Can traditional firms compete and thrive?

A new regulatory landscape is on the horizon and there is no doubt that there are some challenges ahead for existing law firms.  What many ‘traditional’ law firms are failing to realise though is that even with these changes there are plenty of opportunities for them to not only ‘ride the storm out’ but also, if they gain an insight into the buying behaviour of consumers, compete with the high street brands.
Research was carried out by surveying 500 consumers in the North West across both sexes and a variety of age ranges and socio-economic groups.  The consumers were asked whether, in certain scenarios, they would be more inclined to choose a traditional firm of solicitors or a recognised high street brand, such as The AA, Tesco or The Co-operative.  They were also asked to rank a number of factors which would encourage them to choose a particular provider, e.g. a fixed price or a personal recommendation.
One of the questions was “Would you prefer to receive legal assistance from a traditional law firm or a lawyer provided by a well known high street brand if you were buying or selling a house?”  It would appear that the ‘traditional’ law firm was the more popular choice over all the age ranges surveyed, with 78 per cent of 18-24 year olds indicating that they would prefer a ‘traditional’ law firm to a high street brand.  The results across the board were:
Age                    18-24   25-34   35-44   45-54   55+ Average
Law Firm              78%     80%      74%       71% 81%     77%
High street brand   22%     20%      26%      29% 19%     23%
Across the scenarios, which included personal injury, PPI claims, contentious insurance claims, employment disputes, conveyancing, divorce and clinical negligence, the overall finding is that consumers are more inclined to have a law firm handle their matter, divorce, at 83 per cent, commanded the highest average with clinical negligence and conveyancing next in line, each with a 77 per cent average.
What does this mean for traditional law firms?  Many will now be thinking that these results mean that they don’t need to prepare for the storm.  This is wrong.  Law firms still need to be strong in their client management approach and should not take comfort in these figures because they will also be available to high street brands and will, no doubt, be studied and processed and a strategy worked out.
The report concludes that law firms can benefit from a “clear marketing and business development campaign and carefully planned PR”.
Of course the issue here is that the research was carried out in the North West and not nationwide, with no results from other regions of England and Wales this is still not a clear picture of what the future may look like for law firms post-ABS.
What do you think — is your firm prepared for High Street vs Law Firm?
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