Death and Taxes (and Changes in the Legal Marketplace)

It’s tax day here in the U.S. and as the saying goes, two things are certain: death and taxes. Well for small law firms, it’s time to add a third item to the list: changes in the legal marketplace.

You see, in the last six years, the market for legal services has undergone fundamental – and probably irreversible – changes. So states the report, “2015 Report on the State of the Legal Market,” which was jointly issued by the Georgetown University Law Center and Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor.

As you’ve undoubtedly noticed, the comfort and complacency of 2007 are a distant memory for attorneys. Consumers have seized control of how legal services are delivered and are demanding increased efficiency, predictability and cost effectiveness in the delivery of those services.

That’s not the only pressure law firms are facing. The decision of many corporate clients to shift more legal work in-house, the growing willingness of clients to spread work among multiple providers and the growth in market share of nontraditional competitors have all contributed to a more competitive market.

As this Darwinian perfect storm intensifies, the fittest law firms will become more flexible and agile. And when it comes to agility, nothing beats an integrated marketing approach. By spreading their investment across multiple tactics like excellent web content and design, paid advertising, 24/7 online chat and strategic services, law firms who can absorb changes in their markets will be able to thrive rather than just survive.

The report prominently features one example of a forward thinking firm responding to market changes, but the specific steps you take will depend on the structure, specialties and priorities of your firm. While the resultant strategies will likely differ, the process cited in the report – analyzing how the market was changing, consulting with key clients and identifying how to remain competitive and successful for the long term – offers an excellent template for every law firm to work from.

The only option you don’t have is to stand still. Remember, the new certainty in the law firm market is that more changes are coming. As General Eric Shinseki once noted, “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”

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