This past Tuesday, as part of the IP Osgoode Speaks series, Tony Chapman, founder and CEO of Capital C Marketing Group, gave a talk about the need for Canada’s industries to generally change the way they do business. The event was hosted in one of the vibrant seminar rooms of Capital C in downtown Toronto.
As was voiced by Mr. Chapman, it used to be the case that the more advertising a business did, the better its chances of outselling its competitors. Today, in a saturated market full of countless products, services, and ideas (some truly new and many just superficial modifications of past ideas), consumers have a greater number of choices and relatively less time to spend comparing them all. In order for a business to be effective in successfully reaching its target consumers, it must break away from tradition and realize that today’s consumers are much more demanding of personal and open services, and much more powerful with respect to communicating their views of that business to other consumers. Brand loyalty is dying and consumers are not afraid to trade down and deal with an innovative company that will give them exactly what they want. Virtually all industries can be affected by this shift of power, and a comprehensive systemic change may be necessary for Canadian industries to come out on top.
“Canada, as a nation, is in trouble”, Mr. Chapman stated. There are three priorities that he believes our country ought to concern ourselves with. One is to attract multinational businesses to treat Canada as a petri dish for the rest of the world. With our diverse population, studies and test runs of innovative products performed over here can give a lot of insight to those who want to market these same products in the rest of the world. Another priority is to promote made-in-Canada corporations and to advance our brand as creative thinkers and innovators, as opposed to continue being seen merely as a market to sell goods and ideas developed elsewhere. Third, there must be a major effort to form a greater number of strong partnerships to facilitate the ability of various professionals, organizations, and industries to collaborate openly. These three pillars will help maintain an economy with strong foundations and will be key to satisfying the new demands of domestic and international consumers.
So what do these changing times mean for the legal industry? Mr. Chapman suggested that the negative perception of lawyers (and big law firms in particular) held by potential clients will become much more financially harmful to law firms in the new consumer-based economy. Whereas in the past, many firms were able to maintain high fees and retain unhappy clients due solely to the prestige of their name, which suggested a higher quality of work, fewer will be able to continue this practice in the future. With legal services arguably being a commodity, they may eventually follow the same fate as other commodities: greater scrutiny by purchasers and judgment about quality being passed on by word of mouth as opposed to traditional advertising (including indirect forms such as listings of accolades). Clients will expect their lawyers to be a lot more open and open to input in regards to their legal affairs. Thus to be successful, firms will be required to be more transparent, collaborative, and personal. The historically big names of the current legal community may not automatically be equated with “a job well done”, in the minds of potential clients. In Mr. Chapman’s language, this will allow a David to more easily take on a Goliath.
As was discussed a bit after the seminar, many law firms are hesitant to advise clients with business decisions. Law students are taught to primarily understand the legal issues of a case and not dwell too much on other factors. It seems, however, that Mr. Chapman was encouraging a much higher degree of collaboration than what is currently the practice, such that it would become the norm for lawyers to give clients business advice, in addition to strict legal advice. Regarding intellectual property matters, an example of this may include working with marketing teams and scientists to advise on how to best promote new products throughout the product cycle (including before and after a patent has been successfully prosecuted). If such a renaissance of business is truly coming about, then a ‘renaissance firm’ may be the way of the future.