An interesting theory put forth by John Jantsch at Duct Tape Marketing yesterday. Basically, he says that most small companies are not the same – even those in the same business. There is something different about each. There aren’t real competitors because it could be argued that one isn’t comparing apples and apples, if I am ready him correctly.
In his post entitled “Your Real Competition is Perception” he opines that no two firms provide exactly the same services, so therein lay the lack of competition. Rather, competition is in the perception by customers (or clients in the case of law firms) that there isn’t any difference between firms. As he puts it:

“prospects don’t know what you have to offer that is unique so they perceive that your business is pretty much like everyone else that says they do what you do. And that’s your real competitor.”

So, the way to beat the competition is to set yourself apart. Make your firm different – in how it provides services, returns telephone calls, having an identifiable niche, or otherwise doing something differently to stand out from other law firms. John even suggests, rightly in my mind, asking clients to help you understand what they see different or of value in your firm. You can then consciously bring that value to bear in your legal marketing efforts.
Change client perceptions and you may stop competing against yourself and others.