November 4, 2014
With all the upheaval going on in the legal market today, my favorite moniker for the changing environment was coined by my colleague David Curle when he dubbed it The Betty Crocker Era in Legal Services.
To begin his analogy, he identifies three ways to get a cake today. Bake it from scratch, which is labor intensive but cheap; bake it from a mix, which is convenient and a bit more expensive but with no need to keep ingredients on hand; or buy it from a baker, which is expensive but offers personalization and convenience.
Expanding on the metaphor, most consumers of legal services have traditionally had access to options one (pro se) and three (hiring a lawyer). But today, market disruptors like legal process outsourcers (LPOs), non-traditional firm models, and alternative online legal service providers are creating door number two.
And consumers (i.e., potential law firm clients) are using door number two.
So what is a law firm, the bakery in our analogy, to do?
Provide quality, personalization, and most importantly value that make options one and two look less appealing.
At various client events and in any number of written resources, we hear time and again that clients want their counsel to know them and their business. They want counsel that isn’t just reactive, but proactive in identifying their needs and posing solutions to problems that haven’t arisen yet.
LPOs focused on mass-production of results or online providers of legal services don’t have the resources to devote to this “know me” effort. And that presents a huge opportunity for firms.
A keen eye to issues impacting a client, coupled with pricing that meets the client’s desire for how a matter should be priced, can show a client how engaged the firm is in representing that client.
Imagine the trust that can be engendered in a client relationship if a firm can tell the client a lawsuit is coming and have a strategy devised before the papers are even served. Or spotting potential business moves that hold a strategic advantage for the client based on new market conditions.
Truly impactful client engagement is something that only a law firm can offer.
Law firms also have the advantage that there is nothing stopping a firm from leveraging outside resources, including LPOs, to manage costs in a matter. The client gets the benefits of the pre-mix solution, but with the added convenience of having a trusted legal advisor overseeing the whole operation so the client doesn’t have to.
There is a small mom-and-pop bakery a few blocks from my house. We buy every birthday cake there, and I’m there nearly every weekend with my kids picking up treats. The food is always top quality, the people behind the counter know what we like, and they have even made sprinkle donuts for my kids on the spot when they were out. We value that they value us. And the same can be true for a firm and its clients.