Facing legal market disruption, firms need to identify their unique value
This article was informed by an LMA webinar hosted by LMA Hall of Fame inductees Mark Beese and Wendy Bernero designed to introduce the 2018 Next Big Thing.
The headlines are everywhere: “Legal market disruption.” Due to a variety of reasons, including technological innovations, flat demand, globalization and increased competition, the legal marketplace is changing dramatically in both form and structure. Historically, firms provided all facets of the legal process to their clients, including:
- Contract lawyers
- Expert witnesses
- Deal closing
- Due diligence
Nowadays, clients hardly ever go to a single outside firm for all, or even many, of those services. The marketplace has changed so drastically that it’s nearly unrecognizable from a mere decade ago. They go to outside counsel for different reasons than they used to, which means that now more than ever, firms need to reassess how they deliver unique value to their clients. Firms need to clarify and accurately communicate their unique value to either stay in the game or run the risk of being passed over.
Due to all of this, LMA identified “Law Firm Strategy Reboot” as the 2018 “Next Big Thing.” The 2018 Next Big Thing initiative will define a framework for strategy development and competitive differentiators to aid law firms and legal marketers when navigating this dynamic environment.
LMA Hall of Fame inductees Mark Beese and Wendy Bernero presented a webinar to introduce the 2018 Next Big Thing. They identified why this topic was chosen above all others, as well as a crucial starting point for firms looking to develop an effective strategic reboot plan. Before firms can begin to strategize, they need to answer one question that is more important today than it has ever been before:
What kind of firm is your firm?
Is your firm a talent provider that matches high-priced professionals with clients, with the professionals serving on an hourly basis? Or is it a solution provider that helps clients address complex business challenges and opportunities? Or is it a hybrid that varies by business unit (industry and practice groups or office/regions)? Or is it something else entirely?
Being able to answer this question with confidence will allow you to begin to understand:
- Why clients would potentially hire your firm
- Your firm’s basis of competition and how it can compete in the market
- How clients view your value proposition
But are firm types really that different from one another?
Well, according to Beese and Bernero, talent providers are “pay for result.” Solution providers are “pay for process.” Talent providers are situated within a more competitive market, while solution providers have lower competition. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to comparing and contrasting firm types. To be sure, solution providers and talent providers are only two possible options for defining your firm, so do your research to discover who you are relative to other existing firms in the market.
Once you’ve identified who you are, it’s time to move into communicating value and restricting your firm functions.
Branding by Type
Branding your firm should be based on your firm’s type. If you are a talent firm, for instance, you’ll want to emphasize the caliber of your attorneys. Sometimes that might even mean recommending additional baseline training to all attorneys in your firm. It could even mean investing in making sure your attorneys are “board ready.”
Branding for a solution provider, on the other hand, is more effective if it focuses on the solution rather than the talent. “Our process to reach the solution you need is unique and cost-effective,” for instance. Here, firms should invest in systems improvement training.
Customizing Business Development Efforts by Type
Solution providers communicate with clients as a team. With talent providers, it’s much more relationship-based, more traditional. With talent, you need to make sure you get the match right between your client and the talent individual you’re putting forward.
Reboot Your Firm Strategy
All of this is introductory. It might feel a bit broad, and maybe even basic. But walking comes before running, and this is just the beginning of the discussion. LMA Next Big Thing regional events throughout the year will dive deeper into the actual process of developing and implementing a strategic plan so you can feel confident creating one for your firm.
For more on this introductory information on the Next Big Thing, LMA members can access the full complimentary webinar recording that informed this blog post, as well as LMA’s Next Big Thing community page.