Does my BUT look big in this?

As we move closer to October, I have an increasing sense that the reality of change is hitting home. Nevertheless, there are still some nay-sayers and delaying tactics in evidence. Here are the common objections, along with my response.

“I didn’t become a lawyer to be a businessperson”
Maybe you didn’t, BUT that’s what it takes in the 21st century, so if you don’t want to do it, don’t: shut up shop.

“I can’t make enough money from what I’m doing”
You’re right, and I sympathise, BUT to make more you need to change what you’re doing or how you’re doing it. You won’t make enough from doing the same things in the same old way.

“The Law Society should do more to represent us and protect us”
To whom and from whom? You have a point about your representative body, BUT remember that there are members who welcome the changes and the opportunities right across the spectrum of size, type of practice and geography, and there are many clients who are desperate for more relevant, accessible, user-friendly and cost-effective legal services. There are a lot of disparate and conflicting views to represent!

“The SRA should protect us from competition”
Wrong: that’s not part of a regulator’s job. BUT what the regulator should do is create a regulatory playing field that’s level (in the sense that all those who fall within the regulated community should be subject to the same ‘rules of the game’).

“It’s not fair, though, because we can’t compete on equal terms”
You’re probably right. The regulatory playing field might be level, but the competitive one isn’t if others have more reach, more resources, better technology, closer contact with consumers, and so on. BUT that’s what competition is about – winners and losers. Find your competitive advantage by offering something that’s more meaningful and valuable to your clients, and you won’t lose them to anyone else. That’s fair, isn’t it?

“We’re too small to invest in technology and marketing”
You might be right, BUT you do have the opportunity to combine with others to offer a broader or deeper range of services and provide a platform to investment and development. Do it.

“We act for vulnerable clients, and they won’t be able to afford access to justice if we pull out”
This might be true, BUT it’s a political issue, not a regulatory one. The advent of ABSs is not inherently likely to reduce access to justice or quality (and might improve both); and the regulatory objectives in the Legal Services Act require us all to work to improve access to justice.

“ABSs don’t offer anything to me; and I don’t want to grow, or be managed by someone else, or have external funding”
It’s your right to make that choice, BUT what you want and what you need aren’t necessarily the same thing. The days of being the only arbiter of how you’re in business are now behind us.

4 thoughts on “Does my BUT look big in this?

  1. Pingback: Poster: Tech The Box | Legal 2.0 | | Poster: Tech The Box

  2. Very pertinent points!

    Forrester argue that we are entering the age of the customer where “The only sustainable source of competitive advantage, the only defensible position, is to concentrate on knowledge of and engagement with customers….. A customer obsessed company will focus its strategy, its energy, and its budget on processes that enhance knowledge of an engagement with customers, and prioritises these over maintaining traditional competitive barriers.”

    In my experience, the legal industry likes to think of itself as slightly different from others and so has been a little slow to positively embrace the effects of market disruption.

    ABS will introduce new entrants that will challenge some of these ‘classic lawyer assumptions’ as Jon rightly stresses. Indeed the cost of not being effective in executing legal and business processes, organising the management of your company efficiently and using technology to do that in the most cost effective way possible will vastly outweigh any investment required.

    To agree with Jon (again!) the trick is making sure that investment efforts are appropriate and intelligently linked to a strategy of how the firm wants to effectively engage with their clients.

  3. Hiya Stephen…

    Wonderful post!

    It’s the blog post I’ve always wanted to write. Unfortunately, it wasn’t written by me. You beat me to it 🙂

    May I respectfully add one thing to your fab post…


    Quoting you: “It’s your right to make that choice, BUT what you want and what you need aren’t necessarily the same thing. The days of being the only arbiter of how you’re in business are now behind us.”

    What you want and what you need and what you desire, perhaps? WANT; NEED; DESIRE. The truly entrepreneurial human lawyer can recognise (and analytical THINKS through) the distinction, emotional and commercial nous difference between all three. And then will ACT accordingly…

    IMOH, an entrepreneurial lawyer has a much smaller BUT 🙂

    Warmest and best intentions as ever

    The Entrepreneurial Lawyer
    (of the naked kind)

  4. Punchy post Stephen.

    Can I pick up the point re cost of technology as this is one of those classic lawyer assumptions?

    Technology costs have fallen through the floor in recent years. It is now highly affordable. In our own case it goes from £50 a month to £5000.

    The difference in price depends on what you want to do but personally I steer lawyers to the lower end, walk before they run stuff. It’s easy to upgrade as you learn and grow.

    A good technologist will present to you the value that you need.

    I suspect the issue here is perception and the failure of delivery, deployment and cost of historic legacy systems. The days of that sort of tech are very numbered which is good for the lawyer.

    Technology will be critical. Lawyers cannot continue denying that.

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