marketing budgets for years on “Brand,Firm” activities.
The research findings also confirm what entrepreneurial lawyers of the Super Lawyer kind, whom I wrote about back in May 2010, realised (The end of lawyers? Pah! This is the time of the ‘super lawyer’), namely, that what clients really really want is “Brand,You”. How can I say this with such confidence and conviction? The number one ranking for businesses with regard to answering this particular question was it was important to ‘know and trust a lawyer that works for the firm’ and for consumers it was ‘the quality and promptness of customer service’.
Ultimately, “Brand,You” trumps “Brand,Firm” in the clients’ heart and mind.
“Brand,Firm” is an entity. It can only have personality if it has a human being (us) breathing life into it. The client is telling us that “Brand,You” is the oxygen to the lifeblood of “Brand,Firm”.
At the very heart of what the client wants is the need for us to extol our soft skills, emotional intelligence, engaging behaviour and extraordinary ‘giving’ focus on them through our “Brand,You”; the elixir for knowing, trusting, quality and promptness of customer service.
What do clients want for Christmas? Grinch Lawyer, or Super Lawyer? I’ll leave you to reflect on what I’ve shared with you here. It just may help to snuff out Grinch Lawyer Syndrome.
May I take this opportunity to thank you for getting involved in my posts throughout 2011 and I look forward to engaging with you in 2012. I wish you the most wonderful, extraordinary, super and ‘naked’ Christmas 🙂
Please do feel free to comment on this post. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Tags: Brand, Brand Firm, Brand You, Branding, customer service, entrepreneurial lawyer, Grinch, Grinch Lawyer, Legal Advice, Peppermint Technology, super lawyer
Posted in Branding, Customer Service, Entrepreneurs, Future Law, Law Management, Lawyers | 2 Comments »
Posted on September 1st, 2011 by Chrissie Lightfoot
First published (edited version) in Legal Futures 1st September 2011
With the plethora of reports and blog posts of late whizzing around cyberland in relation to online legal document and service providers, legal innovation, the law firm business model and the future of the legal profession I reckon we’re transitioning toward ‘two faces of the law’.
I believe two dominant umbrella business models are coming to the fore in relation to who, what, where, why, when and how we serve our clients: Face to Face and Interface.
At a time of great change I believe a key differentiator in the success of both of these models and their adopters will be the ‘humanisation’ of lawyers. As we transit even more in the years to come, as Artificial Intelligence (AI) evolves further within legal provision and service and Singularity edges even closer, ‘humanisation’, that is, our ability to simply be human- a social creature – and naked (our authentic self with Lawyerly Intellectual Capital and empathy), will become even more important and valuable.
During August we’ve seen the following revelations:
- Rocket Lawyer has been backed by Google Ventures with a whopping $18.5million treasure chest. Rocket Lawyer, founded by a lawyer, provides legal documents for consumers. It has a network of approximately 6,000 practising lawyers in the USA on hand to review forms created by Rocket Lawyer’s documentation system. It’s not a law firm and the lawyers involved are part of a referral network; they are not employees. It plans to enter the UK legal market in 2012.
- LegalZoom, the best known legal brand in the USA, also founded by lawyers, has had $66 million pumped into the business in the last few months. Again, not a law firm, LegalZoom provides legal documents created via its documentation system and checks are made by its customer care team, who amend errors such as spelling mistakes, capitalisation and so on. It will also be entering the UK online legal market in 2012.
- Aderant acquired Client Services and CompuLaw for an undisclosed sum. Aderant, a software vendor used by law firms for billing, content management, and practice management is now the legal technology field’s largest independent software provider and its newly expanded applications catalogue is similar to that of LexisNexis, but without content and research services.
- Hewlett-Packard purchased Autonomy, which is a leading e-discovery provider, for a staggering $10 billion.
- Entrepreneur Ajaz Ahmed (the founder of Freeserve) has joined forces with Last Cawthra Feather, a UK Yorkshire law firm, to launch Legal365 (powered by Epoq Legal – desktop lawyer service already established in the UK). Legal365, an online venture providing automated document assembly where lawyers will be on hand to help fill-out fixed fee legal documents the customer has purchased plans to roll-out a UK national network of city centre law shops. Mr Ahmed hinted that Legal365 could even become a franchise.
- Slater & Gordon, a leading Australian law firm and the world’s first to list on the Stock Exchange is eyeing up the UK legal market opportunities. It’s one of its business priorities for the coming year.
Here in the UK QualitySolicitors, founded by a lawyer, is already up and running with its business model. Legal365 will be soon. Legal365 is a different model to that of QualitySolicitors (with its WHSmith Legal Access Points) by providing advice on the spot, rather than arranging appointments at another location.
The new legal marketplace
Clearly, the transformation and arguably re-invention of legal service provision is well and truly underway and, as legal commentator Jordan Furlong puts it, “we’ve begun crossing over from the old legal marketplace to the new one.”
In reading Jordan’s thought provoking ‘Goodbye to all that’ blog post, three statements struck me:
1) “the new providers and new technologies are not going to replace lawyers’… but they are going to marginalize us and ‘render law firms mostly irrelevant”.
2) “lawyers still have outstanding value to offer in certain quarters, but we need to concentrate our market offerings around that value, and we need better platforms for our services than traditional law firms provide.”
3) “lawyers are smart, knowledgeable, creative and trustworthy professionals who, unfortunately, suffer from poor business acumen, terrible management skills, wildly disproportionate aversion to risk, outsized revenue expectations, and a business model about 25 years out of date. The market won’t abandon them — they have unique and sometimes extraordinarily valuable skills and characteristics — but it will find the best use for them: expert specialists with limited influence over the larger process.”
I agree. I would add that as we lawyers become marginalized, our role and value both Face to Face and at the Interface will be in extolling our expert niche specialism with exceptional emotional intelligence whilst delivering extraordinary customer service (humanisation – naked – something AI and computers will never be… or will they?).
The franchise model
Not surprisingly, ALL of the business models mentioned above are different. But I confess, I was wondering when somebody, a non-lawyer, would come up with the idea (and act on it) of rolling out a legal franchise from scratch welcoming and supporting frustrated entrepreneurial lawyers who are looking to capitalize on this transformation, re-invent themselves and start up their own ‘business of law’ with all of the usual trappings and trimmings associated with the benefits of being a franchisee.
The franchise business model has stood the test of time in the business world. It’s a proven model which works. It could work for the new legal world, perhaps?
Imagine a legal business model for the franchisee where there are NO existing solicitors firms already at ‘the coal face’ with potential conflict where uniform brand, values, quality, outdated fee structures and legacy systems, policies and governance would be an issue. Wouldn’t it be a marvellous opportunity for a franchisor, attractive for the entrepreneurial lawyer franchisee and great for the customer if uniformity of brand, values, quality and extraordinary customer service was available and achievable by combining a joined up Face to Face relationship building approach whilst embracing online document technology, at the Interface?
It appears face2face solicitors has done exactly that. It is alive and kicking right now in the UK. As the first national franchise for lawyers and/or law firms, face2face solicitors is the brainchild of a team of business experts who have provided strategic planning advice to business professionals for many years.
I’ve taken a thorough look at the face2face solicitors website and, due to my curiosity, I even picked up the phone to ask them a few probing questions.
Now, usually, I don’t as a rule make such an overt plug in favour of a particular business model (seriously, I don’t 🙂 ) but I’m tempted to with this one because I can see the mega attraction for both lawyers and customers during this transitional period.
What attractions do I see? Read on…
A new concept
Law providers, both existing and start-up, operating in the alternative business structures landscape – and global legal market place for that matter – will require a different type of approach to their business: even more client-focused but with a far lower cost-base to enable them to meet the challenges and exploit the opportunities that lie ahead.
face2face solicitors appears to be a new concept in legal provision operation, designed for small-to-medium sized firms and/or frustrated entrepreneurial lawyers who want to take control of their future in the newly competitive world. It appears to have been designed specifically to counter the growing number of web and call centre based, low-cost providers of ‘face-less’ legal services.
The way I understand it, it’s pretty much a ‘law business in a box’ where franchisees will be able to start up their business without the ‘this is the way we’ve always done things around here’ mentality and the ‘baggage’. I’m a firm believer and eternal optimist that the future is bright for progressive entrepreneurial lawyers and small firms who love the law but recognise the need to deliver it in a new innovative whilst personal (human) way.
What I particularly like about this model is that the franchisees at face2face solicitors will be vetted for their drive and passion in delivering extraordinary customer service in a new way to their clients. All franchisees are fully supported and receive continual training and mentoring to help them to develop and build their own successful business in the law, an essential part of which is the development of personal brands – the ‘Brand, Me’ – something which is dear to my heart.
A cool option
As I understand it, what will be attractive for potential franchisees is as follows:
- Accessing a host of ‘best of breed’ I.T. and services – including Virtual Practices legal accounting, case and practice management from SOS;
- Compliance and Risk Management embracing latest Outcome Focused Regulations;
- Bags of help and advice for marketing – something we lawyers would definitely welcome no doubt;
- On-going Mentoring on a monthly basis – business savvy support;
- On-going CPD training in management / marketing / sales / team motivation;
- Being part of a network of likeminded people;
- Being part of a strong national brand;
- Preferential PII arrangements;
- Lower start up costs;
- Franchise financing – to be offered; and
- Creating and building value for their practice for subsequent retirement/exit.
I guess if you’re looking to be a player in the new legal market place and would prefer to straddle Face to Face and the Interface, and you’re considering grappling with the challenges of taking the best of the old and integrating the best of the new, face2face solicitors looks like a pretty cool option. I can’t see how one could put a complete legal start-up business together for anything like the alternative capital and cash-flow outlay or loss of control and reduced equity alternative, as would be the case if one chooses to go down the external funding (venture capital; business angel; listing) route when Legal Service Act 2007 takes full effect.
This franchise model is worthy of further investigation, I reckon.
As for the paradigm shift and getting your head around this model and potential opportunity think of it this way. As Mike O’Hara says it:
“Even though you went to law school and have spent your career so far practicing law, the truth is, you actually run your own small business—regardless of the size of your firm. And while you may like to think of your practice as a runs-itself enterprise, your long-term success depends on your ability to think and act as an entrepreneur (in between practicing law, that is).”
You may now be questioning yourself as to whether or not you are an entrepreneur, or could become an entrepreneurial lawyer. Let me help you. I’ve just read ‘Are You an Entrepreneurial Attorney’ blog post by Mike. In the post I found the following definition of an entrepreneur and an interesting quick quiz:
‘… an innovator who establishes a new business … strong beliefs about market opportunities … willingly accepts a high level of personal, professional and financial risk.’
Based on information from The Entrepreneurs Guild, if you take this quiz you can assess your own entrepreneurial tendencies and entrepreneurial comfort level. Albeit there will obviously be shades of grey, for the purpose of this exercise just see if you mostly ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ with the following statements:
- I’m great at and enjoy networking
- I’m optimistic about positive, successful results
- I need to do it my way
- Results derive primarily from my own behaviour and actions
- I thrive on innovation
- The most important thing is achieving the goal
- I have a plan, and work my plan
- I’m comfortable with change, ambiguity and uncertainty
- I’m self-motivated
- I’m a risk-taker
If you mostly ‘agree’ and presently think, feel and act in a way in relation to the above statements then you’re already well on your way to becoming an entrepreneurial lawyer and the face2face solicitors legal franchise business model could be for you.
I wrote a blog post a year ago entitled ‘Frustrated Lawyers R Us. Plan ‘B’ Mutiny?’. If it resonated with you and you’re maybe feeling a little disenfranchised right now, maybe consider a franchise.
As the legal profession and our industry continues to re-invent itself, transform and transit ever more so toward two faces of the law – Face to Face and Interface – I have no doubt there will be a plethora of new business models which spring up under the two dominant umbrella models to compete feverishly in this plump, innovative, new and increasingly fragmented and diverse global legal market.
The way I see it, it’s a wonderful and exciting time of opportunity for both personal re-invention and professional evolution for us lawyers and I welcome the ‘humanisation’ of lawyers (and no doubt many customers and lawyers do too) in the face-off between Face To Face and Interface.
Whether we like it or not, agree with it or not, welcome it or not, to quote the ubiquitous ‘future’ statement by Neuromancer author William Gibson, “the future is here… it’s just not evenly distributed yet”. You bet. It probably never will be.
Accordingly, “the great excitement of the future is that we can shape it” (Charles Handy).
Tags: franchise; legal franchise; face2face solicitors; quality solicitors; entrepreneurs; face to face; interface; human; humanisation of lawyers; entrepreneurial lawyer; frustrated lawyers; legal futures
Posted in Entrepreneurs, Future Law, Law Management, Lawyers | 13 Comments »
Posted on August 24th, 2011 by Chrissie Lightfoot
First published in the Law Society Gazette 24th August 2011
As lay-offs continue to sweep through Wall Street I got to thinking about our legal world and the movie Indecent Proposal. There’s a thought provoking and inspiring line spoken by Demi Moore at the very start of the film. She is reflecting on her (film) husband’s view that ‘A life without risk is like no life at all’.
I agree. To truly experience living, and not merely existing throughout our careers, business and life, the progressive evolutionary dynamics of our present decade (and beyond for that matter) is compelling us to get out of our comfort zones, to dare to be different and ultimately, to re-invent ourselves.
In a climate of fear, low morale and the unknown – something we’re all (arguably) dealing with right now – I reckon we need to adapt, innovate and feel inspired by both the finger biting challenges and extraordinary opportunities staring us in the face.
But to do this we will need to take some risks.
Why? Because disruptive forces are sweeping through the entire globe; in particular, the technology world, finance world, political world, business world and legal world (law law land) right now. I also believe and agree with Robin Sharma (a leadership expert and author) that success is driven via evolution versus revolution: ‘Small daily innovations stack up into stunning results over the passage of time’ (Robin Sharma).
I tweeted this recently which attracted the following response from Professor Richard Susskind: ‘Good quotation. I call this “incremental revolution” or “incremental transformation”,’ (@richardsusskind 11th Aug 2011).
We need to get a grip. We actually need to take complete control of our personal destinies, make the bold choices necessary and ultimately embrace the topsy-turvy changes occurring in our crazy world. Bottom line… we need to continually innovate (more so now than ever) because the world is always innovating. We need to re-invent ourselves and thereby make the transformation required to make a lasting success of our careers, businesses and lives now and in the years to come.
IMHO Susskind’s view sits nicely with that of Whatify’s when reporting on a news source which suggests that there are only three kinds of innovation remaining (Whatify newsletter, 17 Aug 2011); a welcome revelation no doubt for those of us with bad memories or those of us who don’t have time to explore the other five.
The three kinds of innovation are as follows:
1) Incremental Innovation: that is, doing what we have to, to keep existing products up to date. Apparently, many consumer goods companies tend to spend more than half of their innovation budgets on incremental innovations simply because they lack the ability to systematically scan the market for the most attractive opportunities and develop winning ideas to capitalize on them.
Question: does the average law firm and its leaders even scan the market for opportunities and encourage their lawyers to develop ideas, never mind have an innovation budget? Answer: moot.
2) Platform Innovation: this is about coming up with a completely new product. Coke Zero is a good example where the focus here is to grow the innovator’s market share by giving customers a reason to switch from a competitor brand. Now, this is an interesting type of innovation, particularly in the present UK legal market place where we’re seeing strong consumer brands, for example, Tesco, the Co-Operative and AA (to name a few) and new brands such as QualitySolicitors and face2face solicitors enter the legal playing field.
It’ll be interesting to see whether their propositions are compelling enough to entice customers away from their existing legal advisers and how much existing and latent market share these brands mop up.
3) Breakthrough Innovation: this is where we come up with a ‘market-changing innovation’, for example, the iPad. The test seems to be ‘…delivering new benefits to customers and creating a new market that the innovator can dominate for some time.’ Online legal document services (including legal advice) such as Epoq, Rocket Lawyer, Law Pivot and Legal Zoom spring to mind here.
I am not at all surprised that such groundbreaking innovations can attract staggering amounts of venture capital from the likes of Google Ventures (as in the case of Rocket Lawyer). Only last year Mark Zuckerburg (founder of Facebook) said that over the next 5 years or so social networking will make it possible to ‘pick any industry and rethink it’.
Question: could this mean the legal industry? Answer: it’s happening now.
There is an excellent blog post by Jordan Furlong (Canadian legal commentator and award winning blogger) who looks at these market changing innovators. Jordan suggests that from now on, lawyers’ and law firms’ profitability hinges completely on what we choose to do and how we choose to do it. I would add that the real game change at play here with regard to profitably will be WHY lawyers’ and law firms’ choose to do what and how they do it.
WHY sits at the very core of an entrepreneurial law firm’s purpose and the very soul of an entrepreneur lawyer’s raison d’etre.
Accordingly, I suspect that the new game change players will be even more discerning and passionate in their focus and drive for delivering extraordinary customer service. They know that focusing on THEM, i.e. the customer – first, last, always – by investing in their people – first, last, always – that the bottom line (profit) will naturally take care of itself.
I would argue that in law law land we’re witnessing survival of the fittest as the strong firms grow stronger and the weak firms weaker largely due to the ‘fittest’ firms adapting to the disruptive forces and competitor ‘disruptors’ by continually innovating. Leading law firms and their innovative leaders are resetting their strategies by taking bold moves.
The key areas ripe for innovating which I believe we should consider that will be fundamental to future firm success and individual success is as follows:
Our law firm business model and umbrella strategy
I read a fascinating, brilliant and entertaining blog post recently by Professor Stephen Mayson entitled “Breaking News: Humpty Dumpty Falls Off Wall” in which Stephen suggests that the traditional law firm model is well and truly scrambled. I reckon it’s fried.
Sadly, it’s taken a global economic nose-dive off a cliff, smart liberalisation in the form of legal reforms (Legal Services Act 2007 and alternative business structures) and switched on entrepreneurial global venture competitors to prompt traditional law firms and their lawyers to start writing new messages on Humpty’s wall.
As Stephen shares with the reader his expertise on the subject it is apparent there can be a sunny-side up for those firms and individuals who are prepared to re-invent their model and strategies; which in essence, IMHO, is what the strong firms and individuals have done and will continue to do.
This is a massive topic in and of itself so I think I will leave this for a future blog post. Suffice to say I reckon Professor Richard Susskind can smile after twenty years of preaching as he begins to witness that his beliefs, research, teachings and drive for a technologically savvy and online legal world is actually coming to fruition.
Hey-ho, we’re getting there in the end, even if some of us are frothing around in the wake whilst others are surfing ahead.
Our marketing and sales strategy
Most firms still allocate prime responsibility for winning new customers and keeping existing clients to the partners and allocate ‘marketing the firm’ as the prime responsibility of the marketing, brand, communications or business development person and/or department; an individual pumping out ‘marketing and PR messages’ about the firm behind the corporate veil. It’s neither engaging nor interesting to the recipient.
Potential and existing buyers of legal advice want to engage with individual lawyers so the lawyer being visible, available and engaging to the seeker is of paramount importance.
It’s time to turn the traditional top down triangle marketing mantra upside down to capitalise on each and every lawyer’s social capital and human capital; two of four essential pillars in a law firm’s make-up which Stephen Mayson highlighted five years ago in his book Law Firm Strategy.
Let’s encourage and support everyone in marketing the firm by re-inventing and marketing themselves. Devise a niche, create your ‘Brand, Me‘ and have EVERYONE embrace new innovative tools such as social media and social networking in order to attract and keep more customers through efficient and effective relationship marketing.
Our core purpose
It appears that at the very core of the successful firm and individual lies passion, energy and enthusiasm for their clients. Integrated Legal Holdings (ILH) and Slater & Gordon (Slaters), the only two law firms in the world that have listed on a stock exchange (to date) are testament that taking a gamble, focusing on innovation and delivering extraordinary client service and care actually pays large corporate dividends.
Andrew Grech, managing director of Slaters, an Australian law firm that became the first law firm in the world to be listed on the Stock Exchange in May 2007 reveals his secret to success when interviewed by author Simon Tupman in Legal Eagles.Legal Eagles profiles sixteen innovative and visionary lawyers from around the globe who are changing people’s lives and making a difference in the world; they offer candid insights into their careers and share the secrets of their success. Their stories dispel many myths about the legal profession and prove that lawyers can, and do, make the world a better place.
Andrew said ‘Good lawyers care; they give a damn… to be successful, you have to be passionate about the work you are doing for your clients.’
For the financial year ending 30 June 2011, Slaters announced net profits of $27.9 million (up 40.9%).
ILH has recorded a 51 per cent increase in profit after tax for the 2011 financial year. Graeme Fowler, managing director, told Lawyers Weekly that the ‘results were realised through a combination of getting the basics right… and continued business improvement.’
As the Legal Services Act 2007 swings into full action in England in the ensuing months I believe the ambitious and innovative firms in the UK can look to these successful Australian firms for inspiration which have proven that raising external finance via a stock exchange listing (taking a bold move) and adapting their strategies to be totally client-centric does indeed come up trumps.
Even Baker & McKenzie’s – the world’s largest law firm by turnover, where average profit per equity partner rose by 7 per cent, to $1.2m – chairman Eduardo Leite says: ‘The most important metric is client recognition and that’s what we’re focusing on. Higher profits and revenue should be the consequence of better client service.’
The Lawyer recently reported (15th August 2011) that the number of firms where partners earn more than £1m has sky-rocketed. What’s interesting and encouraging is the diversity of firms; there are magic circle firms, silver circle stalwarts, niche boutiques and all manner of firms in between.
Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) and SJ Berwin were the standout performers among the City firms in 2010-11. Both posted drastic increases in profitability. At BLP, average profit per equity partner (PEP) was up 57 per cent from £455,000 to £712,000. According to Neville Eisenberg, managing partner, the 2010-11 impressive result was down to investing during the downturn and that the majority of the firm’s increased revenue was due to improving its standing with existing clients so they give the firm more work across a more diverse range of sectors.
Question: what was the end result? Answer: no less than a big fat turbo boost to the bottom line.
If we are to question how and why BLP has been so successful in scooping up a plethora of awards over the past 11 years, including most recently, The Lawyer magazine’s ‘Law Firm of the Year 2010’, we only need to take on board Neville Eisenberg’s professional opinion that ‘Law firms are not innovative enough’ (and thereby ensuring that BLP differentiates itself from competitors by being innovative) and his personal view that ‘There is a need to keep inspired and to continually challenge yourself.’ (Legal Eagles, 2010).
The innovative moves shown by the likes of Slaters, ILH, BLP, Baker & McKenzie, Epoq, Rocket Lawyer etc (amongst others) reminds me of a telling opinion and quote by Robin Sharma: ‘Smart leaders show up on time. The best leaders show up early.’
The same rings true for innovators.
?In The Naked Lawyer eBook I ask the reader to question where they would rate themselves from one to 10 on the PEE Poor Work Ethic Continuum (PEE = Passion, Energy & Enthusiasm) in relation to the PEE they have for their role, job, career, clients, people and in other respects. Where do you think you and/or your firm would sit right now?
I reckon some of us could do with a paradigm shift lobotomy. We need to rid ourselves of the fear of failure, our aversion to risk-taking and to change. Ideally we could do with cultivating an environment which loves idea generation. Serial innovators like Google give employees time to explore ideas, even when some of those ideas turn into massive failures, writes Tim Harford in Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure.
Why shouldn’t law firms take on board the same innovative strategy? One thing’s for sure, there’s a reason Google Ventures has backed Rocket Lawyer. Traditional law firms had better be prepared to compete with new entrants who do love to encourage, support and reward their employees in idea generation. As Robert F. Kennedy once said, ‘we need men who can dream of things that never were.” Are you that man?
Chris Marston, CEO Exemplar Law, another visionary legal eagle lawyer named in Legal Eagles feels that ‘our industry is plagued by too little push for change’.
He defies the norm and he and his Boston based law firm continually innovate to the extent that he is proud to say that ‘some lawyers seem to think offering a service guarantee is risky. In our history we have not had a single customer take us up on this’.
Personally, I came to the conclusion a few years ago that I needed to adapt, innovate and feel inspired by the wonderful opportunities in our present and future. I confess, it was largely because I did not (and do not) wish to end up Fat, Forty & Fired or Overworked and Underlaid – any combination of these for that matter; leading themes in two excellent books that I have enjoyed reading recently by author Nigel Marsh.
I re-invented myself and transformed a whole bunch of stuff in my career, business and life to ensure that I would be in control of my own destiny (arguably, mutiny) and never be tempted to accept an Indecent Proposal of the kind we find in the movie’s core theme. Those of you who have watched the movie know exactly what I mean.
With Demi Moore’s touching line ‘a life without risk is like no life at all’ in Indecent Proposal, “Breaking News: Humpty Dumpty Falls Off Wall” blog post by Stephen Mayson and Richard Susskind’s ‘incremental transformation’ tweet rattling around in my legal beagle mind I find myself inspired to aspire to become a legal eagle (as documented by author Simon Tupman in his book Legal Eagles) who is prepared to take some more risks to ensure that I live a truly fulfilling life.
Can you say the same?
If you find yourself in a place like Mick Jagger where you just ‘can’t get no satisfaction’ then may I respectfully suggest the following? Re-invent and transform yourself… dare to adapt, innovate, feel inspired and ‘don’t wait for the light to appear at the end of the tunnel…go down there and light the bloody thing yourself!’ (Cameron de Bough – Australian Paralympian).
Warmest… and with best intentions as always…
The Entrepreneur Lawyer
(of the naked kind)
Author of The Naked Lawyer: RIP to XXX – How To Market, Brand & Sell YOU!
PS: If you enjoyed reading this post and would like to know/share more then please:
* Feel free to comment and get involved
* Come and join me at ALPMA (Melbourne, Oz), the International Bar Association (Dubai) and Future Firm Forum (Lake Taupo, NZ).
I’d love to see you here and there! 🙂
Tags: reinvent; adapt; innovate; inspire; transform; transformation; legal future; technology; google; rocket lawyer; epoq; face2face solicitors; BLPlaw; S J Berwin; Slater & Gordon; Baker & McKenzi
Posted in Entrepreneurs, Future Law, Law Management, Lawyers, Partners, Trainee solicitors, Women in law | 17 Comments »
Posted on November 25th, 2010 by Chrissie Lightfoot
It is I, your host. Scarletta Pimpanellous. Apologies that I haven’t been blogging a great deal of late. I've had writer's cramp (sort of). Please permit me to explain…
But first of all I wish to thank you for being patient with me… and for being in my life, whether it was/is for a reason, a season or a life-time…
NOW…STEP OUT OF THE RAT RACE… PLEASE… GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK and just sit back, chill out and allow yourself to share a few personal minutes with me. I would be delighted and feel truly honoured if you would. Also, it just might bring some (more) positive things into your life…
I wish to be one of the first people to wish you a wonderful holiday season; and for my American friends, I truly hope you’ve just enjoyed a splendid Thanksgiving.
* GREETINGS *
The run up to Christmas is upon us. Freezing temperatures, the smattering of snowfall, ice and subsequently things (as per usual) grinding to a halt as a result of such force majeure here in the UK may have something to do with this feeling of course. I can feel it. Can you?
Over the Christmas and New Year period I tend to reflect on the year gone by and the year yet to come. I look at what I’d like to see improve, what I could do better, what I could do with ‘more’ of (or ‘less’ of), what I could give more of, and what will make me feel more fulfilled in my business, career and life. Not just with myself in mind, but for those whom I care about too (in business and life). Do you?
If so…I just might have something that may help you and those who are special to you…
Some of you may be aware that I’ve been holed up in a cave beavering away to bring The Naked Lawyer: RIP to XXX – How to Market, Brand and Sell YOU! to life. OK, so it’s taken me much longer than I had anticipated. I had Shakespeare in mind when he wrote “Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast.” I don’t enjoy crashing to the ground with a SPLAT. Do you?
And so, I’ve been scribing away carefully, gently, thoughtfully and diligently… with passion, energy and enthusiasm, driven by a vision and a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)…
For, what I desired to produce was something that would be of real VALUE to all my friends and acquaintances and those whom I and they care about too. Namely, YOU and YOURS.
Drum roll… tttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt… at last, The Naked Lawyer is alive and ready to dance to YOUR tune.
The Naked Lawyer is my REAL-LIFE STORY, a SALES BLUEPRINT, a LIFE MANUAL and a WORKSHOP all wrapped up into one delightful little package… for YOU. Fast paced and provocative, it provides a NEW, idiosyncratic, exhilarating and memorable approach to
‘how to get more clients, sales, referrals, income, value, growth and success.’
Simply put, it’s a red hot sales blueprint laid bare for bottom line impact in YOUR business, YOUR career and YOUR LIFE. If you’d simply like to try a refreshingly NEW way of marketing, branding and selling yourself so you get more CHOICE, CHANGE and CONTROL in your career and life, then The Naked Lawyer is a must read for YOU and those who YOU care a lot for.
Albeit it’s written by a lawyer and an entrepreneur (yours truly) it doesn’t matter whether you’re a lawyer or not, or an entrepreneur or not, for this eBook to be of real VALUE to you. Literally, The Naked Lawyer is for everyone. Certainly, it will be if you are interested in any or all of these:
Sales, marketing, branding, social media and social networking, ethics, emotional intelligence, communication and behaviour, customer service excellence, CRM, business development, innovation, work-life balance and creating a strategy and mindset for success, whether you’re a seasoned lawyer, a lawyer2B, if you’ve had dealings with the legal profession, or if you are a consultant / advisor / educator within the profession or beyond, and you simply desire to achieve a successful career/business and fulfilling life.
It’s an easy read. The eBook is 369 pages (12 Volumes) of timely information, pure fun, a proven sales model and true value for money, which YOU can work through at your own pace. Work it Volume by Volume. You can do this all on your own. No one even has to know about it. Try it. Just in time for the holidays.
If you’re still not convinced RIP to XXX is worthy of a peek and your hard earned spondulicks then why not try the first Volume for FREE ?
I’d also like to share with you what a handful of readers already have to say about RIP to XXX:
“Whether a lawyer or not this book is timely. In truth, it is long overdue. For those who get “it” you will not read this once. It will be well worn because it will be a constant reference for you”
“…simple, novel and cutting edge”
“…practical, funny, inspirational and down-to-earth”
“I’m just going to say that the author of a book about sales and marketing who compels you to read it as strongly as the naked lawyer does clearly knows a thing or two about rainmaking.”
“It’s fun. It’s informative. It’s entertaining. It’s inspiring. It’s motivational. It’s sexy!”
“This well written and important work will change our lives for the better. It has already improved and touched mine”
For that something ‘more’ in 2011 and beyond for YOU and YOURS, be bold. Try out RIP to XXX…
I GUARANTEE you it will touch you like no other BOOK and WORKSHOP and the investment in yourself and/or those you wish to help and/or care for will be more than justified.
Make sure you add it to your Christmas reading list to start 2011 with a BIG BANG if you want to do some wonderful things next year for you, your family, your friends and your colleagues.
Oh, and when you do take the plunge and dive into The Naked Lawyer, you will find me there to greet you… and dance with you… and guide you throughout your course and journey…
Just a thought: feel free to share the news about The Naked Lawyer with those who you feel will benefit in KNOWING. They will thank-you for bringing some (more) sunshine, smiles, inspiration, positivity, choice, control and even change for the better into their life.
Just another thought: If you wish to purchase multiple copies of the eBook for your team / department / company then feel free to contact me direct. I’d be happy to discuss a (generous) DISCOUNT.
A final thought: The Naked Lawyer is available in both eBook and paperback.
Hope to see you there soon! Do come and join me !!
Warmest of regards (whilst shivering in this UK weather) with sprinklings of the season’s joy and sparkle in advance…
The Entrepreneur Lawyer
Posted on August 28th, 2010 by Chrissie Lightfoot
‘The sun is out… the sky is blue… there’s not a cloud… to spoil the view… but it’s raining… (doodle doodle doom)… raining in my heart.’
You may recognise the lyrics from a song. I’m referencing it in relation to how all you frustrated lawyers out there may be feeling right now. Whether you’re frustrated as hell about trying to get into the profession, or whether you’re in it and desperately depressed and you want to get the hell out… but feel stuck… this article’s for you. For some of you, it may feel like a tornado is whipping around inside that legal beagle heart of yours.
I’ve just read in the Sunday Times (business section) last weekend that we’re in for a double dip as far as the economy and recession is concerned. And, the double-dip pessimist mongers say that ‘looking forward the wider economic picture is not so bright’.
I’ve also been chatting and meeting with tomorrow's lawyers and partners in law firms over the past couple of months and law student, associate, senior associate and barrister clients. It’s partly why I’ve been a wee bit quiet on the blog post scene of late – my apologies; some of you may of course be thinking ‘thank God’ – my ‘anonymous’ commentator fan club in particular.
Bottom line… doom and gloom. The feeling is that there will be no boom for many years to come.
I’ve probably made you feel like jumping off the proverbial crumbling ivory tower roof (or equivalent). Jeronimoooooooooo!
But hey, don’t jump. Ever the eternal optimist I reckon there’s still hope. We just have to find the strength and courage to persevere.
For a start, we shouldn’t believe everything we read or hear. So, you can choose to stop reading this article right now if you’re thinking I’m talking a load of blond bimbo utter tosh (or about to).
I believe there is hope because we have choice. We have options.
For example, if you can’t get through the ‘no training contract here for you’ brick wall, are struggling to duck around it by applying for a paralegal and/or legal executive position and having no success there either because law firms are hoarding any cash they have and are reluctant to take on more staff as the global economy faces continued uncertainty, then here’s an idea: go and do something else with your life. For now, at least. While the economy and legal world is struggling and desperately trying to find its feet again and get itself on an even keel.
Reality check – there’s an obvious over supply of law students, an obvious under supply of training contracts available (and/or paralegal positions available) and a pool of highly qualified and skilled ‘give us a job’ lawyers already in the market who were ‘let go’ in 2008/9/10, ever hopeful of reclaiming a rowing position on the good ship legal enterprise.
Taking another path may well mean less risk of racking up debt. After all, there is no guarantee you will make it as a lawyer and have a legal career at the end of it; some things may well be beyond your control. The saving grace is that there’s always the chance you can come to the law later in life (as many lawyers have, successfully).
You may well find (like most people) that you will have more than one career during your working life. There’s a whole range of exciting career paths for an intelligent, hard-working, ambitious young person such as you. Remember, you are one of the top 5% in the world (as an educated budding professional). Even in a recession there are industries and niches doing rather well. Go seek and ye shall find… because it just may turn out that the dream you once believed as being the holy grail might actually turn out to be a paper cup. If you don’t believe me then go and talk to all those frustrated lawyers who remain in the industry and all those who have since left (out of choice).
Whether you’re a paralegal, legal executive, assistant solicitor, associate solicitor, a senior associate, attorney, lawyer, partner or barrister you may well have already reached the point, mindset and realisation which Jim Rohn speaks of:
‘Let others lead small lives, but not you. Let others argue over small things, but not you. Let others cry over small hurts, but not you. Let others leave their future in someone else's hands, but not you.’
Being unhappy in your role/job/career is akin to being unhappy in your marriage. When you’ve reached the point that there’s more ‘bad’ than ‘good’ happening then you have to do something about it (for everyone’s sake).
So, if you want out now because in your case the holy grail you may have once searched for and found has actually turned into a paper cup, then how about these ideas:
1) Become a virtual lawyer – if you’ve got the network, contacts, collaborative relationships, wherewithal, personal marketing skills, personal sales skills… and guts, then go do it; or
Posted on June 17th, 2010 by Chrissie Lightfoot
Last week, Chris Roebuck, in his interesting post on making change happen in the Law Society Gazette 'In Business' blog, stated that ‘legal firms face probably their toughest challenges for years’.
Tags: built to last, business dilemma, change, change managment, change masters, Chip Conley, Chris Roebuck, Collins & Porris, Dante's Peak, entrepreneurial lawyer, evangelist, good to great, Harvard Business Review, Jeph Jacques, John Kotter, law firms, legal industry, luddite, meatball sundae, modernist, Pierce Brosnan, Rosabeth Moss kanter, the rebel rules, Tom Peters, traditional lawyer, traditionalist
Posted in Entrepreneurs, Future Law, Law Management, Lawyers | 4 Comments »
Posted on May 20th, 2010 by Chrissie Lightfoot
In March, Alastair Moyes stated that 'law firms need to work hard in the face of commoditised legal providers'. Last month he bravely stuck his neck out and suggested that we, today's lawyers, need to embrace radical change and reinvent customer service to avoid our industry 'becoming the nearly dead dinosaur that the US car industry became'.
I reckon Alastair makes two very poignant points. Let’s face it, the 2008-2010 global recession combined with the Legal Services Act 2007 has given us a wake-up call. Throw the enlightened consumer, digital era and recent technological advances into the mix and what have we got? Our traditional way of life under threat.
We can no longer afford to be Luddites because the transformation of how the world of legal business operates is already underway. Competition from consumer-centric major players, 'DIY free legal documents providers' via the internet and virtual law firms are already challenging our established engagement model, increasing client confidence, levels of expectation and setting new standards in customer service.
If we consider Professor Richard Susskind’s predictions in relation to the role of lawyers and law firms in the new world of consumer legal services (detailed in his provocative 2008 book The End Of Lawyers?), there is further change on the horizon.
The predictions detailed in Susskind’s 1996 book The Future of Law have already come to fruition. Perhaps we should heed his recent prediction that the market is not going to tolerate costly lawyers for jobs that can equally or better be undertaken by less-expensive workers or through smart systems and processes. Enter ‘de-lawyering’ (passing work to paralegals and legal executives), ‘disruptive’ technologies (computerised systemising, packaging or commoditising), entrepreneurial alternative providers and streamlined law firms.
It’s now 2010. What Susskind wrote about in 2008 we are witnessing. Quoting Neuromancer author William Gibson, whether we like it or not 'the future is here … it’s just not widely distributed yet'. It begs the question, will traditional lawyers be needed? The answer, you’re no doubt pleased to hear, is that it’s not all doom and gloom.
Susskind believes that some tasks, for example those requiring deep expertise or interpersonal communication, will still require the traditional lawyer. Furthermore, as to whether law firms can survive, he believes that entrepreneurial law firms will not see threats in all of these developments and some will actually find opportunity. I would add that entrepreneurial lawyers recognise this and have already begun to act. You will identify these lawyers as bastions of light blazing a trail in customer service excellence and innovation while doing battle with colleagues who are stuck in their Dickensian ways. Inertia and resistance to change always reminds me of Einstein’s view that 'great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds'.
I passionately believe that traditional lawyers, entrepreneurial lawyers and the next generation have a wonderful opportunity in this enlightened, consumer-led digital era to become 'super lawyers'.
What do I mean by 'super lawyers'? Let’s propose that the most expensive piece of real estate is what lies between our ears ('deep expertise' as Susskind calls it – I call it 'lawyerly intellectual capital' (LIC)), and that there is LIC too complex to be commoditised (which there undoubtedly is), requiring interpersonal communication and intrapersonal communication. Accordingly, LIC is where the true value lies. Arguably, what we need to ensure is that we can effectively communicate that LIC is what the consumer needs, wants and desires of us. Enter ‘soft-skilling’ to improve our powers of persuasion, communication, relationship building, marketing, cross-selling, up-selling and selling per se.
If technology can take away as much grunt work as possible and leave the real LIC of value to the super lawyer then that should be something we welcome, right? To survive and thrive in the years to come I propose that a paradigm shift is required in the thinking, behaviour, actions, focus and expectations of both the law firm (partners/owners/directors) and the next generation of lawyers.
As both a lawyer and an entrepreneur (legal purchaser), I believe that the lawyer's role is not just about being technically proficient in the use of words (drafting and advising) – it’s much more than that. Actually being able to truly relate and care about the client and his/her business and/or predicament is fundamental to what true lawyering and LIC is all about. Extraordinary relationships and customer service will be the holy grail at the heart of the successful super lawyer. Building an enduring value relationship with the consumer, utilising 'fluffy soft-skills stuff' combined with a total consumer-centric focus is where the real value will be for the lawyer, law firm and consumer of today and the future.
All of the above may actually just give the legal industry a raison d’etre. I came to the profession in later life (working in a mid-tier established law practice for the past three years) with prior customer service exposure, experience and responsibility having worked in the new media, management consulting and leisure industries. Consequently, I can wholeheartedly agree with Alastair that the legal industry needs to embrace radical change, reinvent customer service and work hard (and smart) in light of the inevitable commoditisation of legal provision. However, I seriously question whether established law firms and ‘traditional lawyers’ are geared up, positioned and truly prepared for the competitive challenges ahead. Are we confident that we already possess the skills required to become super lawyers? If not, the godsend is that with ever-increasing availability and acceptance of the delivery of soft-skill coaching to the profession there is help at hand.
Reinventing customer service will require every lawyer to embrace and action a consumer-centric mindset and behaviour – a paradigm shift in most instances. Scary as this might seem, failure to do the same may well mean that 'the end of lawyers' could actually come to pass – for some traditional lawyers. Perhaps the most famous epitaph in the world is the one alleged to be on the tombstone of WC Fields. As an everlasting reflection of the love-hate relationship with his ‘beloved’ hometown Philadelphia, his epitaph reads 'all things considered, I’d rather be in Philadelphia'.
As I contemplate the threat of our possible extinction, all things considered, I think I’d rather be a super lawyer. Wouldn’t you?
The Entrepreneur Lawyer
Tags: alastair moyes, attorney, Attorneys, commoditized legal services, customer service, en, end of lawyers, entrepreneurial law firm, entrepreneurial lawyer, law society gazette, lawyer, Lawyers, Professor Richard Susskind, solicitor, solicitors, super lawyer, super lawyers, Susskind, the end of lawyers, the entrepreneur lawyer, the law society gazette
Posted in Entrepreneurs, Lawyers, Women in law | 72 Comments »
Posted on April 25th, 2010 by Chrissie Lightfoot
Often I have been asked the question “why did you become a lawyer?” I bet you've been asked the same.
ookie. Frustrated and bored crunching numbers day in and day out he decided to go into the 'commercial van hire business' in the '70s and rode the wave of the Thatcher years.
Being a frugal entrepreneur and having a way with numbers (being an accountant an' all) he decided that the start-up period required investment in the company which meant selling the family home, 'tightening our belts' and living in a caravan whilst we built the next family home.
So, we “upped sticks”, as the North East saying goes, from the town and headed to the countryside.
The new family home was going to be built on a plot of land which at that time had a dilapidated farm house on the very same – a listed building – an old coach & horses residence (aptly named the Bread & Beer House).
Brainwave 1: To save money my father decided that we would 'carefully' dismantle the present building and build our dream family home using the salvaged bricks wherever possible.
Brainwave 2: My father needed 'cheap' labour. We (my older brother and I) were to be the chippies! You see, when you knock down a building and desire to reuse the bricks you have to chip away the mortar from the brick with a hammer & chisel to ensure a smooth brick for use to be 'relaid' with fresh mortar.
Brainwave 3: In order to persuade my brother and I that this was a good idea and worthy of our 'buy in' my father said that he would pay us a penny a brick. This was in addition to our 'pocket-money' that we received for our usual weekly chores which we were expected to continue to carry out (grass cutting, raking, sweeping, dog management etc).
So, (being our parents children i.e. appreciating the value of the £) my brother and I then spent our entire school summer holidays (6 weeks) chipping bricks from dawn till dusk. As you can imagine we weren't exactly happy about this arrangement as our friends were having a jolly and we weren't able to join them. However, with the delightful idea that at the end of the task we would have a small fortune we 'got on with the job in hand'. It wasn't without the typical brotherly sisterly fighting and sniping of course as we fought every day for 'the best hammer'. Tears, tantrums, swearing, the lot (which I am not proud of I hasten to add but all part of the rich tapestry of the growing up process). Yup … we had a great time.
Now, the day arrived when we had chipped our final bricks and my brother and I asked our father for payment due. To which he promptly gave us half the amount we expected.
You see, at the outset my father had said that he would give us a 'penny a brick'. My brother and I thought this meant that he would pay each of us 1 penny per brick (aka the cost of the labour was actually 2 pence per brick). My father retorted “no, I meant penny a brick between the pair of you” i.e. 1000 bricks = 1000 pennies = £10.00 between you, NOT £20.00 i.e. £10.00 each.
And so it was. For six weeks chipping bricks with all the bruises, calluses, new swear word additions to our vocabularies and lack of childhood fun I earned £5.00 and my brother earned £5.00 instead of our anticipated £10.00 each.
I felt cheated, stupid, dumb, ignorant, dependent, angry, void of knowledge and recourse. It was a defining moment.
I was 6 years old.
To add insult to injury the council promptly slapped a 'stop build' notice 2 months later due to the listed building wrangle and we ended up living in the caravan for 30 months (instead of the anticipated 6 months). Woo-Bloody-Hoo …
You're no doubt thinking that there were lots of legal issues amongst this little experience, apart from the human nature element of course.
From this defining and unique episode in my childhood I learned a harsh lesson and vowed NEVER to be so trusting, stupid, ignorant or dependant. I figured I needed to understand and learn about 'the law' … as well as human nature!
So, when someone asks me why I became a lawyer, perhaps they now understand.
The Entrepreneur Lawyer
(of the naked kind)
What's your story? I'd love to hear it. Feel free to share and/or comment here …
Tags: accountant, accountants, attorney, Attorneys, barrister, bread & beer house, chartered accountant, entrepreneur, Entrepreneurs, lawyer, Lawyers, solicitor, solicitors, Thatcher years
Posted in Lawyers | 61 Comments »