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By Simon Goldhill
There is still a massive part of the legal market that is set up with business structures, operating models, pricing principles and attitudes towards their clients that haven’t really changed very much in the past 30 years. The rest of the world has, of course, not stood still.
Business management has become hugely more professional. Successful service businesses have grasped the fact that it makes great sense to listen to their customers and understand their needs and provide services that they actually want, in a manner that suits them, using multiple channels wherever possible and with pricing that they can see provides value for money.
Lessons developed in the world’s best manufacturing companies – Lean and Six Sigma – have even made their mark in service industries. The culture of consumerism is with us, but seems to have largely passed the legal market by. Isolation has led to ossification.
The opening up of this market by the Legal Services Act 2007 will, in time, change all of this. It’s not just about external capital. It’s certainly not simply sharing profits with outsiders. The ideas that have proved so successful elsewhere will start to filter in. The market will change and dramatically.
And it will be good, not just for the owners/providers of new capital, and clients, but also for lawyers. Instead of them having to work in inefficient and old-fashioned ways that were frustrating enough for me when I started my legal career over 30 years ago, they can be freed up to do more of the things that most of them went to law school for – to practice law and help their clients. The doom merchants are wrong.
Law will still be law and the role of the lawyer to advise, assist, produce legal documents and represent clients will not fundamentally change. The changes will be to aspects such as business structures, operating models, fee models and the approach towards clients. It is also about business culture and the confusion around ownership, management and profits that frankly hold most law firms back. Only once the businesses in the market start to understand the fundamental issues in relation to the separation of management and ownership, and the appropriate approach to how each should rewarded, do I think we will see true change.
This is my last blog under the guise of the Simon Goldhill Consultancy. I’ve spent many months talking about the opportunities for change. It’s now time for me to get back to creating change. So I’m off to try to make this happen in one small part of this vast market. I’m putting my money where my mouth has been. Watch this space…
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