Strategic priorities for success

Enhancing the client experience, becoming more data-driven and improving profitability ranked high on SME law firm leaders’ strategic agenda, according to LPM’s 2023 Frontiers report. But how can they achieve this?

Amy Bruce |Marketing manager at Osprey Approach |

For episode seven of the Build Better Habits webinar series hosted by Osprey Approach — Amy Bruce, marketing manager, was joined by Sarah Charlton, CEO of Eaton-Evans & Morris Solicitors, Sophie Holdsworth, operations manager at Farnworth Rose Solicitors and LPM’s co-CEO, Rupert Collins-White.

The panel of experts discussed the results of LPM’s 2023 Frontiers report and shared their best practices on how law firms can:

  • Improve their client experience
  • Make data-informed decisions
  • Boost profitability

How can modern law firms enhance their client experience?

The Frontiers report found that 57% of SME law firms are prioritising improving their client experience. But firms need to overcome a few challenge around client service.

Charlton  stated that, culturally, there are often obstacles around capturing, evaluating, and actioning client feedback, often because, “smaller firms have a real emotional attachment to the service they provide. And so, even if you can get a good sample size of feedback, solicitors can become defensive over the work they’ve done.”

Sarah recommended that, “whoever is reviewing the client experience, ideally needs to be someone who isn’t delivering the service so they can look at it impartially and make positive suggestions.

“Solicitors traditionally like to deliver law how they want, which isn’t necessarily how the client would like to receive it.”

Holdsworth said that this year Farnworth Rose has done an internal review of its own client experience: “We’ve set up internal focus groups with staff from all levels in the firm involved  to review the objectives we’ve set for ourselves. We started by identifying our client’s pain points and understanding what value we can provide at each touchpoint.”

Collins-White highlighted the importance of benchmarking service levels against what clients really expect: “Firms typically benchmark their service against other law services, but their clients often never experience another legal service so that’s not how they benchmark quality customer service.

“You need to benchmark your service against what else your client is experiencing. You could ask your clients to name a really good customer experience they’ve had and use that to shape the experience you deliver.”

What impact does becoming data-driven and digital-first have on long-term success?

The panellists agreed that the strategy of the firm needs to be driven by the needs of the client.

Charlton explained: “Our business model is one where we want to be able to invest time and money into the client experience, so we use technology behind the scenes to create efficiencies – that the client wouldn’t necessarily see. Technology helps us to offer a face-to-face service and ensure our prices don’t need to increase because we’re so efficient behind the scenes.”

Holdsworth agreed, explaining, “We’ve adopted various tech over the years – some client facing, others for internal use – to help us always be available for our clients.”

Having access to real-time accurate data enables firms to make more effective strategic decisions. Sophie shared how, “capturing the right data is important for our long-term success because it helps us to be more scientific with our strategy and budget planning. Osprey helps us with that because we’ve set up various daily and weekly reports that are shared with all staff to help us keep on track and  proactively see our progress against KPIs and targets.”

Collins-White advised that firms should focus on whether they’re consistently collecting and monitoring data for long enough periods. “For me, being data-driven is about understanding the data you have and to do this you need to have collected enough historical data to provide the right insights and to enable continuous improvement.

“If you’re not feeding the tech with the right data, it’s just nonsense. A starting point for firms is to focus on what data you have and how you’re storing it.”

Eight business habits  to boost profitability

The majority of firms (94%)  predicted their revenue would increase over the next 12 months but 82% said overhead costs would also increase. It’s important for long-term success that firms consider the impact this could have on profitability. Here are the tips the panellists shared to remain profitable: the panelists

  1. Improve efficiencies

Streamlining internal operations helps to increase the value charged for every hour worked. Holdsworth advised that firms should, “create robust, repeatable processes that are easy for staff to follow. Utilise Osprey — or your case management system — to create workflows and standardise processes.”

  1. Adopt a digital-first mindset

Sophie suggested, “adopting more digital solutions and capturing the right data.” Digital tools help firms to improve efficiency internally, which will positively impact the client and in turn, increase recommendations to new clients. Collecting the right data with the tech  provides firms with the stats needed to make improvements.

  1. Internal collaboration

Collins-White suggested firms improve the internal integration of processes: “Focus on the integrational changes you can make to improve productivity. Ask yourself ‘how can we internally be a more joined up business?’ and that’ll accelerate profitability.”

  1. Be all over the numbers

Making decisions based on data rather than gut feelings ensures you’re not making assumptions but are led by fact. Charlton advised, “Don’t let the numbers stop you from taking risks, but you need data to back you up, so you can make data-driven predictions.”

  1. Know your worth

To ensure you’re maximising the value from your hours worked, Holdsworth recommended that firms “know their worth. Charge clients based on your knowledge, length of experience, and the service you provide. Fee earners must know the value they provide clients”.

  1. Build the right culture

The effectiveness of your team is what will impact your client service, profitability, and long-term success. Charlton advised: “You have to have the right [firm] culture that aligns with your business goals. For example, we’ve built a continuous improvement culture so the team are used to change and can easily adapt. But to have an effective culture you need the right people.”

  1. Hire effectively

Not only do you need to hire the right people to fit your culture, but firms should consider whether hiring more people is going to improve, or harm, profitability. Collins-White explained that “salaries have increased so much recently that firms should consider whether hiring more people is effective. Analyse whether you can be more productive with the resource you have first.”

  1. Prioritise an operational role

If reviewing operational processes isn’t someone’s tasked priority within the firm, then it won’t happen. Collins-White advised, “You need to hire someone whose job it is to process map and review if the operations are effective. Someone responsible for asking, ‘Is this efficient?This doesn’t have to be a full-time person— it can be a consultant.”

Build better digital and client-focused habits to stay competitive long-term

This webinar highlighted how SME law firms can improve long-term success, but it’s important practices have a clear business goal in mind, hire the right people that align with that goal, and utilise digital tools to help create efficient internal operations.

You can watch the episode on demand now.

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