The best approaches to law firm marketing and sales share two characteristics: they aim to minimise perceptions of risk and to maximise feelings of trust between the decision maker and the firm.
“I am not concerned that I have no place, I am concerned how I may fit myself for one.” Confucius
As firms face the twin challenges of continued economic uncertainty and deregulation, those best equipped to prosper demonstrate clear alignment of vision, strategy, market positioning, target clients, internal structures and operational processes.
Law firm mergers are fascinating things. They mix high drama and Greek tragedy as courting parties – initially with uncharacteristic coyness and latterly with a disregard to sensible decision making – waltz towards ultimate consummation. However, much of the discussion is tangential to the real issues at play.
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” Steve Jobs
A dictionary would support the proposition that innovation is simply introducing something new – nothing more, nothing less. It follows that innovation can take many forms. It can be internal or external and “new” can mean new to a particular use, sector or situation rather than new to the world.
“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” Sam Walton, Wal-Mart Founder
The client must sit at the centre of any strategy – those we serve today and those we engineer our firm to target in the future. Without a strategy that delivers superior value for clients at a price which generates sustainable levels of profitability, no firm can survive.
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Lewis Carroll
“Activity is increasing but pricing is difficult” would be a fair summation of the views expressed to me by Managing Partners over the last three months. Firms across all segments of the market are running faster to stand still. Naturally there is a determined focus on the cost base and efficiency improvements but these do not address the long term strategic issue – in a market in which client demands, competitive forces and investment requirements are spiralling upwards, it is not enough to increase intensity without clear direction.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Innovation can take many forms. Delving into a dictionary would support a proposition that innovation is simply introducing something new – nothing more, nothing less. Business innovation is also highly contextual; in many instances that which is considered innovative is not new to the world but rather to that industry.
“My dear friend, clear your mind of can’t.” Samuel Johnson
The challenge of change remains the most pressing issue facing firms. Overcoming longstanding, deeply held assumptions about the way in which a professional should, or can, operate is the cultural roadblock that many need to overcome.
“Time is neutral and does not change things. With courage and initiative, leaders change things.” Jesse Jackson
Leading a professional services firm can be an unenviable task but strong leadership, setting a clear sense of purpose and direction for the business, has never been more important. What is also crucial is that leaders, by their actions rather than their rhetoric, create an agenda for change and demonstrate the high levels of energy and resilience needed to alter the direction of their businesses. They need to walk the talk and be seen to do so!
“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” Peter Drucker
The legal sector faces a number of unprecedented challenges in the year ahead. The one with potential to disrupt most widely and deeply is a wholesale move to fixed-fee pricing. Surveys of in-house counsel show that they are resolute in demanding fundamental change over the next twelve months.