It is fair to say that when I started in the law, I think in 1991, it was a little bit different. It seemed a little more relaxed, more fun, easier perhaps. The business of being in the law hadn’t quite yet become, how do I say it, a business.
In my legal career I became a bit of an expert in all things related to the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB), even writing my first grown up published book all about it. I should add that I became the ‘expert’ because no one else wanted to do it, so someone had to and that someone was me.
Due to this ‘alleged’ expertise, on one occasion I had to go to London to engage in negotiations with the MIB. I was the lead man, which felt odd because I was the youngest person around the table. There were two or three older people, all solicitors, there too, but I had to lead the talks.
It is fair to say the MIB saw us as nothing other than a nuisance that they wanted to bat away as quickly as possible. They operated in the old ways of business; they wanted to win at all costs and screw any efforts that aimed towards a longer term working relationship. We tried to negotiate, they said no, we left.
I shared the cab back to Kings Cross with a very senior solicitor. As we got to Kings Cross he said to me:
“Do you know Nick, even just a few years ago I would have said to you right, the day is done, let’s take the afternoon off, eat lots of lovely food and get drunk, but hey ho, times have changed” as he bolted from the cab and left me to pick up the fare.
The business of law has very much become a business. However, that is not to say that it can’t still be fun, that it still can’t be easy and that you can still, occasionally, spend the afternoon in the pub if you feel like it.
You just have to be more organised.
I remember from the early days in the law that work did just flow through the door. It was easy. Maybe it was too easy and it was certainly unsustainable. There may well have been some complacency; I certainly saw it.
You could more or less open an office on the High Street, put the word ‘Solicitor’ on your front door and then just watch the work fly through the door. You didn’t have to be particularly nice to the clients.
You could even look down your nose at them, as I saw many solicitors do, but the world started to change and clients realised that they had a choice.
I took over many client matters where the previous solicitor had behaved dreadfully to such an extent that the client wanted to go elsewhere. I could see this from the correspondence and the notes on file.
Some solicitors in these days of Yore (80’s and 90’s I am particularly referring to) were acting very much in the old ways of business; the “as long as we’re ok that’s all we care about” way.
Watching the debates around Brexit reminded me of these business days from the past. Each person, each politician, is only after one thing it seems: attacking their opponents, even their own party members, regardless of the cost. They don’t care about us or our country. It is simply a case of point scoring. It is ‘old school’. It is ridiculous and embarrassing, yet they continue to act in this way whilst the rest of the world has realised that to succeed in business or in any relationship all parties to any arrangement must gain something from it.
The good news for you is that many solicitors still try and operate in an ‘old school’ manner. I know because I see it day in, day out. I know that you don’t. You wouldn’t be reading this if you were ‘old school’. You know that the world has moved on and that you need to think about your message and your service to attract more clients.
You might still be working on refining your message and improving it. The truth is, that is an ongoing process; one that will never stop, but you are well on your way.
To stand out in the legal market in 2019 doesn’t have to be hard work. It is as simple as showing that you understand your client’s current position, you feel their pain or concerns and that you can help them to overcome them, whilst charging a fair price for your service.
With this in mind, I have some questions for you, to help you to see if you are making your life easy or hard.
Does your website open by talking about your clients needs and concerns, or is it still making the ‘old school’ mistake of talking about how your firm was formed in 1832 and hasn’t changed since that day?
Do your advertisements in niche publications that target your perfect clients start with a question that immediately stands out to these prospects and ensures that they keep reading, or does it simply display your logo and a list of services (old school)?
Do you make your clients feel like Kings and Queens as they walk through your office door for the first time, or does your rottweiler of a receptionist scowl at them and make them wait until they have finished their crossword puzzle before deigning to converse with them?
Food for thought? I hope so.
Be ‘new school’ and the work can still flow through the door.
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