What do you love about being a solicitor? Email us! Maybe add a picture of yourself running a marathon or learning to fly.
These are some of the new year exhortations from the Law Society, as Chancery Lane sets about helping members make better use of the solicitor ‘brand’.
Lawyers can be a sceptical bunch, and having worked for the Law Society where I ran the press office, I know member responses to such initiatives can be on the, shall we say, sardonic side. I’m sure that natural inclination won’t be helped by the brand campaign now coinciding with the Law Society’s own ‘brand issues’ as the CEO departed with some stinging words.
But I’d urge readers to put their scepticism to one side. Brand will matter in 2017. If you break out in a rash at the use of the word, then I suggest we replace it with reputation – and a drive to improve what you are known for.
I’ve used Chancery Lane’s headings here, but had some more thoughts for each.
No surprise that this is the fiercest battleground. People (by which I mean the public) append expertise to individuals, rather than firms – your brand (sorry, reputation) is your people.
So even if the firm is very small, the people should always be visible, named pictured – on your website, in marketing material. Email addresses where possible should be names, not ‘info@’.
Whatever experience your professionals have, it should be the first thing visible about them. If you’ve been handling property instructions in the Dulwich area for 15 years, say so. Accreditations, awards, any directory recommendations – all should be prominent.
And as people are looking to trust a person, definitely have a photo – even if it’s not one you’d choose for your entry on an online dating site.
Any evidence that clients are happy is great. The awards or listings already mentioned help here too, but if clients have told you they are happy – by email, letter or a call – don’t be shy to ask them for an endorsement, attributed or anonymous.
Some accreditations – the Law Society’s Lexcel or Conveyancing Quality Scheme, for example – are demanding on client focus. Why not say so beside your display of the accreditation badge?
‘Cheapest’ as we know is a race to the bottom. But if you don’t want clients to decide on cost alone, you need to stress ‘value’ beside price.
To be honest, this is something anyone who has done a law firm business plan should have considered – to grow a business, you need to understand the value your service adds, not just what it costs you.
If there are alternative ways to fund legal advice, or the fees depend on a ‘win’, it’s important to be clear. The money side of things is a reason why clients avoid lawyers when they in fact do need a legal solution and would benefit from advice.
In an ideal world, this would be taken as a given. But attacks on lawyers by government and the media (think ‘ambulance chasers’ and the way ‘whiplash’ claims have been talked up as ‘bogus’).
You know your standards are sky-high. Dishonesty is a striking-off offence, and there are clear ways to complain about problems.
Some of this is about personal conduct as well as what goes on your website – a local or business community is a small world. You and your people shouldn’t get a reputation for indiscretion or being a gossip. Word can spread about you fast offline as well as on.
The lead question here – do all your staff need to be in a sky-diving team selfie to be approachable?
When this sort of thing gets derided, I think the assumption is that lawyers are being told to put it top of the page.
I’d say, absolutely not. Definitely have the human stuff there, but it’s for a side bar or the bottom of a page. It’s a pic in the local paper.
After all your expertise, ‘In his spare time, John referees junior football matches,’ is a nice thing to say.
Perhaps a better way to come across as approachable isn’t by bigging up your javelin-throwing skills, but in the way you wear your ‘expertise’. Where you’ve shown that – in an article aimed at potential clients, say – how did you come across? Did you hide behind legalese? Or did you speak ‘fluent human’?
Lawyers often take this one for granted a bit. The regulator demands they act in the public interest; any lawyer I know has done things as a favour, and many take on clients they know might struggle to pay costs that couldn’t be recovered. And I question how many under-tens became clients having noticed a law firm had supported their primary school Christmas fair.
But this is an age where lawyers are regularly run down by the prime minister, the health secretary and even lord chancellors.
So there is it – ‘brand’ in 2017. Sceptical lawyers, should in fact be reassured by how many of the headings in a ‘brand’ campaign lead back to ‘expertise’. Now. Team selfie anyone?