Legal tech: linked in to real life?
James Matthews offers a practical perspective on the use of legal tech in client retention
Legal tech is nothing new. The conversation has been going on for the best part of a decade, but few firms have made the progress they planned – until now.
While the past year has been the most challenging of our working lives, it finally allowed firms to see, first-hand, how technology can be used. Video technology, the cloud and collaborative working platforms have been instrumental in making the switch to remote working quickly, efficiently and with almost no impact on delivery and service.
At the same time, surviving the pandemic forced firms to scrutinise fee revenue, cash flow, and billable hours.
It is the seemingly impossible task of balancing technological potential with the immediate and financial challenges currently faced by firms that forced legal tech to the top of many firms’ ‘to do’ lists.
Over the years, firms rarely disputed the benefits offered by legal tech, but the theory is now supported by data. Proponents report:
- Increased productivity;
- Improved resource management;
- Reduced operating costs;
- Improved client experience and increased client satisfaction (raising retention and referral rates);
- Increased accuracy and reduction in human error;
- Enhanced employee engagement;
- Increased profitability.
Given current financial pressures, increased profitability must be the most compelling argument for partners of firms of every size – but how exactly does adoption of legal tech improve profits?
At the highest level, being able to expedite work, yet retain accuracy, automatically improves profitability by removing duplication of tasks and reducing unnecessary human intervention.
At the same time, as your clients will be getting better work more quickly, this will naturally generate new opportunities and referrals. If you can generate organic opportunities, cut the cost of sales, and reduce the billable time your fee earners spend on business development, all these factors will impact positively on profitability.
Expeditiousness and accuracy are, again, nothing new – but, in our experience, for many firms, the issue is knowing where to start.
This is partly due to the vast range of technologies being discussed, but also because of the terminology being used – big data, artificial intelligence, cloud, robotic process automation, the internet of things, and blockchain – it sounds out of reach.
Yet, the reality is, suppliers have made enormous strides in ‘productising’ their offerings over the last few years – creating four highly achievable entry points into legal tech for firms:
Although e-signatures have been legal in the UK since 2000, surprisingly few firms offer them – despite the fact they are immediate, secure, and save clients the time and expense of coming in to the office just to provide a signature.
In addition to making life easier for your client, e-signing also increases turnaround. On average, electronically signed contracts come back seven days quicker than a hard copy.
2. Chatbots (or ‘virtual assistants’)
A chatbot uses pre-programmed scripts to guide prospects to a fee earner by asking a chain of questions. As this person may not be immediately available, chatbots not only improve your client interface, but also increase the number of new leads you convert. They can make it easier to set up meetings, answer FAQs, and can even begin to create legal documents by extracting the key pieces of information required to populate a boilerplate.
3. The cloud
Although firms were slow to adopt the cloud – mainly due to security concerns – remote working has forced an increasing number to change their minds. It is now recognised that a move to the cloud offers an improved client experience, greater cost-efficiency and accessibility, and makes the integration of multiple systems easier.
Somewhat ironically, given initial concerns, the cloud also affords firms a higher level of security, as a supplier’s security infrastructure must be state of the art.
4. Optimising client contact
Optimising client contact involves overcoming several hurdles:
1. Meeting client preferences. Letters and emails are no longer enough. While firms are making better use of SMS, other platforms used by your clients (e.g. Twitter, WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, and Apple Business Chat) also need to be considered.
2. Managing multiple conversations at once.
3. Up-scaling your client contact. As you offer more, your clients will want more.
4. Minimising frustrations by handling FAQs quickly – and removing human error.
As the market becomes increasingly competitive and ‘location-less’ the way we communicate with clients will play an increased role in client retention – and the reality of linking in legal tech.
James Matthews is the UK and Ireland country manager at cm.com