I have been a lawyer and a Realtor for more than 30 years. It is readily apparent that both of these professions share the same challenges today. A few years ago, Gail Cohen, who at the time was editor of Canadian Lawyer magazine, wrote a column outlining the key issues facing the legal community.
Here are the points she made:
- It is a time of upheaval.
- What worked in the past cannot be relied upon to work in the future (which is tough to swallow for those addicted to tradition).
- Lawyers do not embrace change.
- Global firms are coming to Canada and are absorbing some of Canada’s oldest and most esteemed firms.
- Technology is levelling the playing field for smaller firms, many of which are using technology in innovative ways.
- There is a large group of aging lawyers, with a huge number of young lawyers getting called to the bar.
- In order to survive, lawyers are offering alternative fee arrangements, often motivated by client push-back against traditional fee arrangements. In fact, some firms are offering their services for free in order to gain new clients. This not-uncommon practice is referred to as “suicide pricing” for obvious reasons.
- Lawyers are starting to “unbundle” services, allowing clients to choose a few items from the full menu instead of forcing them to buy the whole package.
- A study by the Canadian Bar Association found that a lot of potential clients don’t use lawyers because lawyers refuse to package services in ways the clients want.
- Despite the above, very few firms are developing novel products and services.
- “Let’s do it the way we’ve always done it, just do it better” is not the answer.
- There are a lot of young, innovative lawyers looking for new and interesting ways to serve their clients, thereby growing their businesses.
Change “lawyer” to “Realtor” and all of the above points apply.
In June 2013, the Canadian Bar Association published a 44-page report entitled CBA Legal Futures Initiative: The Future of Legal Services in Canada. All Realtors who strive for excellence and plan to have lengthy careers should read it. CREA tried the same thing a few years ago, but most of the recommendations made by the Futures Task Force were rejected by the CREA Board and the delegates at the AGM. They may have assumed that if they ignored change it wouldn’t happen.
It is time for Realtors to reach out to law societies in their respective provinces to discuss the challenges faced by both professions, and the possible solutions for those challenges. We have a lot to learn from each other. Remember too that virtually all lawyers are involved in real estate, as conveyancing practitioners, litigators, estate planners or consumers of residential and/or commercial real estate.