At the recent ISBA Solo and Small Firm Annual Conference, speaker Ben A. Neiburger, Generation Law, Ltd., shared his thoughts on “Baby Boomers, the Age Wave, and the Commoditization of the Practice of Law: How to Survive the Storm” and provided insights worth repeating.
Neiburger noted two major societal changes and factors that are greatly impacting both the practice of law and the marketing of the practice: the baby boomer generation and the commoditization of law practice.
-The baby boomer generation–people born between 1946 and 1964–is estimated to represent more than 72 million people. As a group, boomers are well-educated, smart, tech-savvy, independent and highly opinionated.
-An unfortunate trend in the legal profession is the cheapening of legal services. A shift has taken place–clients are more focused on the cost of legal services, not the quality of the services provided, thus commoditizing the practice.
How do these two changes affect you and your practice?
There are various factors that contribute to the commoditization of law. One of the largest factors, however, is the Internet and availability of online information. Combine this availability and the do-it-yourself attitude of baby boomers, which account for a large portion of those seeking legal services, and the result is the assumption that legal matters can be adequately solved without a lawyer.
The notion that through online research–which boomers do a significant amount of–enough information can be gleaned to render a lawyer unnecessary poses many problems to lawyers and their firms. Clients may attempt to complete forms and processes themselves that, in reality, need the expertise of a lawyer. They may use online forums to gather legal information, instead of seeking the counsel of a knowledgeable attorney. Clients also may take advantage of your time in an attempt to shop for the lowest bidder and their services.
The list goes on, and the end result is that clients’ attempt to cut costs and independently solve legal matters cheapens and commoditizes the practice of law and undervalues the experience, education and credentials of lawyers and their firms.
How do you survive the storm?
Digesting and seeking to understand these major societal changes and factors is vital for the legal profession. Clients need to understand the value you provide–communicate to them that you are a trusted advisor who provides the experience necessary to successfully navigate legal matters. Use strategic marketing initiatives to share your credentials, scope of legal knowledge and niche practice areas. The value you provide to clients and the experience you bring is irreplaceable–communicate that to clients.