Anyone for sub-aqua contested probate?

Deadman: no sign of the apocalypse which was predicted a couple of years ago

Posted by Christopher Deadman, sales director at Litigation Futures sponsor Augusta Ventures

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Legal Futures‘ Era of the Entrepreneur conference in London. As a non-lawyer myself (although one with a vested interest in seeing the industry flourish), I was keen to see what a legal entrepreneur looked like and why they felt that label applied to them.

As expected, there were a handful of the usual ‘look at me I’m so busy’ types, as well as a smattering of those who, if they were fashioned from chocolate, would take great pleasure in devouring themselves. The overwhelming majority of attendees, however, were from small firms who had made the break and were, in the words of Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox, ‘Doin’ it for themselves.’

We heard a great deal about the future shape of the legal market. It was suggested that only niche firms or global behemoths would prosper. In the future, the flabby, pallid, middle will perish. Law firms without interactive websites, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, Google+ accounts and YouTube channels will be consigned to the dustbin of history. The high street lawyer will be as relevant as Philips Laserdisc. The lawyer of the future will be sharp-suited and media-savvy who is ‘committed’ to ‘delivering’, ‘innovative’ ‘solutions’ to clients.

This is a specious argument which ignores the fact that lawyers have been having this debate for decades. Everyone acknowledges that it is increasingly difficult for mid-market firms to prosper but there is no sign of the apocalypse which was predicted a couple of years ago. The middle may need to tone up and shed some excess girth but it will continue to bridge the gap between the big guys and the niche practitioners.

We learned that the successful lawyer must also be a proficient marketer who is adroit at providing a ‘fresh and innovative’ approach to legal services. Sounds good, but what does that actually mean? With the best will in the world, the law is not noted for being intrinsically thrilling. Perhaps nude conveyancing or sub-aqua contested probate might have a future but in the final analysis, clients only demand three things from their lawyers. They want certainty regarding fees, the feeling that someone else has shouldered the burden of their problem and a lawyer who knows what they are doing.

Whilst we learned that being a good lawyer won’t be enough to survive in the future, it certainly won’t be enough simply to be a good marketer. Amidst all the talk regarding social media channels, client care, innovation and business focus, the one thing that was missing from the debate was the need for lawyers to actually know what they are doing.

In the final reckoning, clients invariably see through all the peripheral guff and give their business to those firms who actually can do the job. As it has been over the years, the only true way to flourish is to be good at what you do.

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