This case study provides a summary of a discussion with Lachlan McKnight, who is a co-founder and CEO of LegalVision, a one-stop-shop national legal services provider.
LegalVision Pty Ltd
As part of the Digital Business Kits website we have been reviewing a number of professional services organisations who have made a strong commitment to running their businesses online. We consider that some of the lessons learnt and advice offered by these firms can be very helpful for other SME professional services firms who may be at different stages of their digital strategy development.
Part 1: About LegalVision
Traditionally the legal sector in Australia and indeed, elsewhere, has been characterised by a combination of a small number of medium to large firms, mixed together with much larger number of very small firms, many of whom are sole practitioners. The medium to large law firms have historically serviced large corporate clients and have tended to attract their clients by traditional business networking techniques rather than by using online approaches.
The small firms have been reluctant also to attract potential customers using online tools. They are also somewhat reluctant to use any type of marketing in the public domain.
But the sector is starting to experience some significant changes both in Australia and globally, with an increasing number of smaller, smarter law firms who focus on niche legal services and who are quite comfortable operating publicly online. These firms are typically more “open” with their range of capabilities and associated business models and their clients tend to be a different demographic from large corporates; they look for a quick, cost-effective and solution-oriented approach. And they also prefer a fixed-fees model, not traditional per hour fees.
LegalVision is an Australian company that has responded to this changing market dynamic by using smart online mechanisms to market, attract and deliver all their services online, keeping costs at a minimum and efficiencies at a premium.
They aim to keep their prices below traditional bricks and mortar firms and pass on the savings to clients via a fixed fee arrangement that ensures ‘no surprises’ with legal bills. They are a good example of the kind of change that newly created professional services firms with a strong digitally led strategy are using to shake up and transform traditional ways of doing business.
Part 2: Our digital advantage
LegalVision started their corporate life by selling online legal documents, then further developed into a brokerage, finding legal service providers for customers who contacted them. Now they carry out about 75 percent of that legal work themselves, using a team of specialised lawyers offering solutions in business, property, family law, employment law, intellectual property and corporate law.
LegalVision is supported by a back office team for marketing, admin, sales and customer service.
According to Lachlan, the firm always intended to be ‘digital’, so it did not start as bricks and mortar and then morph into an online business. The guiding principle has always been to provide clients what they wanted.
LegalVision has a simple and transparent business model; potential clients can provide their details via the firm’s website, and a LegalVision lawyer will then contact them to discuss their legal issues, provide a fixed quote and when accepted, a specialist lawyer commences the work and delivers a solution quickly and effectively.
LegalVision stress that a key part of their business success has been driven by implementation of focused online marketing strategies. They have been very targeted with promoting key niche services of their firm. Their clients have appreciated this open and transparent approach which is often much more complicated to implement in traditional law firm structures.
Lachlan notes that the entire firm is ‘on the cloud’, with all client site visits going immediately to a CRM system, large files managed through an online cloud storage tool called Sugarsync and all accounting managed in the client with Xero.
The firm uses Skype and video-conferencing a lot for communicating with clients and this allows a mobile and client-focused approach to delivery, which suits the large majority of their clients.
Some cases still require a face-to-face approach, but this is very much the exception and then the firm makes use of a small suite of offices.
Part 3: Advice and insights from LegalVision
Not all legal firms can operate like this, but there are common themes Lachlan is happy to share with anyone considering moving to an online business model.
- It is very important to plan to get a good website design implemented at the start, with a “call to action” and a clear 1300 number for potential clients to call, or provide a fill-in form for contact. Consider the use of SEO and SEM techniques to drive traffic to your site, and if you are general-purpose firm then consider your locality as a key differentiator. The use of ad words and social media to emphasise your locality can be a strong driver for new business.
- If you do choose to run a large digital campaign then online marketing can rapidly become quite costly, so you need to plan your marketing strategy carefully in advance.
- Appropriate use of new and improved technology is key to the growth and success of any online business. LegalVision is constantly updating their systems and looking for new ways to use and manage the data they collect from clients, and to develop a precedent system for drafting legal documents. Make sure you re-visit and re-fresh your digital strategy and approach regularly to keep abreast of developments in the online space as well as inside your own business.
- Social media is an excellent tool for being ‘active’ in the marketplace but may not be ideal for being open with your clients. LegalVision uses it generically for branding and credentials of their entire firm, but they are also wary of the potential for a negative online comment to easily impact their brand reputation so they are careful to closely manage the customer relationship aspects of their business at all times.
You can learn more about LegalVision at http://legalvision.com.au