This year, Propero was once again lead sponsor of the Lawyer’s Business Leadership Summit (BLS), which was focused on shaping your strategy when looking at changes in client behaviour in a tech driven future.
Our CEO, Jonathan, gave a keynote about the need to shape your law firm’s business development and brand strategies to grow your firm in an inevitable technological future.
In it he discussed the way changes in client behaviour now and in the future will affect the growth of your firm, starting by addressing two problems.
1. What these changes in behaviour are
2. What you can do to challenge these changes*
*this will be covered in our next blog
So, what are these changes?
You need to start with knowing your audience, developing a sense of why clients buy the services they do, and what is going on in their heads.
The four key things we have learnt in the recent years are that clients are less loyal than ever before, they want to reduce costs, they are self-interested and self-sufficient, and they have rising expectations.
As you can see, there is going to be a difficult journey ahead for law firms to get prospects and retain clients and keep them coming back for more.
Market changes, technology changes, and day-to-day societal changes are already harming your bottom line. And we’re not the only ones to think that. According to PwC’s Annual Law Firm Survey, most law firm leaders themselves acknowledge that changes in client behaviour and their needs are the biggest threat to any growth in their firms.
So, let’s flesh out those four key reasons a little bit…
Clients are less loyal
Major societal shifts have made loyalty less of a factor when deciding on a firm. The ease at which people can find services has changed dramatically over the past 10 or 15 years, with the advent of Google, comparison websites, and social media. This allows for a torrent of information and services, to provide you with anything you could possibly want or need. This means that fewer people are likely to stick with the status quo, just for the sake of it, when there is so much choice available.
And, importantly, disruptive changes in the legal world are affecting client-firm relationships. Increasing numbers of lawyers are choosing to move firms for better pay or more influence, or going in-house, so there is more lateral movement than ever before. And of course, if a lawyer moves firms, then they are likely to take their clients with them.
What is interesting about loyalty, is that it doesn’t necessarily need to equate with gratification. A recent study by the Corporate Executive Board—which is now part of Gartner—found that satisfaction is not indicative of loyalty. The finding, aptly named ‘Smiling as they walk out the door’ stated that “little relationship exists between satisfaction and loyalty”.
So where does that leave you?
It seems that law firms need to be aware that prospective clients are ready, willing and able to use them, they just need to put themselves in the clients’ crosshairs.
Clients want to reduce costs
A prediction from Accenture suggests that in five years, more than half a firm’s clients will select services based on its artificial intelligence capabilities, rather than traditional brand loyalty.
But what does this actually mean? Basically, clients will choose the A.I.-ready firm over the more traditional firm because of one thing: the cost. It always comes down to money in the end.
A traditional firm will spend many billable-hours on contracts, writing and reading documents, and so on. But a firm utilising the newest legal tech will be able to do this in a fraction of the time, and therefore, a fraction of the cost—sometimes as much as 80% less.
It’s public knowledge that BLP is using software to assemble docs designed to be read by AI, and JP Morgan has tapped into the same software to develop tools that extract 150 attributes from 12,000 commercial credit agreements… the equivalent of 36,000 hours of work by lawyers…
Clients are self-involved and self-sufficient
Self-involved in that the client of today—and those of the future— need to put themselves first and prove their worth much more so than the clients of yesteryear. They care about how your firm can make them look, that they appear knowledgeable of the latest tech, that they work with the top firms in the market, and of course, how it will make them look to their bosses and stakeholders.
It’s not as if using the same traditional firm—with its corporate hospitality and nice stationary, because they’ve used them time and again—will persuade their peers they are a maverick or go-getter. No.
And they are self-sufficient because they are able to get and evaluate information for themselves, with technology giving them the tools to do so. Again, Google has made it easy to search for anything, and the speed of data collection is so quick you can make charts galore in no time.
So, when your firm communicates with clients and potential clients, don’t just talk about your tech, but relate how that technology can benefit your client. Faster service, greater accuracy, lower fees… whatever it is that you do better than other firms.
Clients have rising expectations
Clients now obviously expect more for less, in terms of legal services. However, they also expect it more quickly, it needs to be customised or personalised, and it needs to be always available. Faster, better, more.
In 10 years, clients will expect law firms to have tech that can trawl through documents in seconds, rather than human lawyers which takes days or weeks to do the same job.
They will expect everything you send them or send out for them to be personalised and bespoke. Not only that but with their audience in mind, including relevant data sets and specific targeting.
And your firm will need to be online, or available for Skype, WhatsApp, Viber… whatever, 24-hours a day and seven days a week. This is the only way to make your firm stand out from the crowd.
Your firm ultimately needs to say: We have the technology and know-how to get your job done the way you want and need it done. Otherwise you are going to be ignored and forgotten—dead in the water.
That’s part one of the speech, so come back next week to read about how your firm can challenge and adapt to these changes in the legal industry and beyond…