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What clients really think about law firms is not always recorded in surveys

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What clients really think about law firms is not always recorded in surveys

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Client feedback is evolving with AI and real-time technologies for more accurate insights in law firms

Traditionally, law firms rely on client feedback programs to understand client opinions, but these can be unreliable and limited. According to Thomson Reuters Market Insights, only 27% of clients reported being invited to participate in such programs last year. These surveys often capture only a snapshot in time and face issues like confirmation bias and high costs, as well as a lack of detailed responses from participants.

However, advancements in technology, particularly artificial intelligence (AI), are transforming how legal firms collect and analyse client feedback. Modern feedback programs incorporate a range of sources, including in-depth interviews, post-matter surveys, and key account management programs. This comprehensive approach provides deeper insights into a firm's performance and client priorities.

"There is a growing acceptance by firms that they require a broader and more holistic picture about the client experience that cannot always be gleaned by asking them questions in formal research," says Paul Roberts, CEO of MyCustomerLens, an AI-driven client listening platform.

Often, informal interactions—such as conversations in meetings, at social events, or through email exchanges—reveal more accurate client sentiments than formal surveys. Traditionally, law firms measured success by cost and outcomes. However, clients now expect firms to exceed these basics and judge them on various factors, including punctuality and document quality.

Ethical and sustainable practices are gaining prominence. The 2023 'What Clients Want' survey by the Law Firm Marketing Club found that 39% of clients consider a firm's sustainability approach important, reflecting a slight increase from the previous year. Younger clients and business clients, in particular, value social and environmental responsibility.

Diversity and inclusion are also becoming integral to law firm operations. The implementation of the Mansfield Rule in the UK legal market requires firms to consider diverse candidate pools for leadership positions and client presentations, marking a significant industry shift.

The legal sector has been slower to embrace change compared to other industries, but clients today have more options and will switch providers if their needs aren't met. Providing stability and security in uncertain times is crucial, and law firms must offer greater transparency, improved communication, and better information access.

The State of the UK Legal Market 2022 survey by Thomson Reuters found that the top attributes commercial clients desire are a deep understanding of their business (28%) and the adoption of new technologies to enhance client service (27%). Clients now expect personalised, value-driven services with transparent pricing and faster turnaround times.

Paul Roberts emphasises, "Law firms that leverage technology to meet these evolving client demands are flourishing, while those slow to adapt are struggling to keep pace."

Investing in technologies like 'always on' client listening enables firms to stay updated on client opinions and deliver more responsive services. By analysing bid documents, past client feedback, testimonials, and online reviews, firms can gain valuable insights into client expectations and pain points, allowing them to tailor their services more effectively.

"Providing stellar legal representation should always be the priority for law firms," Paul Roberts concludes, "but they are also businesses operating in an increasingly competitive market, and every marginal advantage is crucial. Thankfully, technology offers a way forward for firms committed to delivering stand-out client experiences."

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