Monday, 12 July 2010

How Can Solicitors Compete?

In a previous post, I suggested that most High Street conveyancing Solicitors simply cannot compete on price and should not even attempt to do so. So, how else can such firms survive in the ever changing legal marketplace? Here are just a few ideas:

1. Identify both your existing and "wish list" Clients and, in each case, determine the type/s of service they (not you) actually want and what they are willing to pay (not how much you want to charge). Unless and until you have performed this exercise, you are simply fumbling around in the dark, unable to reach your target audience with any degree of precision. It is impossible to "be all things to all people". Armed with such information, why not offer different levels of service to different Client types?

2. Differentiate your practice. What is your unique selling proposition? Why should potential Clients choose your firm over its competitors, especially if you are more expensive? How can you justify higher charges? What additional benefits do you provide and why are they important? You could, for example, emphasise that you are:

2.1 Partner led;

2.2 Qualified;

2.3 Experienced;

2.4 Regulated; and/or

2.5 Local.

Furthermore, you offer:

2.6 A personal service; and

2.7 The protection afforded by both professional indemnity insurance and the Solicitors Compensation Fund.

You may also have embraced IT.

Perhaps, you visit Clients at home or in hospital.

3. Now you know your target audience and distinguishing features, promote your own brand, rather than someone else's. Take advantage of the new opportunities created by social media and social networking.

4. Consider offering a truly fixed price, irrespective of whether it is a sale or purchase, freehold or leasehold, with or without a mortgage etc. First, research the types and values of properties in your target area. Next calculate your average fee. Practice/case management systems should help in both respects. Finally, ensure that the average fee remains competitive for the most common type/s of transactions and that the estimated loss of income related to low value transactions will at least be met by the potential increased number of higher value matters.

5. Arrange the Energy Performance Certificate and then refund its cost (about £50) if you deal with the conveyancing. A group of local firms could join together for advertising and marketing purposes and still offer Clients freedom of choice between local, quality firms. Such a proposition could also alert unsuspecting potential Clients to the alternative being advanced by third parties.

6. Offer a free Will or a discount against other legal services, especially those not provided by your competitors. Provided you meet/manage Clients' expectations, this should, over the medium to long term, produce dividends, cultivating brand loyalty. Clients will, in time, regard you as their "family Solicitor" and recommend you to others.

7. Offer Clients a referral fee or other financial incentive for all new instructions introduced by them.

Of course, with the exceptions of 4. and 5., all of these ideas are of general application.

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