2020 vision – What do you see in your long term marketing plan? (first published in The Partner magazine, Autumn 2015)
11th September 2015
When it comes to drafting your legal marketing plan, how far ahead do you look when it comes to the ‘opportunities’ section of the SWOT analysis?
While Richard Susskind’s predictions tend to focus on the T for forthcoming threats to the legal profession, Sue Bramall of Berners Marketing believes there are also plenty of opportunities to get excited about.
In this article, first published in August issue of The Partner Magazine, Sue explains what managing partners and marketing departments should be thinking about as they look towards 2020.
Aside from the continued march of all things internet, and a move away from the billable hour (both covered extensively to date) what else should managing partners and marketing departments be thinking about as they look towards 2020?
You might think that talent management is the sole preserve of the HR department.
However, the concept of a long term career evaporating before our eyes. Research by UnLtd, a social entrepreneurship foundation revealed that more than 55 percent of people aged 16 to 25 (your future recruitment pool) now want to set up their own firm. A report from Santander also estimated that 80,000 UK university students already run a business, and a quarter of these plan to turn it into a career when they graduate.
A big risk to law firms is that millennials will simply use big law firms for their training and credentials and then head off if they are frustrated in their entrepreneurial ambitions.
The clever firms will ensure that HR and marketing teams collaborate to attract and retain the brightest and the best, and find ways to harness such enterprising spirits within their firm from earlier in their careers.
More immediately, the area of the legal profession under most threat at the moment is that of public interest law. Given the government’s determination to meet its fiscal targets, it appears unlikely that the legal aid budget will grow again until that has been accomplished.
In May this year, a new source of philanthropic funding emerged in the UK with the launch of a crowdfunding platform called CrowdJustice. Similar donor sites have been operating in the US: such as CrowdDefend, FundedJustice and some generic crowdfunding sites have legal categories. There are also commercial sites emerging such as LexShares and Invest4justice which promote a financial return for investors. Most recently in June, Lawfunder was launched by some students in Australia.
The CrowdJustice website is the brainchild of Julia Salasky, a non-practising solicitor whose experience includes working at the United Nations in Vienna and in the Hague.
The concept was originally conceived with planning and environmental cases in mind, but it can work for a wide range of potential clients from an individual to a community group through to a national pressure group. Live projects include helping an elderly gentlemen fight for the right to care for his wife in a care home; fighting a property development in Chiswick; and funding the analysis of cases of miscarriage of justice for the first Supreme Court case to consider the question of the harm the concept of joint enterprise causes secondary parties. At the time of writing this website had fully funded two projects to the tune of £5,000 and £6,000 respectively, the latter was raised in just four days to fund initial legal advice relating to state pension inequality for women born in the 1950s.
A key criteria for a case to be accepted on CrownJustice is that a solicitor must have been instructed already. So far, all but one of the cases involve a traditional law firm, so this is creating new work that might otherwise have gone away unfunded.
It is up to the person setting up the page to promote the case and spread the word in order to obtain pledges. This is where law firm marking departments have an opportunity to get involved in a way that help could be vital to ensuring a particular project is funded within the timeframe. Law firms should also make clear whether they are prepared to take work that is crowd-funded, and think about providing information on the service to clients who are not eligible for legal aid.
Clearly crowdfunding will work best where a case already has support, or the story is sufficiently newsworthy to generate outside interest. Having myself been involved in a village community campaign to oppose a planning application for wind turbines, this type of platform would have provided a convenient and efficient way to collect funds for legal advice, even saving the bother of setting up bank account.
Client driven innovation
Despite most firms saying that they are client-focused, the reality is somewhat different. However, a number of the more innovative firms are now embracing consumer research techniques such as mystery shopping to monitor enquiry handling, lead conversion and client on-boarding processes. Adoption of these techniques will start to create a noticeable point of differentiation in the marketplace.
In a similar vein, legal services are being redesigned from the client’s perspective. In the US, Open Law Lab is the personal project of Margaret Hagan who began to explore how law can be more engaging, more usable, and more useful when at Stanford University. The project aims to build products and services to redesign law, and builds on a number of themes including ‘’illustrated law’; human-centred dispute resolution: legal education technology; and how can we harness the power of games and gamification to make law more engaging to a wider audience.
We can expect to see some in-house lawyers leveraging these techniques too to demand a different shape of legal support. Law firms that can put together the most creative proposals will be at an advantage, particularly if they are able to combine this with flexible legal resources as offered by Lawyers on Demand, Obelisk and Vario.
You know that you are getting out of touch with the younger generation when they start using words you thought you knew in a way that does not make sense, such as saying something is “sick” when they mean it is brilliant.
Such a situation occurred a little while ago when they started talking about ‘hacks’, but were not referring to chopping wood, a seasoned journalist or breaking into the Pentagon mainframe.
A hack is a clever solution to a tricky problem – arrived at by hacking though any obstacles. A hackathon is a gathering where developers, designers, lawyers, project managers, data analysts and other creative professionals work together in an intense way (perhaps through the night) to create innovative solutions. The solution does not have to be technological - one of the earliest legal hackathons was sponsored by Harvard Law Entrepreneurship Project to develop content use policies.
At the moment, most legal hackathons are organised by universities who bring together students from legal and technology faculties. LexHacks is one company that organises independent hackathons, where teams work together to compete for cash prizes for developing software-based solutions to challenges posted by sponsors.
In the UK, Queen Mary University have taken the lead with one legal hackathon so far. But the concept represents a great opportunity to source fresh ideas for the development of products and services, possibly in collaboration with clients and for talent spotting.
If anyone needs a judge for their legal hackathon, Sue would be delighted to volunteer!Back to Blog
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