As businesses look to improve operations and grow in an everchanging world, consistent and clear communication is often neglected as other priorities overtake. A lack of clarity can be the hidden root of many issues within a business – the results of which can be commercially damaging.
From frustrated employees due to a lack of clear feedback to a customer presented with an overwhelming bill, clarity plays an important role in improving efficiency and reducing stress and conflict in a range of commercial relationships. It should be a critical commitment for business, yet can often be missed.
The legal profession has long been criticised for its use of jargon and a tendency to "sit on the fence". We recently conducted a survey amongst Scottish businesses, which revealed that over two thirds (69%) of SMEs believe they do not always get crystal clear communication from law firms on their costs, advice or language. SMEs are the backbone of our economy and provide an estimated 1.2 million jobs, so it is vital we understand how to serve their needs. And let's not forget, today's SME may well be tomorrow's major employer.
This substantial disconnect is a massive wake up call for our industry and demonstrates the significant need to improve communications across the board. The fact that so few SMEs feel that they have a clear relationship with their law firms only puts barriers in the way of business growth.
Our survey also found that medium-sized businesses (between 50-250 employees) are less confident than larger companies in getting the clarity they want from law firms. Just 31 per cent said they always get clear advice and costings compared to 52 per cent of firms with 250-500 employees compared to 44 per cent of larger companies with over 500 staff.
Of course, this requires effort. Clarity can be hard to achieve and takes a great deal of commitment to implement. Last week we launched a new campaign to raise awareness of the lack of clarity in our industry, designed to ignite a reappraisal amongst the business and legal community.
By improving communications and increasing transparency and trust, we have the opportunity to vastly improve the clarity our profession provides to businesses. Independent Scottish firms can create a point of difference by improving trust and connection to the businesses which sit at the heart of the Scottish economy.
Consider the legal profession and the lack of clarity felt by SMEs as a microcosm of business in Scotland. If clarity is lacking in one commercial relationship, between a business and its law firm, in what other ways are Scottish businesses suffering from a lack of clarity? In what ways can we prioritise clarity across all professional relationships – from employer and employee to supplier/customer relationships?
Businesses likes certainty. However, we're unlikely to have, at any point soon, the certainty we'd like. We need only try to look past the 31st of October to understand how much uncertainty businesses of many shapes and sizes are facing. However, this makes it even more important than ever that businesses are able to be as clear as possible on what will help them navigate these unchartered waters.
This article originally featured in The Herald on the 3rd September.