With 10,000 law firms in the UK, clients have a huge choice and all the buying power
Last week we entertained 35 clients and referrers at the Ladies’ Day of the Ebor Festival at York Racecourse. Adding in Langleys people, 50 of us spent the day talking, laughing and, perhaps inevitably, not backing many winners. I think the 10,000 (to one) mentioned in the title was the chances of me tipping the winner!
Like many firms, this is the first hospitality we have put on in 18 months. For many of our guests, it was their first event for some time... and like us they were delighted to be let out.
Over and above enjoying the newness of a day out, what people seemed to enjoy most was simply spending time together, relaxing and really listening to each other – hearing what people have been up to, what they are doing now and what they are looking forward to.
The discussions were mostly ‘non work’ i.e. not in the professional context of a deal or project, or to debrief a job and collect feedback. We were enjoying each other’s company in a more natural, easy going setting.
It made me reflect on the terminology we use in the legal world. We talk about ‘clients’ rather than ‘customers’ because we think it is more befitting our status as professionals (we certainly do not use the B2C language of ‘consumers’).
Of course, we must never lose sight that ultimately, they are real people. As it happens, writing this reminded of a Simon Sinek quote I like:
“In business, 100% of your customers are people. 100% of your employees are people. If you do not understand people, you do not understand business.”
Looking back to look forward
It is interesting now to reflect on the marketing and business development strategies firms deployed during the initial phases of the Coronavirus pandemic.
We were beset by a blizzard of email updates, newsletters and webinars about force majeure and termination clauses in contracts. Even the word ‘furlough’ was new to most of us in the UK, and everyone was scrambling to understand how this new scheme was going to work. Employment lawyers were in their element with legislation changing daily – it was new territory.
But, despite all the content produced, 2020 showed that the most valuable BD tool of all is simply picking up the phone to people to check in with how they are doing. Taking the time to find out what they need and letting them know you are there for them proved to be more beneficial than almost anything else.
Earlier this year we released our Back to Business? research, based on a survey of hundreds of businesses across Yorkshire and the East Midlands. Rather than just looking back at how they fared during lockdown, we also asked them to look ahead of five years.
They told us there are three big themes on their radar; cashflow and the cost of doing business; investment and funding; and the shift online. These themes resonated with me and are front of house at Langleys in relation to our own strategy.
Of course, we will keep close to our clients to understand what is on their agenda day-to-day, but the insight we gained from our research will help us focus our marketing efforts on the issues that matter most to businesses in our local markets.
Vision and values
Clients is one of the five pillars of Langley’s strategy, and client focus is one of our three values. It may seem obvious, but we wanted a razor-sharp focus on our clients to sit at the centre of our thinking; amongst all the daily administrative tasks involved in running a business, it is easy to forget what we are really here to do – help our clients solve their problems.
This focus becomes even more important when you remember that there are 10,000 law firms in the UK. We are one of literally thousands of firms that people can choose from when they need legal advice. Remembering this really focuses your mind on what you need to do to make someone choose you over another firm.
It is also why we are concentrating on the development needs our people have. We know that not all technically-gifted lawyers have great BD and relationship building skills (they were trained be lawyers, not salespeople, after all). But we also know that if we want people to have rounded skill sets, it is only right to give them the coaching and support they need.
The importance of ambition
The overarching vision we set in our strategy review is deliberately ambitious (one of our values is ambition): we want to change people’s perceptions about what it is like to work with and be part of a law firm.
We had a chance to practice what we preach with our advertising board for York City FC’s new LNER Community Stadium. The feedback from everyone on social media and in our box at Ladies’ Day suggests it will certainly get noticed! It’s a bit of fun… and also hopefully changes a few perceptions!
We are thrilled to be nominated for Firm of the Year (Medium) and Commercial Litigation Team of the Year at the Yorkshire Legal Awards. It is a testament to the hard work that every single person in the business – in Lincoln as well as York – has put in over the last year. We will be keeping our fingers crossed on October 7.
Circling back to our clients. I asked one client at the races why they use us and she said: “Well, we do have a choice but at the end of the day I like the people I deal with at Langleys and they always do a great job”.
This reminded me of one of my favourite quotes from American poet and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou:
“I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”