01 Mar Are Legal Services a Commodity?
5 strategies you should pursue to avoid becoming a commodity
A commodity is a mass-produced, unspecialized product, such as lumber, oil, or sugar. It is considered a good or service whose wide availability typically leads to smaller profit margins and diminishes the importance of factors other than price.
If legal services become a commodity (which they are heading in that direction), it could harm your law firm’s profitability. You will see price wars, lower margins, and higher difficulty in establishing differentiation and brand image.
How are legal services becoming commoditized?
As an attorney, you know better than anyone that legal services are by no means commodities. There can be great differences in the quality and results of different attorneys handling the same case. However, various forces in the industry are making legal services seem like (and perhaps become) commodities.
FORCE #1: There are too many attorneys. Whenever there is a wide availability of a service, that service risks becoming a commodity.
FORCE #2: Many attorneys are using low prices as a weapon to gain market share. With a race to the bottom with prices, attorneys are driving their margins down in order to increase their client base.
FORCE #3: Most people don’t know enough about law to distinguish high quality services. People often don’t understand the differences between a good attorney vs. a bad one. The result is that they often focus on low price as their #1 factor in choosing an attorney.
FORCE #4: Often times the end result of legal services is the same for the client, regardless of the attorney that did the service. For example, on simple bankruptcy cases, it may not matter which attorney handles the case. The debt discharge, or end result for the client, may be exactly the same.
What you can do to avoid becoming a commodity
While you can’t change consumers’ perspectives or your competitors’ prices or services, you can change aspects of your law practice to avoid becoming a commodity.
1. Establish a near-perfect track record of quality and success. What percent of cases that you handle are successful? The more you build a record of success, the more you can use your reputation as a differentiator in the marketplace. Both volume and success rate become unique qualities that set you apart.
2. Improve your processes to increase speed and accuracy. The more efficiently you handle cases, the more cases you can handle while still having good results. Look for creative ways to improve workflow between staff members or increase speed of common tasks. Speed and accuracy can become differentiators from other law firms.
3. Take time and energy to give clients the attention they need. Many attorneys rush their interactions (whether on the phone or in person) with potential and actual clients. However, each interaction you have with these individuals is an opportunity to create a bond and favorable impression. This friendliness and customer service focus creates a differentiation from other firms.
4. Create effective, unique materials that help others with bankruptcy. Do you have high quality content to help others learn about bankruptcy? Consider creating videos, website content, and Ebooks to educate customers. Offer these materials for Free to these potential and current clients. They will appreciate the valuable information and begin to trust your law firm. These materials can help you differentiate yourself from other law firms.
5. Create high quality marketing messages. Make sure that all marketing, including your website, online advertising, and offline advertising portray professionalism and a little flair. You can be creative and unique in your marketing. The way you market yourself can play a large role in helping you stand out from others in the marketplace.