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Innovating the bar: technology as a business enabler

This post is part of a series on innovating the bar. Read the full collection here.

Businesses use technology for two main reasons:

  1. To save time by making them more efficient; and
  2. To generate more revenue by enhancing customer relationships and developing new business.

With the introduction of direct access, barristers are now nearly identical to many other businesses and can use technology to their advantage.

Saving time by becoming more efficient is all about using tools like calendars, address books, and practice management systems. These tools help streamline your practice, freeing up more time for billable hours and developing new business.

Second, using technology to generate revenue requires the implementation of tools that can help you develop your existing business. No successful business in the free market economy has failed to implement technology to help them grow, and the Bar is no different. Customers behaviours have changed and to service them properly, technology must be implemented.

52 per cent of businesses are currently looking for alternative sources to a traditional law firm

The legal services market is no different to other markets. Fifty-two per cent of businesses are currently looking for alternative sources to a traditional law firm. For barristers, this provides an opportunity to be that alternative. But the opportunity only exists if this market can be reached and engaged. This is where technology can deliver a big payoff for the members of the Bar.

Social media is the most important technology enabling members of the Bar to directly connect to new sources of business that they have not previously been exposed to. The single biggest “connection app” in the marketplace is LinkedIn, with over 20 million active users in the UK alone. Using LinkedIn effectively to develop new business requires combining several other social media technologies: video, blogging, content sharing, and social selling.

Traditional marketing at the Bar required building relationships with solicitors (now a rapidly shrinking market). Direct access enables barristers to build relationships directly with businesses – for both litigation and advisory work. Fundamentally, what matters now more than ever at the Bar is for barristers to develop a service offering in a target market and learn how to sell it.

Business development: a significant change

Members of the Bar will have to make a very personal choice about the amount of effort they want to expend into technology to this effect. As a rule, most successful businesses invest around 20 per cent of their time on business development. If your practice has essentially revolved around sitting and waiting for clerks to deliver business, then you either need to learn to accept that shrinking opportunity as your fate, or make some pretty substantial changes in what you are doing.

Barristers are in the professional services business and are therefore governed by the same laws of business development as other parts of the market, like accountants, and solicitors. In simple terms, they must:

  1. Identify prospects;
  2. Get in front of those prospects;
  3. Build a relationship and trust;
  4. discover their problems and how to fix them; and
  5. sell your service as the solution.

If you think this is ‘beneath’ you, then go back and take your seat at chambers, and wait for the clerks. However, if that doesn’t appeal to you then, you must:

  1. Identify a niche in the market where you can add value and focus on it;
  2. Develop an online profile that allows you to be found for those who need your service;
  3. Research where to find the prospects in your niche and their typical legal problems;
  4. Make ten new connections every day on LinkedIn in your niche;
  5. Develop relevant content that adds value to your market and propagate that content to your marketplace;
  6. Offer something to build trust quickly e.g. a ten-minute call, a coffee etc – develop a relationship which will turn into work;
  7. Publish case studies of the work you do and get them posted and distributed throughout your network on LinkedIn;
  8. Try and get five introductions and one direct referral from every one of your customers – every year.

Technology plus acumen

The fundamentals of business have not changed. Building trust, solving problems and maintaining relationships are key to developing new business. What has changed is the requirement for barristers to start carrying this out themselves. Technology is merely an enabler to do just that. Effectively using technology, combined with traditional business acumen, is the best way to grow and sustain a thriving practice. Ignoring it could prove disastrous.

“Being able to do the job is what really matters” GDPR: how will it impact the Bar? What do solicitors want from the Bar? First BSB ABS a ground-breaking collaboration between barristers and football agents Sleeping Giants, The BFG & The Bar How can barristers capitalise on the opportunities arising from the changing legal landscape? Innovation at the Bar: Who is leading the way? Innovating the bar: how to create and grow a successful practice Innovating the bar: digitisation of the courts Public access: must barristers be good salespeople?