Transparency is king for law firms

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The direction of travel is clear and transparency now needs to be at the heart of a law firm’s business plans in the insurance sector, writes Andy Cullwick, head of marketing at First4Lawyers

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) announced this month that it’s hiatus, due to Covid-19, on disciplinary action for firms who flout transparency rules has come to an end, and they are once again actively surveying firms, and conducting web-sweeps to ensure adherence to the new regulations.

Since the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) report in 2016 that called for action by the legal sector to aid consumer choice when choosing legal services, industry bodies such as the SRA and Legal Services Board (LSB) have felt under pressure to demonstrate that the sector is taking this seriously, and improvements are being made. The CMA has recently announced that it is reviewing the legal sector again and will produce a new report by the end of the year.

This is providing an opportune moment for firms to now review their content strategies. This can often be one of those topics that is swept to the side, designated to the marketing team and quickly forgotten about as the firm gets on with the business of practising the law and winning new business. But these days, content strategies need to be at the heart of firms’ business plans, not an aside or a ‘nice to have’. Content is king, and ignore it at your peril. Firms that don’t have clear content strategies not only risk losing business to competitors, but also risk falling on the wrong side of the law.

So how can firms take steps to demonstrate adherence and provide a positive experience for today’s consumer?

Consumers today are savvy, and like to source services in a similar way to how they shop online. They expect information about price, service and quality to be readily available—if not, they easily move on and look for where this information is available.

Transparency on pricing in this sector has always been a sticky subject as it’s not always easy to necessarily display the information that consumers may be looking for. But at the very least, firms can, and should, be transparent about how their charging system works. A description of services available, details of the lawyers’ credentials and specialist knowledge, and a firm’s success rates can all be made available. This gives consumers an idea of what to expect, and a tool for helping them to assess the offerings by different firms.

The legal sector is also notoriously shy of using review sites, but time and again research shows that consumers see review and comparison sites as a trusted quality mark. They’ve certainly worked wonders for consumers when buying insurance. Further, a 2017 report by Podium found that online reviews impact purchasing decisions for more than 93% of consumers, and 68% are willing to pay up to 15% more for the same product or service if they are assured they will have a better experience. However, there are long-held views among lawyers that they only attract negative comments from unhappy clients, but this often isn’t the case, and in many instances negative reviews lead to improvements in service. Case studies, client reviews and testimonials should be among the most easily available information on any businesses’ website.

It’s also worth considering other value-adding tools that help to make accessing legal services easier to the average consumer. Taking time to think about the questions you are often asked by new clients to build a bank of frequently asked questions for your website will be a draw. Additional information such as a timeline of how a case runs, as well as the factors that can affect this, all work to provide consumers with information they need to help them make this important decision.

This year, more than any other, has highlighted to us all the importance of being able to react quickly and efficiently to new business challenges, and in many ways this is no different. The direction of travel is clear, and transparency now needs to be at the heart of a firm’s business plans.

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Mark Dugdale is the editor of Claims Media. Mark welcomes articles, letters or feedback from readers and can be reached via mark.dugdale@barkerbrooks.co.uk