The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has concluded that competition in legal services for individual consumers and small businesses is not working well. It wants a “step change in transparency” so clients understood the price and service they are going to get. Richard Hinton, Managing Director, Pitsford Consulting, argues that rather than another burden, this represents a huge opportunity for firms.
You can imagine legions of lawyers and conveyancers across the land burying their heads in their hands when faced with the news, earlier this year that further regulation was needed in the profession.
The automatic reaction could be: "Here we go again - more meddling by government and regulators. We've lived through Chain Matrix, HIPs, Veyo, CQS whilst all the time shouldering more and more of the liability burden for lenders. Now here's another onerous new requirement..."
Transparency means Visible Quality
It’s a reasonable point of view, not without its supporters. But for a minute, I’d like you to think about what the CMA is trying to achieve here. My starting point is that the CMA’s ambition on behalf of the consumer is actually completely aligned to those of a good conveyancer. You are in the same bed together, honest!
I have spoken to many across the industry frustrated to the core about the quality and calibre of staff on the other side of the transaction. If I told you that the CMA was seeking a common way to be able to judge that quality, then you would, of course, be delighted. “About time too” I’d hear you cry.
Publishing service quality needs to be viewed far less as an admin exercise, not even as a badge of honour (although showing you have a 5 star rating is worth sharing) – but as the engine that drives lead generation. If prospects see strong, independent provided, positive endorsements by other clients, this generates leads. Indeed, Trustpilot has found that 92% of consumers read online reviews to make a choice.
It’s the oldest form of law firm marketing – word of mouth – just re-purposed for the digital age. It’s an incredible opportunity for the profession.
Pricing on a Level Playing Field
Now, if the CMA also said "we agree that bucket shop conveyancing with misleading £199 online quotes is ruining the industry. How can you be encouraged to do a good job when you're competing against these charlatans? So we're going to require firms to publish detailed estimates that capture all legal costs associated with the move" - again, there would be an outpouring of gratitude from the profession.
So, for these two clear reasons alone – what’s not to like? According to the CMA, only 17% of firms publish their prices at present, so there’s a cultural objection to overcome – selling the quality goes alongside the price – the march to the bottom is not a given in a new transparent environment.
If this new realisation dawns on the profession, then they could and should embrace the CMA proposals.
Simple Web Solutions can Deliver Now
And they should be reassured that industry will find a way to help firms meet and exploit these opportunities. New tools are now available that will ensure you meet the compliance challenge while ensuring you can match your service quality alongside your pricing.
The CMA requirement should also be seen as an opportunity to reach out and earn consumers’ trust. Leads come from prospects that feel the shop window answers their needs and they can gain quick comfort from what you offer and where you stand. If they see others have been before them and liked the experience, this confidence is multiplied. Ratings also deliver strong SEO benefits for the firm’s website too.
You can’t rely on them picking up the phone proactively anymore. Consumers are ever more distant in their engagement upfront – but give them simple website tools to engage without fear, that leads them to you easily.
Web development is frequently pushed to the bottom of the in-tray. But if simple website plug-ins can combine compliance on transparency with a simple and powerful way to engage potential clients, then these tools can be put to good use for lead generation. And that, at the end of the day, is the name of the game.