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Making sure law firms don’t left behind by the digital revolution

Two thirds of consumers needing legal advice do not seek legal help. Consumers and SMEs spend £12billion a year on law, yet there is a persistent problem of people being unable to easily find impartial good quality legal help when they really need it.


Consumers in 2018 are used to a dizzying array of choices online in their day to day life, from travel, to retail and leisure. The new digital marketplace is accessible 24/7 and has encouraged increased consumer spending. The shift from high street to digital marketplace continues apace and it’s important that against this sea-change law firms don’t get left behind. Consumer behaviours and the power of technology are permanently changing the way people buy legal services.

For law firms looking to access a significant untapped market worth £48 billion, new technologies and digital marketing presents a unique opportunity to reach those underserved consumers, grow business, build a trusted brand and be part of the solution of making the legal market fairer for everyone.


While working as a litigator, specialising in consumer finance, I only physically met a handful of clients –most I was easily able to represent remotely. There were no barriers to taking instructions (via phone), emailing/posting client care letter, AML checks and digital signing of witness statements and applications. The only time this proved impossible was when filing anything at the Royal Courts of Justice who insisted on wet signatures only, which meant I had to advise clients to return by post after signing. Litigation is not typically seen as ‘straightforward’ but there is no physical reason why a lawyer cannot represent clients nationally, the next trick is how to attract them.


Just as high street travel agents would have previously sold holidays to local people visiting the agent, today online sites from TripAdvisor to Skyscanner reach consumers countrywide. Law firms could also leverage the power of technology to increase regional reach, sell their services all around the country and attract new clientele. The digital revolution provides more opportunity to do this than ever before.


Legal Services are ripe for digitisation.


Legal products and services are document management and processing systems. Every single element can be reproduced and transferred digitally. Most of us are already managing 90% of our in this manner. The disruption facing the profession is in part because technological innovation can so easily be deployed, it is very important law firms don’t get left behind.


In 2017, we were named the most disruptive legal technology company in the world. (Tällt Disrupt 2017). JustBeagle is the UK’s first market search and comparison site to give law firms a simple and cost effective way to use digital marketing and connect with consumers and SMEs who want to find a lawyer. Legal providers on our platform have reach of active users across both of our online communities including the 108,000+ community attracting 1.7 million visitors annually on the LegalBeagles forum.


Some of the major consumer trends we are noticing today;


Ø  Optimising search - consumers are well used to platforms allowing comparison of products. Good platforms allow elements of gamification in their UX, meaning that the process of searching and comparing is like playing a game which motivates participation, engagement, & loyalty. Filter & preferences are chosen resulting in only results relevant to your choices. This is instant gratification and the platform satisfies the consumers need for information about their potential purchase.  


Ø  Consumers use star ratings and reviews before they choose law firms - independently generated ratings are highly trusted because they are the product of feedback from the whole online community, free of influence from the provider itself. Reviews offer an immediate insight into the QUALITY of the product. Five simple stars are all a consumer comparing multiple firms needs to make that choice.


Ø  Its fixed fee pricing + reputation - prices are easily displayed on large scale platforms but they only form part of the picture. Recent research from the Solicitors Regulatory Authority shows that 32% of consumers would focus on price but that 42% would be led by reputation (Ratings/Reviews). Only 22% of consumers would be led by recommendation only, which sharply shows how much change has already occurred despite a lack of wholesale price transparency. Fixed fee price displays may only in reality suit a minority of clients whose matters are simple. However, many consumers will use these displayed prices as a guide to affordability and there is an ideal chance to upsell further services if the client makes an enquiry based on seeing fixed fee listings. 


Ø  Finding Your Digital Voice -  lawyers have been slow to fully engage with digital marketing because of the regulatory environment and a traditional culture averse to risk and reputational sensitivities. Right now, regulators are practically shouting at us now to get modernising! Against this context law firms have struggled to find their digital ‘voice’. Legal practice is well suited to using smart digital engagement to break down the barriers that exist between consumers and lawyers. Online platforms and social media allow law firms to be more accessible and share their talent, wisdom and support. 


Ø  IQ+ EQ -Consumers seeking lawyers are often under pressure, perhaps distressed. With timely engagement lawyers can reach out and relieve that stress. If they achieve this to a high standard bringing together IQ and EQ, there is a very high likelihood the client will remain loyal to your firm for life - it is that critical first instruction which matters most.  


Ø  Next Generation Legal Services - with the first digital conveyancing happening in Ukraine last year, there is little doubt the digital revolution is underway. We have a window of ten years maximum to adjust and thrive. No-one wants to be the next Blockbusters who are widely acknowledged to have waited too long before recognising that their costly high street presence was a millstone rounds its neck. You only need look at the innovation being shown by firms like Cognitive Law and GunnerCooke to realise that there are real benefits by allowing your GROWING workforce to use flexible working and to build your new brand around accessibility, fairness and innovation. You may even solve some of the persistent industry diversity problems along the way.


Our platform gives law firms a nimble, measurable and faster route-to-market tackling advertising, digital marketing, social media, content amplification, organic reputation building and lead generation all in one solution. We remain a committed pioneer, working at the forefront of new technologies to ensure that our platforms provide an innovative space for law firms to embrace the very best of new emerging digital trends.