Law firms have an opportunity to innovate using modern technology, says Nagib Tharani.
The velocity at which technology is changing our personal and professional lives must give an external observer pause. Is our culture driven by technology or the other way around? Technology has changed where we find our customers, their expectations and our ability to service them.
Our work day is considerably more fragmented with demands for our time distributed over a much larger area and increasingly across multiple time zones. Legal professionals do not have the luxury of being in the office to address this work – even with technology; we need to engage prospects and clients on their terms. This pressure has resulted in a sort of a dual work day, where one typically attends meetings and business development activities during the day and then works at night.
Our workload doesn’t stop, but our efficiency when outside the office can take a hit if the same level of access to company resources is not available remotely which contributes to longer working hours.
A shifting marketplace – selective buying from customers
A simple rule for business is to find your market and engage it. Today, clients are spending considerably more time online for research before they contact you. They have more choice and more opinions from both experts and connections on their social networks. By the time a potential client contacts a business, they are more advanced in their purchase intent than a casual prospect.
The very same clients are also more discerning and looking for online evidence of your firm’s value before they reach out. They will look at your news, blogs and opinion pieces on various events – as well as how responsive your legal team is likely to be over various communication channels when they are on the move.
I want it now: technology and self-service
Smartphones and the internet have dramatically changed our ability to access information and get answers. Technology-powered self-service is far and away the preferred option for getting this content in a timely manner, whether it is auto-attendant self-service banking, visiting the support section of a website for information or the use of self-check-in kiosks at airports. The alternative to using this technology is often painful: longer wait times.
But to just say technology is a giant part of this capability is actually just a part of story. The technology has to be accessible and user-friendly. If a customer gets frustrated with the experience of using the technology they won’t necessarily complain or pick up a phone, but seek out a provider or channel than can deliver a more immediate experience in the first instance.
The same systems can also be deployed for internal administrative purposes such as enabling fee-earners to do their time recording on their mobile devices so there are real opportunities to reduce operating costs; less time spent on admin can release valuable time for clients.
This is where law firms have a fantastic opportunity to innovate – and with modern technology we’re seeing that innovation manifest itself in different ways. Legal professionals are doing away with notion of having their technology housed in their place of work and even the notion of having a bricks and mortar establishment by establishing virtual law firms.
These client-centric law firms are seeking to engage customers at their offices, over real-time video and over various social media channels.
Much of the technology that underpins these new capabilities is cloud based out of necessity – your clients are likely more accessible over the cloud through their smart phones and social media. There is no easy way to effectively reach clients - and critically for them to reach you - with a conventional legal system whether it is internal or remotely hosted.
So what should law firm consider?
- Look at how usability and design in technology can improve both client engagement and overall staff productivity;
- Technology to engage clients over multiple media channels – especially social media and online chat;
- Campaigns that seed these channels with evidence of your firms accomplishments and opinions;
- Self-service portals for customers to get immediate value where possible.
We have enthusiastically embraced technology in our personal lives. But the pace of innovation within the workplace has not always kept pace. Progressive law firms have tackled some of these issues already – by taking their office to where the business is. Today that’s increasingly online.
Nagib Tharani is the director of international expansion for Clio, a cloud-based practice management system for lawyers. For further information visit www.goclio.eu