Law firms need to become more commercial to survive in new legal age

30 Sep, 2013

Law firms need to stop being “frightened” of the commercial world if they are to survive in the rapidly changing legal landscape.

While a number of firms have seized opportunities made possible by the shake-up of the legal services market, many more are continuing to bury their heads in the sand.

This is the view of Fareeda Jaleel (pictured), the founder of legal business marketing specialist FRJ Business and Marketing Solutions.

Fareeda said: “A lot of law firms have a very dim view of the corporate and commercial world. They have this dated idea that running their firm in a robust commercial way will compromise client care.

“The reality is the total opposite – the more rigorous a firm is about the way it is run and how it captures and manages new business, the better the experience will be for clients.

“Rather than seeing sales and marketing as dirty words, law firms which are embracing the new opportunities available see them as crucial elements in building a successful firm into the future.

One of the key reasons for the dramatic changes in the legal sector has been the introduction of alternative business structures (ABSs) which allow non-lawyers to part-own or invest in law firms, subject to regulatory approval.

Fareeda said: “The assumption, wrongly, is that ABSs will only really be applicable to bigger firms looking to scale up rapidly and gain a greater market share in their region or nationally.

“In fact, an ABS can actually be of real benefit to much smaller firms because it enables them to bring in much needed outside expertise whether it be financial, marketing, business development, sales or IT.

“A number of firms are taking a close look at whether their traditional partnership model still works in the modern age. Some firms have already moved more towards a typical commercial approach with directors and shareholders.

“The advent of ABSs creates a huge opportunity for forward-thinking firms to bring together a genuine team of talents. This means not only the best legal brains but also the best of breed in sales, marketing, business development and other disciplines such as IT which are so important in today’s competitive market-place.

“Some firms are also looking closely at the way in which legal work is carried out. Rather than continually looking to add solicitors to the payroll, they are building teams of talented, efficient paralegals or looking at outsourcing where appropriate. Alongside this development, firms are also investing in state-of-the-art client management systems to help further ensure excellent client experience.

Fareeda added: “The Big Bang has happened and there is no going back for the legal profession. Whether law firms like it or not, the message is that they have to be willing to review the way they have traditionally done things and adapt to a changing world in the same way that businesses in every other sector have to. It is no good being frightened or burying heads in the sand.

“Future proofing their business model is going to be essential for law firms which, like all other businesses in the commercial world, are ultimately about building revenues and profits and ensuring their long-term viability.”

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