The historical significance of standardisation cannot be underestimated; everything from the sizes of nuts and bolts to the width of railway tracks.
Interoperability injected life into the industrial revolution and made the world what it is today.
However, law firms providing professional services to consumers and businesses have always instinctively sidestepped the idea of standardisation. The industry's typical belief would be that with legal advice, why seek out the standard? Surely you would wish only for the best?
The truth is to the contrary because introducing standards has allowed excellence to rise to the surface in my profession. By doing the same thing in the same way in the same circumstances, you create predictability, a common level of service and the same outcome with the minimum of resources, driving down costs for the consumer - something that is important in a world of finite resources.
This is why since 2000 and every year hence, my firm opens its doors to independent assessment under the Lexcel practice management standard.
This is a scheme for any type of practice to certify that certain standards have been met and is only awarded to solicitors who meet the highest demands for management and customer care. Lexcel accredited practices undergo rigorous independent assessment every year to ensure they meet required standards of excellence in areas such as client care, case management and risk management.
We were the first firm to achieve Lexcel status when it was launched 12 years ago and our business framework has been structured around it - enabling us to identify and manage the inherent risks brought about by the growth of the firm, while maintaining service levels and employee engagement.
The business of 'selling' legal advice is changing. A recent liberalisation of the rules means high street brands will increasingly move into the space which was once the sole preserve of traditional law firms.
Many have referred to what these new entrants will be offering to consumers with a derogatory tone as 'commoditisation' of legal services; some aspects of commoditisation will lead to standardisation and to that extent it is a good thing. However commoditisation is generally understood (I believe) to be a term that implies automation or de-skilling of certain processes and while that can result in cost benefits to the consumer it is important to ensure that quality is not compromised and the challenge will be to get the balance right. The resulting cost reduction can either be passed on to the more cost conscious consumer or used to provide greater levels of service and this is the one choice we as marketers of legal services have.
Rarely is legal advice sought during a period of serenity. Consumers and businesses need reassurances when they are navigating a fragmented marketplace. By pursuing standards we aim to prove that like our clients, we want something better and we're going to deliver it.
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