Procurement 25 August 2015

Businesses can shop around for legal services – don’t feel forced to go local

The traditional route for business owners was to stick with the local firm – no matter the issue, or sometimes cost
The traditional route for business owners was to stick with the local firm – no matter the issue, or sometimes cost

The CEO of legal comparison site LawyerFair on why changes in technology have meant micro businesses can shop around for legal services – just as they would for other supplies, and why you should be taking advantage of it.

As I’ve got older, I’ve tended to become more conservative in my tastes.

No deviation from the American Hot at Pizza Express and don’t ask me to test the latest herbal tea concoction. It’s builder’s or nothing.

And yet, in a space where conservatism can play a central role in the selection process, I’m a huge advocate of disruption and change. Here’s why legal procurement is transforming and why it’s exciting – and important – for small businesses.

Changing lawyers has been like changing bank. You might flirt with the idea (particularly when that invoice arrives) but hey, you’ve been with them for years and they do the job.

But when you shop around for almost every other expense in the business, why not with lawyers?

Change has arrived in legal services but unsurprisingly it’s external forces driving this – a combination of deregulation, technology and new expectations about customer service and lawyer “value”.

And with new competition comes a challenge to the old order of timed billing where all the commercial risk is on the buyer, not the supplier.

How does that work? Well, very nicely if you’re the supplier.

A new era of innovation and technology enables business owners to find alternative and often more cost-effective solutions.

Greater choice, remote access and fixed-fee pricing means businesses can (and should) shop for legal services, just as they do for other services.

Person on comp

Five reasons why legal procurement is changing and how your business should be taking advantage

(1) The world is a small place

Technology transforms everything and you can now purchase most legal services online – even your solicitor.

It’s easy to find and compare lawyers from across the UK and beyond.

This allows business owners to find exactly the right lawyers for the work required and get them competing on price, delivering on value etc.

(2) Does your lawyer take a commercial perspective, as well as a legal one?

Every lawyer in the land should know the law, that’s as a given. But how many of them deal with your legal issues from a commercial perspective?

Do your lawyers have a commercial outlook, as well as a legal one?

Do they understand what you actually want today and your overall corporate objectives?

(3) Agree fixed costs in advance – hourly rate estimates are almost always exceeded

No firm should charge hourly rates in the modern world, it doesn’t happen anywhere else in the commercial world and by charging that way, lawyers offload all commercial risk onto their clients.

Some flexibility may be required with work that has an uncertain end date but even then, agree milestone payments that help provide greater certainty on cost.

Make sure that whoever you instruct is willing to discuss flexible fee arrangements and fixed fees.

(4) Does your current firm have the expertise to help you with everything?

The traditional route for business owners was to stick with the local firm, no matter what the issue or sometimes the cost.

But when it’s so easy to find niche experts at competitive prices from the comfort of your laptop, why would you not shop around to find the right expert, at the best price?

Local is great and picking up the phone to your local firm appeals but when legal issues and costs are so pivotal to the business, it’s sensible to look at all options.

(5) Business owners need to see real value in legal services

Unfortunately the legal profession has been (and continues to be) rather slow in adopting a modern approach to customer service and/or technology.

Alongside instructing a lawyer who can take a commercial view and offers competitive, fixed fees, you want to be dealing with someone who takes a modern approach to legal service delivery.

Exceptional customer service, use of technology, taking a commercial view – all of these factors will not only make your life easier but will also help you reduce your legal fees in the long run.

Image: Shutterstock

Andrew Weaver is CEO of legal comparison site LawyerFair.

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