Recently, I hired a lawyer. Not only did I have to print and sign an engagement letter, I also had to mail a check and manually complete a form that was then transferred to a Word document, which I then had to sign by hand. Compared to my interaction with almost any other business, I found the entire process extremely inefficient.
On the other end of the spectrum, my husband hired a different lawyer who used a practice management system that allows for document sharing, online engagement, electronic billing and payment. He never even met this lawyer and yet he was very satisfied with the process and outcome.
It’s not just millennials who expect a simple, efficient approach to service; it’s everyone. To keep up with these demands, law practices must keep up with new technology options.
Why Wait for Clients to Ask? Four Things to Consider
Clients want you to adopt technology to reduce their costs and improve their experience. For corporate clients, this might mean requests for transparency in billing and significant automation, particularly for routine matters. On the consumer side, clients are wanting mobile applications for easier onboarding and process-handling.
At a recent Evolve Law program on “Client-Driven Technology,” panelists focused on four things to consider when investigating or implementing technology for your law firm.
Problem-solving. Look at clients’ pain points when implementing technology. It can be as simple as using software to reduce fees or something more specific to the client, like document automation or business intelligence-gathering tools.
Kate White, Client Engagement and Innovation strategist at Davis Wright Tremaine, spoke about eliminating the pain for in-house legal departments: “What are the new pressures on in-house counsel? What are the volume areas of work that they’re needing to handle more efficiently?”
Security. Attorney entrepreneur John Rome, CEO of Intensity Analytics, cautioned that you must pay attention to the security of your technology systems, because “if you don’t take care of confidential data, you’re liable.” Businesses cannot avoid using the cloud but all law firms have to be smart and proactive about protecting clients’ data.
Interoperability and user experience. I get a consistent message from lawyers that, “I just want to log in and see all my workflow in one place.” From marketing to engagement, users want a one-stop shop — or all-in-one solution — for their business needs.
Katie DeBord, partner and Chief Innovation Officer at Bryan Cave, summed it up nicely: “You need to make the technology really easy for people to understand and work with. Right now, I think it feels to lawyers like there’s a lot of fragmented technology out there. What the lawyers need is something consolidated — something they can just turn on and that has a good user interface, so they can see right away, ‘Okay, this will actually help me practice.’”
Why would your clients’ experience be any different? Seamless interactions translate into technology that follows the KISS (Keep It Super Simple) principle. A practice management system has to be accessible for clients, and all systems must operate with just one login or portal.
Collaboration. Plenty of lawyers worry that technology will take their jobs. There is an ongoing debate about whether the robot will replace the lawyer. My opinion is that some routine tasks can be eliminated or streamlined with software, but, ultimately, the professional judgment and human element will need to continue. We will not build good solutions, however, until the technologists, lawyers and customers all work together.
Kate White described the collaborative approach that is needed: “How can outside counsel partner with [clients] and help bring those technology solutions to them and collaborate in building a better way to handle that work? There’s so much potential in just seeing the tech folks, the outside firms and the in-house counsel really partner to bring all that knowledge together and build new solutions.”
And, as Katie DeBord noted: “Once we get lawyers understanding how technology can augment their practice, and we start all speaking the same language, a lot of the other pain points can be rectified.”