The market for corporate legal services is more dynamic than ever and this is putting the competitive position of some law firms under pressure. The legal profession is expected to lose part of its client base, particularly among small and medium-sized firms, which lawyers may no longer be able to reach.
This is due to a number of developments: the economic crisis, which has led to increased price sensitivity in the market for legal services; the end of the obligation to hire a lawyer in certain areas as a result of the extension of the jurisdiction of district judges; the increasing availability of cheaper legal services; and the increased ease of access to legal information over the internet.
Under such difficult market circumstances, it is difficult for lawyers to differentiate themselves based solely on their legal expertise. There are calls for a shift in marketing strategy in the sector, away from the old transaction-based model and towards a focus on customer retention and strengthening relationships.
The subject of this doctoral thesis is how to achieve client loyalty. Literature research has revealed that there are research gaps when it comes to our knowledge of the factors that contribute to customer loyalty in a specific sector such as the legal profession.
We will seek to fill these gaps by identifying ‘value drivers’ on the basis of scientific literature and interviews with law firms and small/medium-sized enterprises. These value drivers are the factors that reinforce customer value and the customer loyalty that is associated with it. Subsequently, a large-scale survey will be carried out among SMEs on this basis to analyse these findings. Finally, this PhD research will provide recommendations as to how the knowledge acquired can be used by law firms seeking to reinforce the customer-orientation of their businesses.
The attached manuscript provides a more detailed outline of the problems addressed. In connection with this, an interview was conducted for the article ‘From Mirror Image to X Factor, the Positioning of the Small and Medium-sized Legal Firm' in the journal Advocatenblad (June 2012).