As with any industry, the legal sector places a lot of emphasis on continuous professional development. In fact, there is a lecture, seminar or workshop on everything from efficiency savings to business continuity, client relationships to the adoption of software and new technologies.
But one thing that almost never gets discussed is how to attract new clients.
However, with the digital age has come a huge transformation in the way customers purchase products and services. We only need to look at how people bought car insurance 15 years ago compared to how they buy it today in order to appreciate the way that traditional practices have been flipped on their head.
Without new clients it doesn’t matter if your offices look fantastic or you’ve got the latest case tracking software, because you won’t have any clients to benefit from your investment.
The latest LexisNexis Bellwether Report on the legal sector ranks attracting new clients as the second biggest challenge for law firms. Yet few are embracing technology as a tool in the engagement of new business.
Aggregation through the ages
When the first aggregator site was launched in 2002, insurance companies were intensely sceptical of the new proposition they faced. They had their tried and tested routes to market and didn’t think they needed the new kid on the block that was promising qualified cases at a quantifiable cost.
Fourteen years later and aggregator sites are an established source of new business for travel, home and motor insurance, utilities, loans and credit cards. A huge 24 million policies are now bought through aggregator sites each year, according to MoneySupermarket.
But this top line statistic only tells half the story. If we dig a little deeper into comparison websites, there are some even more interesting details to note – particularly for those who are quick to label the comparison model as a ‘race to the bottom’.
50 per cent of consumers DO NOT buy the cheapest product they are presented with. Instead they choose a provider based on a range of criteria that are important to them.
This could be the proximity of the company offering the product, or service awards they have won for how they handle claims, the ability to get discounts for multiple car policies, or just that the brand is one they know and trust.
And lawyers are not immune to this changing consumer behaviour. Being able to search for companies providing a particular service and compare what is being offered online before connecting to the chosen provider is a very credible and familiar way for people to buy products and services in the 21st century.
This is borne out by the Legal Services Board’s strategy, which states:
‘Consumers will be given a greater choice of providers and service delivery channels. There will be a demand for intermediaries and comparison tools to help them do so.’
Similarly, the Competition and Markets Authority, which has already imposed transparency on the utilities and financial sectors, following studies into those markets, is currently putting the legal sector under the microscope.
It’s no coincidence that financial and utility companies are offering their products and services via comparison websites following criticism from the CMA. And this is almost certainly a pattern that we will see replicated in the legal profession.
Instead of being sceptical of a new more transparent route to market, I believe lawyers should embrace the changes. With the latent legal market or ‘access gap’ estimated to run into the billions of pounds every year, according to the LSB, there is a significant opportunity for those prepared to become early adopters.
As research has shown, every adult in the UK has a legal issue once every three years yet only 20 per cent use a lawyer. Similarly, 40 per cent of SME’s have a legal issue every year but only 11 per cent will consult a solicitor.
But being part of a legal aggregator is about more than business generation, too. It can provide an important insight into what consumers want. By capturing data from those clients that visit aggregation sites it is possible to build a reliable picture about consumer buying habits, factors that impact on purchasing decisions and a number of other measurable factors.
Importantly, firms are also able to accurately work out their cost of acquisition and outsource the need for a law firm to invest in its own digital presence.
By partnering with The Law Superstore, legal service providers will gain knowledge relating to the customer journey, user experience and the effectiveness of marketing and pricing strategies. Perhaps most importantly of all, however, legal service providers can focus on practising and doing what they do best, safe in the knowledge that clients can more readily find them.
For more information visit www.thelawsuperstore.co.uk/partners or call 0344 576 1670.