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Your Competition Isn’t Your Competition

Do your website visitors think they need a lawyer or a solution to their problem?

I visited your website last night. I found lots of information about you and why you’re the best lawyer for the job.

I’m guessing that prospective clients visiting your site would be impressed. They’d think you’re the perfect lawyer for their situation—if they needed a lawyer.

Unfortunately, many of your website visitors don’t really want a lawyer unless “it gets really ugly.” They’d like to handle this inexpensively and with minimal conflict. They imagine lawyers would only make it more expensive and worse.

They don’t believe that they need a lawyer.

That “no lawyer” mind-set used to be the starting point for a few people—those do-it-yourselfers like the engineers and software guys. Now it’s more widespread. They used to walk into a store and expect a clerk to help them buy their clothing, but now they do it online without any help at all. They fill up their own gas tanks, do their own tax returns, fix their homes with parts from Home Depot, book their own vacations, serve as contractors for their additions, list their homes on the M.L.S., and buy and book their NetJets online.

They’re used to handling challenging situations without the help of others.

The new reality is that many clients now approach the problem without believing that they need a lawyer as part of the solution.

They think they need a legal document. They’ve been hearing from LegalZoom and other providers that all they need is a completed form.

You know better. You know the value of the service you deliver. You know that you can help those clients avoid unexpected consequences and economic disaster. You are thoroughly convinced of the value of your services.

The problem is that the prospective clients don’t know how important it is to hire you. They don’t understand all of the benefits you bring to them in the form of avoiding mistakes, poor planning, tax consequences, and other trip-ups. They don’t understand how you can enhance their overall situation. They don’t understand that you’ve seen situations like theirs before or that you know how to avoid unexpected scenarios.

They really believe that all they need is a form. That’s true not only of people in lower income groups, but it’s also true of people who earn substantial incomes. It’s even true of people who have previously engaged attorneys to deal with complicated legal problems. Many of them simply don’t believe that their family law matter involves the need for the kind of legal advice that you’re able to provide.

When you’re marketing your services, on your website and elsewhere, you need to slow down. Don’t jump immediately to your qualifications. Slow down and explain the need for an attorney. Explain the value you bring and the assistance you’re able to provide. People don’t care about your Georgetown degree if they don’t need what you’re selling. Help them understand that they need you.

Talk less about your qualifications and more about the need for legal services. Focus on the value that you provide to a client.

Your site should focus more on the benefit derived by a client who hires legal counsel. You need to understand that your competition is, in many instances, not the other lawyers. Your competition is your clients’ belief that they need a form and not you.

It’s important that you stop comparing yourself to other lawyers and start competing for the opportunity to help your clients solve their problem. Position yourself as the solution to the problem, not as a lawyer better than the other lawyers.

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  • http://twitter.com/rgranat Richard S. Granat

    Lee this is an excellent post. I talk to divorce clients all the time that are looking for the lowest cost solution to unwind their marriage, not realizing that the process is not as easy as it seems to be.  With many middle class couples basically broke, the idea of spending thousands of dollars in legal fees is not realistic. 

    Instead, the family law bar needs to continue to offer creative solutions that have a different value proposition from the client’s point of view. It is clear to me that the bar has undersold the value of using a lawyer and continues to lose market share to non-lawyer alternatives such as LegalZoom, even though it is an inferior solution. 

    Even a little bit of legal advice can make an enormous difference in the outcome and give the parties comfort that they have worked out the best deal for them given their dire circumstances. You can’t get that value add from a legal forms web site.

  • Rgranat

    Lee this is an excellent post. I talk to divorce clients all the time that are looking for the lowest cost solution to unwind their marriage, not realizing that the process is not as easy as it seems to be.  With many middle class couples basically broke, the idea of spending thousands of dollars in legal fees is not realistic. 

    Instead, the family law bar needs to continue to offer creative solutions that have a different value proposition from the client’s point of view. It is clear to me that the bar has undersold the value of using a lawyer and continues to lose market share to non-lawyer alternatives such as LegalZoom, even though it is an inferior solution. 

    Even a little bit of legal advice can make an enormous difference in the outcome and give the parties comfort that they have worked out the best deal for them given their dire circumstances. You can’t get that value add from a legal forms web site.

Lee Rosen

Lee Rosen has practiced family law for more than twenty years. With four offices, Rosen Law Firm serves Raleigh, Charlotte, Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Rosen served as the Law Practice Management Editor of the ABA Family Advocate for more than a decade and received the ABA James Keane Award for excellence in eLawyering. He served as Chair of the Law Practice Management Section of the North Carolina Bar Association, is a frequent speaker and is often sought out by the media as a source of family law insight and commentary.