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What Matters Most To Clients? Firm or Lawyer? This Survey Holds Some Answers

The Results Play To New Law Business Models

The oft-heard query about clients seeking out lawyers is whether they rely on the firm ‘brand’, or seek out individual lawyers.

The NAB inaugural Australian Legal Services Industry Survey, when it comes to reputation as a factor in deciding which legal adviser they want to go to, SME clients care more about the external perception held by a brand than that by an individual lawyer.

“The survey showed that SMEs give more weight to the reputation of the firm than that of the individual lawyer. This held true irrespective of the current phase of the business cycle or the number of people the SME employed,” the NAB commented.

The argument that firms are about individuals who build their reputation based upon what the individuals do is not proving attractive to SMEs.

They are more concerned with ‘brand’ which is something that helps play into the hands of the non-traditional law model.

Given the results, according to Beaton executive chairman George Beaton who also notes that NewLaw firms tend to be a corporation owned by shareholders and run by directors.

He said their offering presents a distinct point of difference than traditional law firms. 

“This is a very big difference because it means the client belongs to the NewLaw company, not to the individual partner.” 

“The corporate brand is everything and how clients are served is by the best resources in the company.”

But there are other issues that may also sway SMEs’ opinions he said, with NewLaw firms having made the change and have the ‘cultural licence’ to change many things about how they operate and provide legal services.

“Partnerships have many positives, but this many-decades-old culture of individualism means there’s a natural resistance to change,” Mr Beaton said.

NAB’s latest survey also offered insight into client loyalty, revealing that more than one in three Australian SMEs are prepared to seek the advice of a different legal adviser, with high fees and a feeling of not being valued among the reasons being highlighted as the key drivers. 

Of Interest

Bell Gully Pro Bono Report

Davis Polk Rising Stars