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Law Practice Magazine

The Leadership Issue

Future Proofing: Avoid Shiny Object Syndrome to Successfully Navigate Your Firm’s Future

Daniel E Pinnington and Reid F Trautz


  • Without accurate insights into those changing needs, we may miss the opportunity to successfully evolve our firms.
  • Law firms of all sizes must adapt to remain competitive.
  • Cultivate client relationships by providing exceptional client service. The best source of new clients is the referral of new clients by existing clients. 
Future Proofing: Avoid Shiny Object Syndrome to Successfully Navigate Your Firm’s Future

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As the legal marketplace continues to evolve, law firms of all sizes must consider how they can evolve to stay competitive in the ever-changing legal services landscape. Although bright shiny objects like ChatGPT grab the headlines and attention, none of them are a magic bullet that alone will transform your firm. And don’t let bright shiny objects prevent you from considering more traditional and proven strategies. While some of these strategies may, at first blush, seem worn or trite, as the marketplace evolves, we must also evolve how we approach and apply these strategies.

In Change There Is Opportunity

Explore the changing needs of your clients and adapt your services to those needs. We all see the world changing around us, yet it may be hard to see the changing needs of our clients and of those potential clients in our market space.

Without accurate insights into those changing needs, we may miss the opportunity to successfully evolve our firms to offer more innovative services. It is time for more firms to conduct market research—something that is rarely done except in big firms. This starts with regularly gathering meaningful feedback from existing clients. It’s more than asking them for an online review. It’s understanding the client experience and adapting to trends those experiences reveal. Over several months and several dozen or more in-depth answers to client interviews or client questionnaires, the firm can start to evolve service delivery to meet any clear needs. Some of those changes may be simple and easy to do, while other trends may require further exploration and more innovative solutions. For example, the ability for clients to schedule appointments online via a web interface has steadily grown within the legal profession and across other service providers, too. Many firms adopted that technology to make scheduling easier for clients and for the firm once they learned the value clients placed on that capability. Those are the types of changes firms need to continue to surface and adopt to successfully evolve their firms.

The shiny new object for some consumers (and the lawyers serving them) are websites that offer the drafting of simple legal documents at a reduced price. Some clients want and are well served by this type of service, but others will want more traditional services, and be willing to pay higher fees for those services. Such expanded services can attract more clients and generate solid profits rather than reduce your existing business.

Cultivate client relationships by providing exceptional client service. The best source of new clients is the referral of new clients by existing clients. Providing exceptional client service during representation helps generate those referrals even when the legal outcome may not be optimal. Because it is so fundamental, exceptional client service was probably never a shiny new object. Nonetheless it should never be overlooked or ignored. Spend time in your firm highlighting the importance of client satisfaction. Discuss strategies for building strong client relationships, such as effective communication and personalized service. Review new proven technologies that can help. Set new goals to ensure clients are more than satisfied, and the firm obtains the benefits of client feedback and testimonials. Ethically use those testimonials in new and expanded online reviews.

Embrace technology and the power of innovation. For most of the computer and internet age some lawyers seemed to have resisted shiny new technologies, Chat GPT being one of the few exceptions. But firms that have a culture of evolving their technology have shown they are in the best position to maximize client service delivery, streamline processes and improve efficiency. Many firms are not using some of the basic and established technologies. That takes a regular commitment by firm owners and staff to assess the firm’s position and keep the firm moving forward.

Build a compelling online presence. As we enter the fourth decade of digital marketing, firms need to make sure they have a compelling online presence. Online, online, online is the new location, location, location. Almost all new clients––including those that come via word of mouth––will visit your website before calling or emailing one of the lawyers at your firm. Is your firm’s website up to date or does it look and feel outdated? Does it clearly paint a picture of the services your firm provides? Do your online profiles really tell new clients who your partners and associates are and how they can help? Are you leveraging the social media tools appropriate for your clientele? Twitter was once a shiny object but has recently faded. LinkedIn still has its place but has become a bit spammy. Instagram and to some extent TikTok have become the tools of choice for reaching some types of clients. What can you do to improve your website content and increase its outreach? Is the level of social engagement appropriate to your practice type, size and potential clientele? Websites are long past being shiny new marketing tools, but that doesn’t mean a compelling website shouldn’t be a cornerstone of your marketing strategy.

Invest in professional development for all members of your firm. Continuous learning is a hallmark of any successful business so make sure the importance of professional development is part of the culture of your firm. Highlight the benefits of attending legal conferences, workshops and webinars, and build in time and money for all lawyers, paralegals and administrators to participate. Be sure to invest in training programs for other staff members, too. The pandemic made online education conferences the norm. They are more efficient because they reduce travel costs and time out of the office, but they don’t offer the same networking opportunities. Yes, it is time to evolve our traditional narrow view of providing professional development for lawyers only. And think beyond substantive law! Provide education that improves computer skills, collaboration training, team building and personal well-being.

Increase collaboration with other professionals to expand your reach. Networking with other lawyers has its advantages when it comes to referrals. But better yet, consider expanding your networking so you can refer your clients to people that can provide the other services or advice they need: accountants, real estate professionals, consultants and marketing experts. As a firm, spend time exploring your existing professional relationships with nonlawyers, and then develop networking and collaboration strategies to deepen relationships that appear to be the most beneficial to the firm. Highlight the benefits of cross-referrals and knowledge sharing with these individuals. Encourage members of the firm to actively participate in networking events and join professional organizations with these other professionals.

Change = opportunity. In a rapidly evolving legal services landscape, law firms must proactively evolve to successfully navigate these changes and ensure their long-term success. By embracing technology, building a strong online presence, cultivating client relationships, investing in professional development, collaborating with other professionals and adapting to changing client needs, small law firms can position themselves for growth and remain competitive in the years to come. With a strategic approach and a commitment to innovation, small law firms can confidently navigate the future and thrive in an ever-changing legal industry