Asked and Answered
By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC
Q. I am the managing partner of a 16 attorney business transactional firm in Chicago. Over the last five years, we have lost several core clients due to consolidation of their outside law firms and mergers of the clients themselves. Competition is getting fierce in our market, our services are being viewed as commodities, and it is getting harder to stand out. What can we do to differentiate ourselves from everyone else? We welcome your thoughts.
A. Creating a competitive advantage that is sustainable over time is difficult at best. It is so easy for your competitors to copycat your recent innovations. Clients of law firms advise us that they hire the lawyer - not the firm. However, this is only partly true. The firm - its image and brand - provides a backdrop for the individual attorneys marketing efforts as well and provides backup and bench strength that many clients require before retaining a lawyer.
In general the law firm is faced with the dual challenge of developing a reputation (brand) at both the firm and the individual lawyer level. In general, client delivery practices and behaviors that are part of the firm's core values and have been burned into the firm's cultural fabric are the hardest to copycat.
Areas in which you can consider differentiation strategies: