Peter Gibson is Managing Director at Coles Solicitors, a fast growing high street law firm with nine branches across North and East Yorkshire and the north east. He is passionate about providing modern proactive legal service and closely follows the revolution in legal services.
Coles is an early adopter of a ground-breaking new web based legal services comparison platform The Law Superstore. Designed to make it easier for customers to research, understand and identify the right legal service and subsequently match them with the most appropriate legal service provider, The Law Superstore has been dubbed a dating agency for legal services.
Not seen before in the UK legal sector, the response from the profession has unsurprisingly been mixed – with huge support from some corners but scepticism from others.
Peter Gibson tells us why he thinks the legal profession should embrace rather than fear comparison sites as an effective marketing tool…..
Since 2006 Coles has grown from one single branch to a network of nine offices across North and East Yorkshire, and Teesside. Much of this growth has come through acquisition so we have had to work hard to assimilate systems and procedures across all our branches and ensure we adopt best practice. So as a result we haven’t stood still for long but have constantly been looking at ways to improve what we do and how we do it.
For a pretty traditional profession, we’re not afraid to innovate and introduce new initiatives and we recognise the important role that software can play in a business like ours. But every day is a school day as they say and we learn as we go; some things we have introduced have worked phenomenally well and others less so, but nonetheless we continue to embrace change if we believe it will better the business, which is why I was really keen to know more about The Law Superstore.
I appreciate that the idea of marketing legal services via a comparison site which claims to have taken its lead from holiday and taxi booking sites may well fill some of my colleagues in the profession with horror but these sites have enjoyed phenomenal success and there is a reason why.
These sites provide customers with easy access to a whole host of vetted suppliers who offer transparent information about the services they offer, so that the customer can make informed decisions based on facts. And holiday home owners and taxi firms alike are signing up to these sites in their droves because they recognise their unrivalled ability to attract potential customers, assess their needs and then offer a match making service based on facts.
Comparison sites provide a valuable route to market regardless of the industry or the profession. Consumers are becoming more-savvy and like to shop around. The digital age has made this easier but this is not an entirely new phenomenon.
For years we’ve received calls in to our offices asking for prices for particular services and we know only too well that the caller will no sooner put down the receiver before moving down the list in the Yellow Pages or Google asking the same question of another local solicitor. Offering a fixed price over the phone is a risky business; not only is it difficult to ensure the person answering the phone can assess the complexities of the case but you have no idea if you are being compared on an even playing field with other providers.
From what I can see The Law Superstore will help to ensure that you are being compared fairly against other providers as solicitors will be encouraged to standardise their basic service to ensure that consumers can compare like-for-like services yet will have built in function to allow for the complexity of cases.
And whilst admittedly I did have some initial concerns about whether comparison sites would simply create a race to the bottom in terms of prices, I now feel pretty comfortable that this needn’t be the case. Yes, customers, consumers, clients – call them what you will- will make some decisions based on price, but this by no means dominates The Law Superstore.
Customers will be asked a series of questions to help them understand not only what service they require but what’s important to them in choosing a provider. The site will encourage them to consider a whole host of factors such as whether they would they prefer to see a female lawyer, if they really need face to face contact or if they have any language barriers to overcome. Then a clever bit of software will work out which provider best suits their needs and whilst price will be a factor it may well be low down on the list.
I can totally appreciate that this is new ground for the profession and some people will be undoubtedly apprehensive but I’m convinced that comparison sites needn’t cheapen the profession but handled correctly they could provide a new route to market for a law firm like Coles which is why you will find us on The Law Superstore when it launches in 2016 and why I’m hoping that colleagues up and down the country will join me too.
Interested parties can find out more about becoming a partner at www.thelawsuperstore.co.uk/partners