How small law firms can innovate

By Marianne Marchesi|17 October 2019

Innovation does not always require spending enormous amounts of money or investing in high-end tech products, writes Marianne Marchesi.

The legal industry is currently going through perhaps one of the most intense times of disruption. As a small law firm, it can be easy to think that the ability to innovate and capitalise on this disruption is restricted to the “top end” of town – where access to resources, funding and technology is far greater.

However, innovation does not always mean spending huge sums of money, nor does it necessarily equate to developing the latest high-tech products. The beauty of being a small law firm is the agility that comes along with this, and therefore the accessibility to innovation in its many forms. Below are some areas where I believe small law firms can capitalise on innovation, as well as some action points.

Business models

Small law firms have the unique opportunity to reinvent their business models and flip the traditional way of legal practice on its head.

If we look at some of the key elements of a business model, such as value proposition and revenue streams, these are areas that are in themselves ripe for disruption. Pricing, for example, is a key area in which small law firms have a significant advantage in being able to innovate compared to more traditional legal firms. Alternative pricing models such as fixed fees and retainers are proving to be an especially effective way of standing out in the market.

Innovating your business model is ultimately about changing the way that we think about these key elements, and focusing on maximising value and maximising the services that we’re providing to our clients.

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Some questions to consider when innovating your business model include:

1. Is your current business model working, i.e. what client problem does it solve?
2. How does it make money for you?
3. How does it make life easier for you and your clients?

Work culture

The legal industry is affected by a number of factors that can impact on mental health – such as billable hour targets, lack of flexible working styles and a general reluctance to speak about health issues.

Again, largely in part due to the agility enjoyed by small law firms, the possibilities in reinventing your work culture are endless. Some of the initiatives that I’ve seen small law firms implement, and that Legalite itself has implemented, include genuinely flexible work policies, dog-friendly offices and health and wellbeing seminars.

A key way to innovate your work culture is to involve your team in decision-making. The diversity of ideas, and feeling of empowerment that comes with contributing to a firm’s work culture, can in itself spur ideas.

Speak to your team to come up with three ideas to improve your work culture.

Services

Innovation in the legal industry is often about making services accessible. Coupled with alternative pricing models, small law firms can deliver legal services in ways which have been completely unheard of until recently.

For example, at Legalite we introduced a new service called “Legalite Counsel”. This offers clients bespoke in-house solutions by way of an outsourced legal counsel service on a retainer basis. Services such as these allow lawyers to truly act as an extension of their clients’ teams and deliver strategic advice to complement legal services.

The emphasis on online legal services also seems to be growing. There are numerous platforms available now which don’t require huge upfront costs and are themselves quite accessible.

Pick one service stream. How might you deliver this differently?

Marketing

Lastly, small law firms (and in particular, NewLaw firms) aren’t traditional, so it doesn’t make sense to rely on traditional marketing. In most cases, traditional marketing is expensive and even ignored by potential customers.

It’s often said that customers do business with people they know, like and trust. So, innovating in marketing can often be a matter of developing a rapport with your potential clients. For example, these days, social media is one of the biggest sources of information for customers, and there is ample opportunity to truly stand out as a law firm on social media.

Adding value to your clients can also be a simple but effective way of marketing. For instance, presenting on your area of expertise through webinars or thought leadership, or taking steps to follow up with clients long after a matter is done.

What is one thing you can do in the next week to add value to your clients?

Marianne Marchesi is the founder and principal of Legalite.

How small law firms can innovate
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