Regular readers will be used to me harping on about how you need to be able to answer the question 'Why should I use your firm rather than go to one of your competitors?' and the need to be able to stand out in an increasingly overcrowded marketplace.
One individual who has been very successful at answering this is Hilary Meredith who over recent years has carved a great niche in the field of Military Injuries into a hugely successful Personal Injury legal practice.
In a recent interview Hilary explained some of the steps taken that has allowed the firm to grow and prosper. Here is a short sample of our discussion.
AM: What will clients receive that they might not get if they went to a general, personal injury practice?
HM: I think we’re looking to tailor each case to the individual. Each individual has something different that is the most important thing to them. What we do is find out what the most important thing for that client is, immediately sort that out then deal with the injury case. So if you’ve had a life changing event, what are you worried about? Is it how I’m going to pay the mortgage? Getting interim payments, speaking to the mortgage company, take the immediate stress away and the immediate worry and then that client is happy, you’ve instilled trust, you have sorted the problem out. And then we go on to do everything else. We think they deserve the best, so we use the best experts who are very rarely challenged in the courts. And we hope to restore them back into their homes, their lives, everything they need to move forward before we settle the case.
AM: Could you share an example of what you might describe as an entrepreneurial approach to something you might have done here?
HM: We took the decision to sack all the claims management companies we dealt with in the past and try and reclaim our route to market. And I came up with the idea, from working with the armed forces, of pre-loading an iPad and giving it to the Military clients. It’s preloaded with their case and useful information, they can Skype me, they can e-mail me, they can keep in touch with me, they can Skype their families while they’re in rehab; which is a big part of rehabilitation – speaking to wives and loved ones. And we’ve developed an informative advert for the website but I liked it so much we put it on national TV. It became our unique selling point. So I think I’m the only person in the world who’s preloading an iPad at the moment. Apple, as soon as they heard it was for the armed forces were great. It was just amazing, absolutely amazing. They supported us throughout that initiative. When the referral fee ban was imposed, we’d already been advertising on TV and were ahead of the game in this. Now many PI lawyers are advertising on TV. We’re now 90% sufficient in bringing in our own work through client referrals, staff referrals, people who refer work to us - so it’s on reputation. We then decided that we would change the partnership to a limited company. I didn’t believe in LLP’s. I think the future is transparency. Private partnership and LLP’s are not transparent. So we changed it completely from a partnership into a limited company.
AM: What are you most proud of?
HM: Eleven awards. We’re nine years old in October and we’ve won 11 awards since we started off. And that’s pretty good going – only nine years old. I think the first award we entered was the Lawyer Awards and we entered law firm or the year. The Lawyer Awards is always the big one entered by the London city boys. It’s very rare that a PI Firm will win. And we won it. And we couldn’t believe it. That was 2006. That put us on the map – to win that award in that arena. People started to take notice. It is down to PR and marketing. And it is quite exhausting, the expense of doing it. It’s very nice to win and it’s recognition from your peer group. I think Awards are definitely a networking arena if you use them the right way.
AM: It’s nice to have recognition from your peers, but it’s ultimately the end user who perceives that you are an expert.
HM: Yes. I think it gives comfort to the client that they’re going to somebody that knows what they’re doing. And it’s very scary for clients. I'm always thinking, “What will make a client come to us?” “If you were lying in a hospital bed and you’d just been run over, how would you get to me?” So that’s what we’re always thinking about – how we meet. We’re known within the military. So as I said, 90% of our work now is probably word of mouth. It’s a fantastic position because that’s coming in on reputation. I mean it’s taken me 25 years to build a law firm where 90% of the work is word of mouth.
AM: Happy, engaged staff work better. Lots of the places I go to, there is a gap between the finders, minders and grinders. It doesn’t make for a happy work environment.
HM: Nobody leaves a job just for more money. It’s something else that happens first, and then remuniration becomes an issue. So if staff are happy in their job and their working environment and what they’re doing, remuniration is not such an issue. I also feel there’s a massive pool of women who’ve worked in Manchester, have had children but live in the South side, want to be near the schools, want to work part-time. Our three biggest fee earners are part-time mums who work between three to four days a week. So there’s a great pool of talent that’s intact here.
A full more indepth transcript will be available in a future publication featuring all the interviews done in this series around how you achieve a successful firm.