I have had the pleasure of hearing strategy consultant Dr. Narendra Laljani speak on several occasions about the need for all businesses to embrace change and keep up with technology advancements – within and beyond their industry. Dr. Laljani’s retelling of interactions with Encyclopedia Britannica are not only entertaining but offer a perfect example of the risk organizations face by not changing with the times. Encyclopedia Britannica is one of many organizations that faced its ultimate demise because it ignored the obvious evolution of the publishing industry toward digital technologies.
I’m sure you can think of many companies that have not adapted and have therefore disappeared. Consider Blockbuster, Tower Records, Circuit City, Polaroid, and a large number of travel agencies. As technology evolves and new competitors emerge, expectations in the market change. Companies must adapt to continue to thrive.
There are clear parallels within the legal profession. As an industry we are not even close to the breaking point as some of the organizations listed above. However, there are some legal services that are being delivered and priced using yesterday’s business models. These services have been mitigated, commoditized, brought in house, or outsourced and yet they bill at the same rate as other services. The idea that all services that have been rendered in the past can simply have a typical increase of 5% in rates with all clients willing to pay it is not only unrealistic but borderline insulting to consumers of legal services.
Law firms must adapt if they want to keep pace with client demand and their own internal growth expectations. As firms head into 2016 and are focused on strategic planning, perhaps now is the time to double check which services are most valued to determine if they could be addressed in a different manner. There are law firms that have become very successful performing a high volume of commoditized work. So it’s not a matter of eliminating lower-value services but rather representing them differently.
Many firms have moved to alternative pricing, bundling these services into higher-value engagements, trained their clients to perform them in-house, or outsourced them completely. Estate planning is an example. This service has become commoditized and can be bundled into services for the executives of a client in which a firm is doing higher value work. The key is finding the right strategies that meet the needs of your clients and anticipates the changing dynamics of those needs.
Doomsayers will have you believe the end of the legal industry is around the corner. While the industry will undoubtedly evolve, there will always be a place for the profession as long as law firms continue to diversify, identify substitutes, and focus in on what their clients truly value. The need to adapt applies to all industries. Who thought that a computer company would make its real mark on the world through music downloads and telephones? Listening and reinventing your brand is what will allow for continual growth.
If you would like to discuss how to keep pace with the changing legal landscape, please contact us for examples of some of our products and services.