A short while ago I presented the marketing paper at the annual CLT “Managing and Marketing a Profitable Private Client Department” conference. The event was chaired by Gill Steel and there were various speakers. I thought I’d share some of the reflections I had whilst listening to the other speakers as I waited my turn…

  • Growth and critical mass – Various speakers (myself included) stressed the need to either specialise on a particular niche or to achieve a critical mass so that scale economies and the necessary investment could be achieved. It reminded me of a quote given to me back in 2005 by Mills & Reeve in the Midlands for an article I wrote in Solicitors’ Journal “You need at least 15% of the firm’s turnover in private client markets to get the investment you need”. The phrase “Join up, sell out or tough it out” resonated.
  • Business skills will make the difference – It feels a bit like stating the obvious but there are still some lawyers who think that all it takes is being a great lawyer. Sadly, in these competitive times, and with more sophisticated client expectations, the relationship and service elements as well as the business planning, innovation and marketing skills are what the profession really needs. This is especially so in the smaller firms where specialist support staff are beyond their budget.
  • New channels to market – Whereas historically the High Street practice pressed the retail button, their demise leaves the market open for the sort of bold move by QualitySolicitors to enter into a collaboration with W H Smith to provide High Street services again – but through a rather different channel. Hey Ho.
  • ABS – You will probably have seen the work of Nick Jarrett-Kerr and his analysis of the 15 different types of ABS. With some creative thinking (from outside the sector) I am sure we will see some more. It presents a myriad of possibilities for small and large firms alike to adapt their business models, collaborate with organisations with complementary skills or markets and really innovate.
  • Blank sheet of paper – I have often wondered what would happen if someone sat down with a blank sheet of paper – and lots of client feedback and expertise from other sectors – and designed the ideal way to produce, promote and deliver legal services. Without the legacy systems and “professional” baggage. Heresy.
  • Cost databases – My work in the property industry shows me that with the right information systems, firms can build detailed databases of the costs of delivering even the tiniest element of a service. It is the life’s work of a Quantity Surveyor and it makes it possible to present cost tenders with an incredible amount of detail and to be confident of profit margins in even the biggest and most variable of jobs (e.g. constructing a massive mixed use office development). Why then can’t the legal profession do the same? Service mapping may come to the rescue to those firms who are bold enough to have a go.
  • Customer vs. client? – Some have used the distinction to get around Law Society regulations and compete with non-solicitors on-line who are not so encumbered. Is this a valid distinction? Surely the fact that solicitors have a duty of care and are regulated supports a variety of valued benefits relating to reassurance, peace of mind and protection? Do we really want to throw away the “trusted adviser” baby with the commodity bathwater? And what about the role in “family wealth protection” in the broadest sense?
  • Diversification – At the heart of marketing is the need to focus on client needs rather than the products or services on offer. A little research and lateral thinking goes a long way – for example, property/house management, early mortality, critical life stage management, cash planning, joint ownership, international investments, employee support, dementia services, companionship, family office, personal assistant, Fairy Godmother Grandparents, continuing care and post-death services.
  • MDPs – I’ve seen some fantastic cross-discipline collaborations which suggest future packaged ‘MDP’ services with estate agents, surveyors, psychologists, social workers, employers, actuaries, mental health professionals, community groups, charities, accountants and doctors. It’s exciting times ahead.