Independent Law Firms: How to Adapt to Your Changing Landscape

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity” (Albert Einstein)

Question:  “Should I market my small law firm?”

An August 2014 survey* by LexisNexis South Africa of 162 independent small law firms highlights once again the necessity for law firms – no matter how small – to remain competitive by:

  • Running their practices on strictly business lines
  • Pro-actively marketing themselves and their services to clients and prospective clients.

Answer:  What the survey showed

Cash flow is, as always, king – 86.4% of small firms ranked it as “very significant” to their business, the other 13.6% as “significant”.  No surprises there.

Client retention and acquisition – equally unsurprisingly, 98.3% of firms ranked “Retaining clients/growing business” as “significant” or “very significant”.

Growth emerged as a primary concern for small practices, with 37% saying they are currently growing, and 77% having plans to grow during the next 5 years.

The need to change is clearly recognised, with concerns around increasing competition evident in several areas.  88.3 % of firms agreed that they have to up their game to survive, 87.5% that they need to constantly evolve to stay on top and 68.4% that “it is much harder these days to make a good living out of law”.

Agents of growth – Reputation, word of mouth and calibre of service are cited as important for retention and growth of client bases, with 90.7% of firms describing networking in particular as “important” or “very important” for growth.

Marketing is vital – the need to market practices was clearly recognised, with 83% ranking it as “important” or “very important” to the growth of their firms.  60% of firms use “word of mouth” to market their practices but only 11% outsource the marketing function.

Your competition is growing…..

What does all this mean for you?

Firstly, your competition is growing. 77% of small firms are either actively growing at the moment or planning to do so.  You need to grow as well.

Secondly, the survey results throw up some significant opportunities for growth in our changing landscape –

Marketing: Although 83% of firms recognise the need to market their firms, only 53.1% of them are actually increasing, or have short term plans to increase, their investment in marketing.  This is almost certainly because of a misperception that marketing needs to be both complicated and expensive.  The firm that understands the low-cost, simple marketing tools available to it has a significant competitive advantage.

Cash flow and outsourcing:  Only 11% of firms outsource their marketing, but with cash flow concerns central to small firm planning, it makes a lot more sense to use your billable time to do billable work.  89% of firms are missing out here; don’t be one of them, outsource your marketing to specialists.  Choose a marketing firm that knows how to keep your costs to a minimum by leveraging technology.

Reputation and calibre of service need to be communicated:  60% of firms say they rely on “word of mouth” marketing but one wonders how many of them realise that “word of mouth” only works as a referral-generator when you remain constantly top-of-mind with your existing clients.  Again, the firm that keeps in touch with all its clients – past as well as present – runs well ahead of the pack.

LinkedIn (and the rest):  Here’s another significant opportunity for you.  Only 40% of small firms are using Social Media in any form, with only 72% of those firms using LinkedIn.  Yet a basic LinkedIn presence for your firm and senior professionals is easily and inexpensively achieved.  Without it, you will increasingly lose prospective clients before they even pick up the phone to you.  Don’t be one of the 60% of firms losing out here.

Websites are powerful:  Amazingly, only 34.8% of small firms already have a website whilst a whopping 36.5% have no plans for one in the future.  Yet a good quality, affordable, basic website – one that projects your professionalism and credibility – is easily achieved.  It will certainly put you ahead of the 36.5% of firms still living in the pre-Internet Dark Ages!

An All-in-One Solution:  DotNews

Let us help you grow and prosper with our full range of marketing services –

  • competitionYour LawDotNews client newsletter keeps you effortlessly top-of-mind with all your clients and prospective clients professionally and cost-effectively.
  • Use our Internet Pages service to integrate your client newsletters automatically with all your other marketing channels.
  • Turn every email from your office into a marketing opportunity with our DotMailBranding email service.
  • Maximise your online presence at minimal cost with our Connector websites and Social Media pages.
  • Ask us about our Corporate Branding/Logo Design services, Email Security and Archiving, and general marketing and communication strategy

See our Marketing Services Page or Contact Us for more.

*The LexisNexis survey “The Changing landscape of Independent Law in SA” is available online here


Jack Crook
Jack Crook
Managing Director & LawDotNews Author at DotNews
Jack’s legal qualifications (LLB Lond and LLB Rhod) are supplemented by many years of practical experience in law, in marketing his own firm, and in helping small and medium sized law and accountancy firms to prosper by using simple, low-cost, effective marketing strategies.

Jack’s legal qualifications (LLB Lond and LLB Rhod) are supplemented by many years of practical experience in law, in marketing his own firm, and in helping small and medium sized law and accountancy firms to prosper by using simple, low-cost, effective marketing strategies.