Whenever legal pundits start talking about solicitor firm futures, they invariably trot out a comparison with high street opticians. Individual firms of solicitors will be either taken over or pushed out of the market. A one woman band simply will not have the leverage to compete with “Tesco Law”.
“Consumers” of legal services, according to the legal services as a commodity paradigm, will flock to whomever can crank out their case cheaper than anybody else.
But why would cheaper than anybody else be my client’s primary consideration? Why should rock-bottom be my aspiration?
Listen, I only mention this as I met up with Ms Baroque earlier today for nice tea and cakes after she went to pick up her new reading glasses from one of the high street optician behemoths. The guys with the superior economies of scale who produce specs cheaper and faster than the independents.
The guys who hopelessly screwed up her order.
Not only did they make a hash of her order, they were wholly uninterested in how this inconvenienced her – or with what they could do to get it sorted as a matter of urgency. All they did want to do is find a way to upsale her.
Yes, they went for the upsale when they hadn’t even gotten initial deal correct.
If you’re a purveyor of cheap, the only way to make a profit is to produce volume – so in a way, what did she expect? (It’s ok, we’ve had this discussion over cake.)
Where I think the legal services pundits are getting it wrong is in the assumption that lawyers produce widgets for generic consumers.
Yet every client I’ve had has come to see me because they’ve got a problem that’s too big for them to handle – and they need someone who knows what they’re doing to take the reins and steer them to safety.
I get that people are wary of out of control legal bills and prefer to agree flat rates and fixed fees where possible – but I just don’t think people would be handing over major life event management to the lowest bidder if they realised that volume will probably trump quality – and certainly a bespoke service.
To quote Seth Godin
The tyranny of low price
“If you build your business around being the lowest-cost provider, that’s all you’ve got. Everything you do has to be a race in that direction, because if you veer toward anything else (service, workforce, impact, design, etc.) then a competitor with a more single-minded focus will sell your commodity cheaper than you.
Cheapest price is the refuge for the marketer with no ideas left or no guts to implement the ideas she has.
Everyone needs to sell at a fair price. But unless you’ve found a commodity that must remain a commodity, a fair price is not always the lowest price. Not when you understand that price is just one of the many tools available.
A short version of this riff: The low-price leader really doesn’t need someone with your skills”.