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How Law Firms Can Stay Competitive: From Canadian Lawyer

The world of in-person meetings is coming back, but law firm economics have changed irreconcilably.

By Tim Wilbur – Editor-In-Chief of Canadian Lawyer, InHouse, Lexpert, and Law Times.

This article, published July 23, 2021 in which I was quoted, appears in part below.

The pandemic did not result in a dramatic drop in demand for legal services for most law firms. That is good news for legal professionals in Canada – and with more and more Canadians vaccinated every day, the old world of in-person meetings, travel and open offices is coming back.

But lawyers should not think they can run their firms the way they did pre-pandemic. Permanent shifts have inevitably occurred in how clients and employees expect legal services to be delivered, and law firms should keep this in mind to ensure they remain competitive in the time of COVID-19.


Diversifying their practice

Many law firms may look to adding practice area expertise to grow. Globally, an annual report by Citibank shows that the law firms that performed the best in 2020 were those with a diverse practice and industry mix.

But many experts caution that straying too far from a firm’s core competency can result in a lack of focus.

“Sometimes there’s an eagerness to expand that probably should be thought about twice,” says Heather Suttie, a legal marketing and business development consultant in Toronto. “Opening new markets is often expensive and can be a risk.”

Legal entities that want to survive and thrive will trim down to core strengths as determined by their target markets, argues Suttie.

Anticipating future legal needs and trends

Law firms “need to anticipate and forecast client needs rather than reacting to the current issues,” says Suttie. “This means being a student of your client’s business and their industry.”

When surveying clients, Suttie says the key is to “probe to clarify.” Once you do that, you go back to the client and “confirm that you understand clearly and that the client knows that you understand clearly.”

Ensuring client satisfaction

Once you gather the feedback from clients, you also need to act on what you heard and “let the client know that you acted on what you heard,” says Suttie.

Re-evaluating your digital presence

Suttie says law firms should realize their website is “not about them.” It is about the client, so the website should help them “see themselves reflected in your website.” Suttie suggests case studies to illustrate what a firm can do for its current and potential clients.


The full story is here on the Canadian Lawyer website.

As a follow-up, my September 2021 Canadian Lawyer marketing opinion column argues that the collaborative effects of hybrid legal services teams leads to efficiency and a pooling of talent that results in greater commercial value.

Watch this space. Until then, my June 2021 column, Managing the Client Connection Challenge and April 2021 column, Recreating the Legal Ecosystem are proving popular.

Heather Suttie is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading authorities on legal market strategy and management of legal services firms.

For 25 years, she has advised leaders of premier law firms and legal service providers worldwide — Global to Solo | BigLaw to NewLaw — on innovative strategies pertaining to business, markets, management, and clients.

The result is accelerated performance achieved through a distinctive one of one legal market position and sustained competitive advantage leading to greater market share, revenue, and profits.

The effect is accomplishment of the prime objective — To Win.

Reach her at +1.416.964.9607 or

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