In Part 1 of this post I discussed some comments made by clients regarding legal services, and why they do not always understand the value of what they are paying for.
In Part 2 I look at how and why legal services do present value for money, and how we can improve awareness and understanding of value.
So what are we being paid for?
Knowledge, skill, and experience. Together these form the essence of paid legal services.
They are the reason we can charge for our time and the advice we give.
They are the reason a client can rely upon our expertise and be compensated if this does not meet the required standard.
They are also what we have strived for, through years of hard work, training, and dedication.
Knowledge, skill, and experience are valuable – not just because they have been hard-won, but because they are useful.
How can misunderstandings over value be avoided?
Whilst I am sure there is no single answer to this, I believe a good general approach is to focus clients’ attention on the benefits they receive as a whole from your service.
For example, a Will can be seen as just a piece of paper but it can represent security and certainty for your loved ones. It is a technical document which must be drafted with skill and expertise to function exactly in the manner it is intended to. It must also take into account many possible eventualities. Naturally, experience of drafting Wills which look to achieve similar aims is a definite advantage. Knowledge of previous case law is also useful, particularly for avoiding potential pitfalls.
When viewed from that perspective, a DIY Will kit doesn’t look quite so attractive. Even if it only costs £15, does that really represent value?
Additionally, it is worth emphasising that the effects of certain legal products go far beyond their strict functions. Consider, for instance, the peace of mind from knowing that you have a Lasting Power of Attorney in place. The benefit is gained even if your Attorneys never actually end up using it.
Can a small firm provide value for money?
Moving on from the general idea of value, I also wanted to discuss a more specific question: Can a small firm provide value for money to its clients?
Unsurprisingly, my answer would be an emphatic “yes!”
Larger firms have access to greater resources, and as such, they are generally better placed to absorb costs. They are also in a position to take on higher volumes of work and then, ideally, reduce the costs to the client accordingly. However, legal services are not all about bulk.
Running a small firm allows me to be agile in pricing my services. This means I can tailor my fees, where possible, to the value conferred and the current state of the market.
But value isn’t all about pricing. There are many other ways in which a small firm can offer good value in their services. Belinda Hollway from Scott + Scott (interviewed here) neatly summed up some of them:
“Working for a boutique allows you to be nimble, and decide the most effective way to run cases and serve clients. If you’re focused on a comparatively small number of cases it can be done to a very high standard.”
If small firms were unable to offer value, you would expect their numbers to be shrinking; closing their doors as clients went elsewhere for more cost-effective options.
However, recent research indicates that the opposite is happening. Hampshire Trust Bank and the Centre for Economics and Business Research used data from the Office of National Statistics to show that legal SMEs are on the rise. The ‘Technical & Professional’ sector (which included legal services, architects and vets) grew by 39% from 2010 to 2015. This was a higher rate of growth than any other sector.
What are your thoughts?
Can small law firms offer value for money?
Have you faced issues where the value of your service has not been appreciated?
What have you found to be the most effective techniques for clearing up misunderstandings on the value you provide?