3 Ways to Differentiate your Law Firm – Part 3

3      Create your own perception

When “no win – no fee” started in 1995 some law firms saw a great new business opportunity open up.

  • They could take on cases with no deal-breaking financial commitment from the client.
  • They were handed a brand new revenue stream with huge potential.
  • They could be seen to be helpful rather than just making money.

Perfect – except it wasn’t.

The term “ambulance chasers” entered the vocabulary and law firms were often portrayed as big businesses preying on people who, because of a moment’s carelessness, were unlucky enough to have caused an accident.

Twenty years later and personal injury firms are the champions of the underdog.

  • Victims are vindicated (“this is how justice feels”);
  • People with life limiting disabilities enjoy life’s great moments just like the rest of us; and
  • The “guilty” parties aren’t mentioned.

Our perceptions are changed. It’s not because claim companies and PI law firms are doing everything differently, they’re just portrayed in a far more sympathetic light.

It’s a decision they chose to make.

Your firm can do the same. You can choose your perception. And frankly you shouldn’t treat it as an optional extra – because if you don’t do it, someone else will do it for you and you’ll lose control.

Lawyers aren’t all grey men and grey women in grey suits who are so lacking in personality that anything more than a passport photo would open them up to undue attention. Most of them I’ve met are clever and engaging people who because of their knowledge: can

  • solve your problems,
  • save your business money, and
  • help you make good decisions.

Let’s look at 3 ways you’d probably like to be perceived.

I think I need you. How can I find you?

The perception at the outset is “you’re a law firm but can you do the job I need?

People and businesses look for you when they have a need. Your role is to address that need. Your start point therefore is to be found on the basis of that need.

I’ve never been divorced. What do I have to do?” “Will I have to go to court?

 “We need to write new staff handbooks after the reorganisation and they’ll need to be in French and Spanish now.”

 “If we’re selling in China we need someone who understands how our contracts work and how they fit in with the way the Chinese work.”

When they look for these things, they should find you.

And when they do find you, you’ll have changed the client perception from “can they do the job I need?“ to “they can do the job I need”.

Once they’ve found me. What should I be telling them?

The perception at the outset is “Lots of law firms but can do the job. Have you done it before and successfully?

  • You tell them about the issues involved
  • You relate the benefits of taking legal advice and
  • You allude to the risks they’re taking if they don’t.

Then you give them your name, job title and contact details. They’ll get the message.

But let’s be more specific and look again at our examples.

In our first example you can tell them about the process of getting divorced, how assets are divided, how to avoid going to court, or the benefits of planning everything beforehand with a pre-nuptial agreement.

In the second, you can tell them about the issues you need to be aware of when rolling out T&Cs into different countries – and to illustrate the point you say/write part of it in (say) French and part of it in Spanish.

In our third, you tackle cultural issues and how they affect business – and you link each issue to a solution.

They give you credibility because you know the issues not just the role.

They show you can explain complex concepts in an easily understandable way.

They differentiate you because not everyone is doing this YET.

The perception now is “You’ve done it before so you really understand my problem. I could look for ever to see if there’s someone better but I don’t need to.”

I can do the job. They know I can do the job. How can I clinch the deal?

You’re already doing it – to some extent. You are one of many suppliers who handle divorce, write contracts etc. but you have credibility because you’ve clearly done it before. However,you need to remember that ultimately whether it’s contracts, handbooks or divorce – one person buys from another person.

So you probably need to go through the three-step process

  • know you
  • like you
  • do business with you.

You can do this over the phone, in person, or on video – or a combination of all three.

The first two are obvious so let’s look at video.

Video makes you available when you’re not available. It enables your new client: to see you; listen to you talk knowledgeably about your subject; and start to like you – before they even meet you. So it’s a very powerful tool.

By the end of the process, the perception is “I feel as though I’ve met him or her, they know what they’re talking about, so I’m ready to do business”.

Summary

You can create a perception of yourself as someone to do business with if you

  • can be found on a list of people who can solve the client’s problem
  • enhance your credibility by articulating the issues
  • can be seen, known and liked

If you don’t create your own perception then someone may do it for you and you’ll have no control.