Robert Phillips, author of “Trust Me, PR is dead”
and co-founder of Jericho Chamebers
Robert Phillips will be speaking at the Law Firm Marketing Summit on the nature of trust and how law firms must adapt to the changing environment of the 21st century. We were lucky enough to get the chance to ask Robert a few quick questions about his recent article, ‘Lawyers: The Millwall FC of the professions’, and the changes he feels that law firms need to make.
What do you think is the biggest single challenge threatening the profitable future of law firms?
There are significant pressures and challenges to the traditional LLP model, for sure: cash flow and the rise of contingency fees; cuts in public sector funding; costs of buying into partnerships vs. leveraged personal debt; US entrants to the market skewing salary bills; gender pay gaps and pension black-holes … and more. This puts huge financial strain into the system but a chase for revenue may lead to a significant loss of trust. Law firms are therefore walking a reputational tightrope.
Your article “Lawyers: the Millwall FC of the professions” centres around your belief that lawyers – and the legal profession as a whole – are suffering from a lack of public trust. How do you feel this has been exacerbated in recent years?
There needs to be a more open and honest conversation about the tensions between private and public interest – and how they might be reconciled. The same tension applies to the relationship between “professional integrity” and “excellence in client service”. The muddling of all of the above will lead to an erosion of public trust. To add to this, lawyers are seen to be part of an establishment elite that is being held responsible, rightly or wrongly, for the current crises of economy and democracy. They need to find clarity of voice and purpose – and demonstrate empathy.
If people find themselves unable to trust in legal services, then in your opinion, what would be the best steps to rectifying this lack of trust?
I outline seven suggestions in the article to which you refer. Strategically, lawyers need to embrace new operating models of leadership and communications – co-production; activism; vulnerability and dissent. Many of these words make the legal profession uncomfortable – and understandably so.
When you look at how other professional services sectors are adapting their marketing and business development strategies to changing market conditions, what do you feel the legal sector should be emulating?
I think professional services more generally are in a state of flux. A new form of institutional accountability needs to emerge. There is no point imposing 20th century systems on a 21st century future.
If you were to relocate to work in another country, which would you pick?
Italy. But with another profession altogether.
To read Robert’s article in full, click HERE.
For more information on Robert’s session, check out the agenda for the Law Firm Marketing Summit.