Pictured: Lisa McKenna, practising solicitor and founder of McKenna & Co Solicitors
Lisa McKenna is the founder of McKenna & Co Solicitors and a practising solicitor. In this guest article, she speaks on how putting people first and embracing automation is truly the best business development strategy.
It was clear from an early age that I’d go into law. By no means is the law perfect, but I was always fascinated by how solicitors and barristers frequently helped people in pragmatic ways. As a result, it was always my intention to set up my own practice and do the same.
After years of studying, doing my internship and working in the legal team of a bank, I did just that. Now, as a solicitor you’re well trained in all aspects of the law. But you’re not trained on entrepreneurial topics as much. I can tell you unequivocally that changes quickly when you set up your own law firm!
Suddenly I found myself having to think about what it takes to truly run a great firm from a business operations and business development perspective.
Automation and the human to human connection is a powerful differentiator
Currently, the business landscape, regardless of the field, is at a major point of change. While change has been a constant since time immemorial, we are watching, and experiencing, change happening much quicker than we ever have before. The pandemic ushered in digital transformation in a matter of days. And the two years post lockdown have been in no way any less frenetic.
I’m watching how AI tools are changing the commercial landscape. This has been coming for a long time. All businesses, even law firms, have brought software solutions onboard to increase efficiency and effectiveness.
In recent months, AI has taken an exponential leap forward as ChatGPT launched. Although the tool is still in the research phase, it was seemingly adopted by the mainstream almost overnight.
Language processing tools have been around for a while, but ChatGPT has the ability to respond to questions, create code after being fed a prompt, and write just about anything, from emails to essays.
It’s only natural that those of us in the legal professions are asking ourselves how we can leverage ChatGPT (and other automation tools) to run our law firms.
To my mind, there is no doubt that ChatGPT comes with opportunities for solicitors, law firms and even clients seeking legal help. ChatGPT can help with crafting insightful marketing content around legal issues potential clients are searching for and draft legal documents.
So automation has landed. But we shouldn’t forget what business is all about. When you step into entrepreneurship, there are three phrases in business that get shared frequently.
- “People buy from people.”
- People need to “know, like and trust” you before they’ll buy from you.
- And one that was pretty mainstream a few years ago, “delight your customer”.
These phrases are uttered so frequently they run the risk of becoming part of the wallpaper. However, they all contain an extremely important grain of truth. And the truth is that building a business is much easier when you put people first.
“Putting people first” can sound like a meaningless statement. A line that countless companies use in their mission statements. Something that looks great hanging on the wall.
This is where any business that wants to thrive needs to proceed with caution. People are incredibly savvy. They’ll quickly pick up whether “putting people first” is simply some fancy marketing. Your business will be short-lived if it is.
Building a sustainable business is deeply connected with how you treat people
In a world that is becoming ever more automated, delivering a client experience that truly focuses on the individual is how you set yourself apart. I take deep pride in running my own business. As a law firm, we specialise in property and conveyancing law.
The way we have set ourselves apart is by truly embodying the value of putting people first in three key areas; our clients, our staff and our community.
I don’t have any cynicism towards marketing. In fact, as an entrepreneur I’ve discovered I love finding ways to communicate with my ideal clients. Don’t forget that before a potential client can “know, like and trust” you, they have to see you. This is where marketing comes in.
However, marketing comes with a lot of trends. It can be extremely tempting to jump on those trends when they promise a pipeline of new business. It’s at this point that it’s essential to remember the old adage that “people buy from people”. And word-of-mouth marketing is still the most powerful of all.
I don’t share the following personal anecdotes to boast. I share it in the spirit of highlighting the power of putting people first.
McKenna and Co Solicitors was established in late 2017. At the time, my business mentor cautiously advised me that the firm would only start seeing profit in a few years time. In fact, we turned a profit (and have ever since) in the first six months we were operating. Many of the clients we serve have been upfront with us of how they’ve left other firms and come to us due to the personal touch.
Furthermore, our firm has grown. But this year, our sixth in business, we expect to hire five more legal staff in our biggest recruitment drive yet. Our commitment to putting people first is the innovation strategy that sees us flourish. And we use technology to do this at scale.
Automation is not something to be scared of but how you treat people is the foundation of every business.
For more discussions on AI and technology, see Dublin Tech Summit, taking place on 31 – 1 June. Tickets for this year’s event are on sale now, for more information please see https://dublintechsummit.tech/.
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