How COVID-19 is changing the legal landscape for small firms

How COVID-19 is changing the legal landscape for small firms

 

COVID-19 is impacting law firms all around the world in an unparalleled way. Client and team meetings are now virtual and so are most courts and tribunals. The standard way of running a small law firm has changed, possibly forever.

Firms of all sizes have had to furlough a number of employees including admin staff, secretaries, trainees and fee earners. Recruitment is on hold and firms are reducing their overheads wherever they can.

Clients across most sectors are understandably nervous to spend, or are putting plans on hold, but some areas are seeing a boost in work.

Law firms have had little time to prepare for the overwhelming effect that COVID-19 is having on their people, culture and operations. Some firms, who have been slow to adopt digital working practices, are now quickly investing in order to catch up.

Some areas of work, such as property transactions, have ground to a halt.  Traditional sources of business have slowed down, for example, referrals, networking, events and the high street across all practice areas.

Digital working methods have never been so important. Firms are rapidly learning how to support staff to work remotely and instill their business culture from a distance. Client-side e-signing capabilities, mobile apps and online payments will soon be the norm, potentially leaving many firms behind. Clients often review at least two providers before they purchase services.  Those offering modern and efficient methods of delivery will be the providers of choice.

Firms will also need ensure they are supporting staff through this change.  Those disgruntled or unsupported staff could look to set up on their own. The growth in senior professionals working from home will inevitably boost entrepreneurial lawyers’ spirits and we expect to see a growth in new firm applications over the next 12 months. New firms with lower overheads, flexibility and the ability to adopt technology, will be able to compete on both price and service.

The gig economy is also able to step in to help law firms.  Certain roles can be outsourced to consultants, offering flexibility and lower fixed overheads.

After the Government’s financial support ends, some redundancies are to be expected. External flexible support will most likely be the new norm, similar to secretarial and virtual paralegals.

Below are some of the areas that firms should be considering during lockdown:

 

Overhead Reduction & Cashflow

 

Most firms with offices are now looking to reduce their need for physical space, moving out of large expensive premises into serviced, hot desk style environments. This will be on the agenda for many firms when lockdown ends.

Billing processes lock up and cash collection strategies are being tested. New policies and procedures are being installed, with some firms choosing automation to follow up on clients.

Mergers and acquisitions will also be on the rise over the next 12-18 months. Consolidation will be inevitable for struggling firms and those looking for more security or retirement.

 

Website & COVID-19 Content

 

Keeping a constant stream of targeted content is essential to maintain online relevance and presence.

Every firm is pumping out content, but are you receiving enquiries? Modern tracking enables you to know exactly where your leads are coming from. Some firms are better putting time and effort into generating calls and enquiries rather than writing COVID-19 related content. Content is only useful if people are finding it and value it.  If it is not generating any return, there are other options to consider.

 

Checking New Processes - Mystery Shopping

 

Have you checked that your new processes, phone lines and enquiry handling strategy are actually working? How are you monitoring what is coming in and converting on a daily or weekly basis? Firms should consider using external support to capture phone calls and enquiries 24/7.

You should also review who is handling your enquiries and whether they are being diverted to the right teams. Training front line staff on what areas of law you can take on, who has been furloughed and where to send new enquiries is important to keep your pipeline of work. Make sure you know what is being said as you could be turning work away.

 

Marketing

 

If you are not advertising on Google for your services, now is the time to start. PPC (Pay-Per-Click) allows you to keep the flow of leads coming in and you only spend when someone searches for advice and then clicks on your advert.

Some firms are expanding their areas of work and diversifying into other complementary areas they have experience in.

 

Adopting Technology

 

Can clients book a video meeting and pay online? How are clients accessing your services and advice? Apps and video conferences are now expected as clients have been forced into adopting video as the standard communication tool, in both their personal and professional lives.

Are you producing video content, catching up with contacts digitally and doing video socials with your team?

Law firm culture is important and how firms treat and communicate with staff will be under the spotlight. You could host remote meetings and social events online to boost staff morale and keep them informed of everything going on in the business. You could investigate tools to help speed up proofreading, drafting documents and researching complex cases. Do you have an intranet to help keep your team updated? These tips may help to avoid disgruntled staff leaving to set up on their own after the lockdown eases.

 

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About the author:

Ben Trott is the Founder and Managing Director at Marketing Lawyers, a full-service marketing agency and consultancy to Law Firms.

Ben is a Law Firm Marketing & Management Consultant, Speaker and Writer. He was previously one of the youngest Directors of a Law Firm in the UK. Sitting on the senior management board for a national law firm, Ben specialises in Law Firm management, marketing, business development and lead generation. Over 36 months he transformed a legal website from bringing in £250k pa in fees to over £2m pa.

Ben has worked for both national corporate and high street law firms as well as a Barristers Chambers. He has a degree in Law and Business and has experience in running an online travel business.

Ben advises law firms across the world on marketing and business development, having clients in the UK, Europe, Asia and the Far East.

Ben’s expertise includes: advising on all central service strategies in running a law firm, online marketing/digital marketing, blogging, headhunting, PR, events, website development/creation, social media, google analytics, customer journey refinement, SEO, CRO, sales & conversion skills, training, explainer videos, Legal 500 / Chambers & Partners submissions, PPC and team management/mentoring.