The future of law firms will be specialisation, rather than expansion, experts told delegates at the ALPMA conference yesterday.
The more services a firm offers, the less memorable the brand is. And with advancing technology set to revolutionise the role of a lawyer, firm differentiation is more important than ever.
According to Edge International’s legal analyst Jordan Furlong, firms have a tenancy to tout their experience with top clients or their highly trained lawyers as points of differentiation, but that can be the wrong approach.
“You are differentiating yourselves on characteristics that matter to lawyers, you have to differentiate yourself on characteristics that matter to clients,” Furlong said.
“What market are you serving, why are you serving them and what differentiates you in that market?”
In reality, clients have changed from wanting to be loyal to a full service firm to shopping around for the best firm suited to a particular project.
As the legal market shrinks, the obvious solution is to expand and add markets, Ignition Consulting Group managing partner Tim Williams said. But while counter intuitive, Williams said the best approach in a dynamic industry is to hone in on a strategy and stick to it.
“We have this deep seeded desire that we want to appeal to everyone,” he said.
“We want to be appealing to every type of client because we don’t want to pass up any opportunities and this is why we diversify our practice areas.”
But the idea that this opens more doors is an illusion.
“What happens when we try to be good at everything is that we end up being truly excellent at very few things,” Williams said.
“The way to grow our business is to narrow our focus, to narrow and focus our service offerings and to narrow and focus our markets.”
Computers and off shore resources continue to take on work that was once left to the legally trained professionals so upskilling in one particular area will benefit both lawyers and firms as the industry continues to evolve.
“We are entering a hyper specialisation of everything,” said Williams.
“Buyers are seeking best in class solutions to their problems. They no longer need to fall back on a generalist firm that they can count on for everything in their hometown.”