IT & the Lawyer

Your competition is growing

Independent Lawyers: Your competition is growing

“Independent small law firms contribute significantly to the South African legal landscape. Their distinguishing features are passion, belief in the future of their practices and pride in the contributions which they make” (Survey report)

A survey* by LexisNexis South Africa of 162 independent law firms last year highlights once again the necessity for law firms – no matter how small – to remain competitive by:

  • Running their practices on strictly business lines
  • Pro-actively marketing themselves and their services to clients and prospective clients.

What the survey showed

Cash flow is, as always, king – 86.4% of small firms ranked it as “very significant” to their business, the other 13.6% as “significant”. No surprises there.

Client retention and acquisition – equally unsurprisingly, 98.3% of firms ranked “Retaining clients/growing business” as “significant” or “very significant”.

Growth emerged as a primary concern for small practices, with 77% either actively growing at the moment or planning to grow during the next 5 years.

The need to change is clearly recognised, with concerns around increasing competition evident in several areas. 88.3 % of firms agreed that they have to up their game to survive, 87.5% that they need to constantly evolve to stay on top and 68.4% that “it is much harder these days to make a good living out of law”.

Agents of growth - Reputation, word of mouth and calibre of service are cited as important for retention and growth of client bases, with 90.7% of firms describing networking in particular as “important” or “very important” for growth.

Marketing is vital – the need to market practices was clearly recognised, with 83% ranking it as “important” or “very important” to the growth of their firms. 60% of firms use “word of mouth” to market their practices but only 11% outsource the marketing function.

Your competition is growing …..

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity” (Albert Einstein)

What does all this mean for you?

Firstly, your competition is growing. 77% of small firms are either actively growing at the moment or planning to do so. You need to grow as well.

Secondly, the survey results throw up some significant opportunities for growth in our changing landscape –

Marketing: Although 83% of firms recognise the need to market their firms, only 53.1% of them are actually increasing, or have short term plans to increase, their investment in marketing. This is almost certainly because of a misperception that marketing needs to be both complicated and expensive. The firm that understands the low-cost, simple marketing tools available to it has a significant competitive advantage.

Cash flow and outsourcing: Only 11% of firms outsource their marketing, but with cash flow concerns central to small firm planning, it makes a lot more sense to use your billable time to do billable work. 89% of firms are missing out here; don’t be one of them, outsource your marketing to specialists. Choose a marketing firm that knows how to keep your costs to a minimum by leveraging technology.

Reputation and calibre of service need to be communicated: 60% of firms say they rely on “word of mouth” marketing but one wonders how many of them realise that “word of mouth” only works as a referral-generator when you remain constantly top-of-mind with your existing clients. Again, the firm that keeps in touch with all its clients – past as well as present – runs well ahead of the pack.

LinkedIn (and the rest): Here’s another significant opportunity for you. Only 40% of small firms are using Social Media in any form, with only 72% of those firms using LinkedIn. Yet a basic LinkedIn presence for your firm and senior professionals is easily and inexpensively achieved. Without it, you will increasingly lose prospective clients before they even pick up the phone to you. Don’t be one of the 60% of firms losing out here.

Websites are powerful: Amazingly, only 34.8% of small firms already have a website whilst a whopping 36.5% have no plans for one in the future. Yet a good quality, affordable, basic website – one that projects your professionalism and credibility – is easily achieved. It will certainly put you ahead of the 36.5% of firms still living in the pre-Internet Dark Ages!

Look for an All-in-One Solution

If you decide to outsource your firm’s marketing rather than sacrifice your own billable time to do it yourself, look for a marketing firm that –

  • Provides an all-in-one service to ensure that all your marketing channels are fully integrated for maximum effect,
  • Leverages technology to keep your costs minimal,
  • Has a solid track record of specialising in law firm marketing.

Paddy Crook

Paddy Crook is head of Marketing Services at DotNews which is well known to law firms for its LawDotNews client newsletter. Having completed his BSc at Rhodes University and UCT’s specialist Digital Marketing Course, Paddy has specialised in email marketing, social media, web design and other online marketing mediums for professional firms.  Readers are welcome to contact Paddy at, or visit the DotNews Marketing Services Page for further details. © DotNews

*The LexisNexis survey “The Changing Landscape of Independent Law in South Africa

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