♫ You’re a leftover
Pastrami on rye
Succulent and delicious
Yes, the sandwich of my eye…♫
Lyrics, music and recorded by Hot Soda Apparatus.
I read an article today in Slate Magazine entitled “The UR-Deli – How Katz’s stays in business against the odds by Jordan Weissmann.” This article is about how Katz’s deli in New York City has remained in business in the lower east side of New York since 1888 while its competitors have failed.
The business model is to deliver a hefty pastrami on rye for $19.75. Believe it or not, that sandwich is not much of a moneymaker. The old-style delis are facing a conundrum: the very thing that makes them loved..those wonderful stacked pastrami and corned beef sandwiches – is the thing that makes it hardest from an economic standpoint. They don’t make much money.
Compare and contrast that with law firms: the very thing that makes us loved – delivering bespoke legal services – is the very thing that makes it hardest from an economic standpoint. We can’t seem to deliver legal services at a lower cost. We are facing a basic economic issue similar to these old delis…
How does Katz’s deli survive?
The reason Katz’s was able to live on while its competitors disappeared largely boils down to real estate. As Sax writes in Save the Deli, New York’s delicatessens can basically be divided into two groups: those that rent their buildings and those that own. Famous renters, like the Stage Deli and 2nd Avenue Deli, have closed in the face of rent hikes. Famous owners, like Carnegie and Katz’s, have lived on. (And when 2ndAvenue Deli reopened, it bought a building … on New York’s 3rd Avenue). If Katz’s had to deal with a landlord, it would likely have disappeared or moved long ago.
Is there a lesson here for law firms? Could – possibly – part of the solution to the access to justice issues be that law firms start owning their own office buildings? There are a number of advantages arising from this model. The partners of such a firm would be building equity in the property over time; that same equity could be used to retire older partners when newer partners purchase an interest in the business as well as the real estate asset. Keeping ownership of the office space may reduce the overhead costs that could help the firm render legal services to a broader base of clients.
Certainly the issue of trying to broaden the ability of existing law firms to deliver legal services economically to a wider group of society does not have any easy solutions. However, perhaps Katz’s and similar survivors have lessons for us today. Notwithstanding we are a leftover, perhaps we can still be the sandwich in a client’s eye…
♫ Our contribution to the revolution…♫
Lyrics and Music by Michael Jacobs and Patrick Regan, recorded and Created by Lucent Technologies Public Relations (2000) (this has got to be the geekiest music video I have ever seen!)
This is a guest post from Richard Zorza on his blog: Richard Zorza’s Access to Justice Blog. It is a very thoughtful piece about innovation here in British Columbia by the Legal Services Society when faced by massive budget cuts, as compared to what has been done elsewhere (such as the UK) when faced with a similar situation. This blog post follows Roger Smith’s recent visit to us here in BC (where I was fortunate enough to have a fascinating lunch with Roger and others at the LSS offices) and Roger’s own blog post (mentioned herein) on this topic. Hat tip to Erin Shaw, a lawyer who has an extensive background in policy analysis, dispute resolution and justice and law reform, for pointing this post to me this last friday in Victoria! This post is reproduced with the kind permission of the author.
I want to draw your attention to a blog post by the UK’s wonderful Roger Smith contrasting the BC and UK approach to cutting, and response to cuts in, legal aid budgets. His essential point is that the BC cuts, while apparently just as draconian, were structured to allow for flexibility and innovation, and the challenges were approached in that spirit.
A couple of paras of contrast from the post:
The crucial difference between our [UK] position and that of BC is that, unlike by Chris Grayling and the Legal Aid Administration, cuts were not seen as an end in themselves. Yes, the government wanted blood but, provided legal aid could work within a reduced budget, then its administration was left free to do the best that it could. At first, the extent of the slaughter left little wriggle room and lawyers still argue that they should have been the first beneficiaries of any discretionary cash. But, the Legal Services Society, the legal aid administrator, has gradually sought to re-engineer its purpose as not only to provide representation in core cases but to deliver self help and advice designed to assist people to resolve legal problems on their own.
The difference a decade after BC’s cuts is that I have come all the way to Vancouver to see the brilliant work that the Legal Services Society, the Justice Education Society and the Courhouse Libraries are providing in digital delivery to those on low incomes. Google clicklaw.bc.ca, families change.ca, familylaw.lss.bc.ca (soon to be mylawbc.org) for a host of cutting edge provision in the province. Even the Ministry of Justice is joining in. Legislation in 2012 allows the funding of an online small claims court, the civil resolution tribunal, which will come on stream next year. Try even to file an electronic document in our own dear courts. No chance. No imagination. No innovation. Just a Minister and a Ministry shorn of any interest save in reducing expenditure. Cuts, Mr Grayling, are the easy part. Making sense – or even the best – of them takes imagination and innovation. Get on a plane; meet your BC counterparts and be appropriately humble about your government’s limited imagination and barren approach to policy.
In some ways, the cuts in these jurisdictions put them roughly where the US is now. So the question is whether we approach digging ourselves out of the access crisis with the same creativity. Or are we only nibbling at the edge of change. Inevitably, in the US the answer is “it depends” usually on the state and on the quality of leadership in the state. But I fear that our fragmentation means that we lack national leadership on things like a broad roll-out of self-help centers, forms, unbundling, and the other elements of the continuum of services, and all the quality and cost benefits that would come from national strategies. An exception is special kudos to LSC, Pro Bono Net and others for creating a near-national network of websites (although all would agree that the integration could go much further particularly on the marketing/partnering end.)
I hope that we as delivery innovators never forget that there will always be cases in which lawyers are needed — even as we work through simplification and innovation in both community based and court-based legal aid to reduce that percentage. But I also urge right to counsel folks not to forget that explicitly or implicitly taking the position that lawyers are always needed makes their proposals far more expensive and both politically and legally much more likely to build resistance. It’s an interesting question how the recent Boston Bar (article) (Report) and Maryland Right to Counsel reports deal with this challenge.
The key, of course, is triage and the key to the politics of a solution to the differences in perspective is common research and understanding about triage.
p.s. There is a newly updated website on right to counsel developments, including an interactive map, recently launched by the Coalition.
I hope you have enjoyed this little contribution to the revolution! Thanks Roger, Richard and Erin!
♫ I want you
Do you want me too?
I have one question
Can I help you?
Now watch me, what I do
Now thank you for coming through my drive-thru..♫
Lyrics and Music by: Julian Casablancas, Santi White, Pharrell Williams, recorded by Julian Casablancas, Santigold, and Pharrell Williams.
In the four prior posts in this series, we looked at how price is just one of seven components of the legal marketing mix. Part 2 discussed the product mix – and how changing your product mix may result in a great match between your services and the needs of the clients. Part 3 looked at who was on your team and how they deliver your services – and how this can have a big distinguishing effect on how clients view your services against the competition. In Part 4 we looked at promotion and how this can make your services stand out from the pack. In each of these posts we have looked at how each of these components helps distinguish your services from the competition; services that are distinguishable are priced differently, as they are no longer comparable with the competition.
In this post we are looking at yet another component of the marketing mix – namely the place where you deliver your services. Just consider the range of physical office configurations – from storefront offices on main street to walkup offices to Class A office space in a gleaming skyscraper. Each one of these sends an unwritten message to a potential consumer of legal services. Furthermore, you can practice as a solo, in an office sharing arrangement, an associate or a partner of a firm, large or small. Lawyers can maintain branch offices in the suburbs, in another town, province or state or even another country or continent. You can be a travelling lawyer who attends clients at their places of business, home, hospital, care facility, union hall or even a Starbucks. You can offer handicap access or after-hour access. Lastly but certainly not least, you can maintain a virtual office, using internet technologies to meet, share, collaborate and meet the needs of your clients who could be down the street, across town, in a distant city or even across the world. The range of possibilities are unbounded.
Indeed, bold lawyers have envisioned practising in ways that break the familiar constraints. Axess Law in Ontario has launched law offices that are embedded within Wal*Mart stores in Ontario and offer home, family, business services, legal contracts and notary services in an affordable and approachable context.
The range of offices and services that can be offered from different locations to meet client needs is as open and wide as your imagination. Perhaps one day a lawyer will open an office where a client can receive legal advice right in their car…and the lawyer would say…”Can I help You?” and then conclude with: “Thank you for coming thru my drive-thru…”
(cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca)
♫ That’s why I fell for (the leader of the pack)…♫
In the three prior posts on lawyers and pricing, we have looked at how price is only one part of the 7 components of the legal marketing mix. Part 2 discussed the product mix and how you can change your legal product mix to better meet the needs of your clients in a way that distinguishes your services from those of the competition. Part 3 examined how the people on your team can have a big impact on how your services are delivered. In fact, in Good to Great, Jim Collins said that the most important factor applied by the best companies is that they first of all “Got the right people on the bus, and the wrong people off the bus.” In this post we are exploring how promoting your business can be a distinguishing feature, setting your business up as being different from the competition…allowing you to price your services differently from the competition.
Think about all the different ways that your clients learn about your services. Certainly word-of-mouth is the gold standard of referral marketing, but not everyone who is a client in your firm came in the doors as a result of a personal referral. When it comes to marketing your practice, the one truth is that whatever works today will stop working at some time in the future for reasons that you might never know. Accordingly you need to change up your promotional or marketing activities and keep trying new things. Small changes can have big effects.
Social media is all the rage today and for good reason. Facebook has now reached 1.3 billion people – and that doesn’t include anyone in China! LinkedIn and Twitter are the other members of the “big three” social media networks. Have a look at your Facebook page, your LinkedIn profile and your use of Twitter. You can choose to not be on any of these (after all you can choose how to market your firm and your practice) and if these wouldn’t resonate for you or your clients ..fair ball. What is worse is being there but not having updated anything for some time. This indicates lack of commitment and follow-thru. Same goes for a blog – I personally find blogging to be one of the easiest and more effective ways for a young lawyer to establish themselves and their expertise in the market, if done consistently and well. Combine a blog with your thoughtful use of twitter on developments in your legal area of choice and you can become known as an authority in short order. For a great overview of how Canadian lawyers are blogging see the Clawbies website – the Canadian Legal Blog awards. You can be as creative as your imagination will take you..provided you still stay within the marketing ethics of your jurisdiction.
If social networking is not for you, there are a host of more traditional marketing methods. In person presentations and webinars are one way to get known and demonstrate your knowledge of your area of practice. Financial institutions are always putting on presentations. If writing is your thing, then offer to do a regular column in a local or community newspaper (you can then reuse these articles in a blog or newsletter). You can clearly show your involvement and interest in local affairs, schools, sporting events, churches and other organizations and help them – thereby building your presence in the community.
Whatever you do, try to ensure that your marketing makes you stand out from the pack. After all that is its purpose – to show that you are different from the rest. You want your clients to have fallen for the leader of the pack.
(cross-posted to slaw tips.ca)