Nagib Tharani analyses how technology is changing customer relationships within the legal sector.
Nagib Tharani analyses how Technology is changing customer relationships within the legal sector. violetkaipa
Organisations globally are grappling with the rapid shift of all kinds of business online, which is testing established business models to the limit and disrupting markets for everybody. For some, this process has proved transformational; for others it has been a challenge, but there is barely a company on the planet that has not been affected to some extent.
The legal services market is no exception. Clients now transact all kinds of business online - from banking and grocery shopping to booking a holiday. The need to access data securely on the move within the workplace is no different. Law firms need to adapt to this new environment or risk getting left behind. Many prospective and existing clients expect to inquire, communicate, transact and track progress online. Legal firms that do not manage their client relationships online risk losing new business or worse, existing clientele.
This creates a significant opportunity or threat for lawyers. Information needs to be accessible, yet secure, shared but controlled and all in a manner that places paramount protection on client data. Your firm's solution needs to cater to this. But where do you start?
Self Service Portals: Engaging Clients Online
Customer service is a key market differentiator and modern legal applications these days provide your clients with a portal – an online gateway to your firm. Most portals are hosted in the 'Cloud', which enables class-leading client services facilities to be available to firms of all sizes, enabling them to provide key customer services applications such as real time document updating, access to knowledge management and online deal rooms which were previously the preserve of big firms with big budgets. They are a great way to provide clients with transparency into your legal activities, but also for compliance purposes to effectively audit the progress of a case. You know when a client has logged in and what they’ve reviewed.
Not all portals are created equal however. To log on to a portal to simply be told that a case is ‘in progress’ is considerably less useful than a system that shows an activity trail and enables your clients to contribute where appropriate as well as just view. This means that document signatures, approvals and edits can be turned around quickly, reducing delays as well as your firm's overheads in following up on client actions. The greater the level of engagement a portal provides, the more work can be handled without the direct involvement of lawyers.
Another valuable feature provided by some portals is secure messaging. This gives your clients the convenience of email with the added and peace of mind for sensitive communications that their messages are encrypted. Given the risks associated with standard email, for some clients this can be an important differentiator when deciding which firm to use.
Mobile Devices and Native Apps: It’s not just email
A key change in the digital world in the past couple of years has been the growth of mobile internet as the sales of smartphones and tablets have soared. For many clients, these are now the devices of choice for much of their online activity. The ability to check and update case and matter information on the go is a crucial service differentiator.
It follows that if your clients are mobile, then your staff must be as well. Having up-to-date client and case information online means that your staff can be prepared with information whenever and wherever a call comes in, and update this information while on the go.
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. Updating information continually on the go frees lawyers from having to account for their time after the fact, a process that is inefficient, and also stressful. This pays significant dividends over time as your billing and invoicing systems are significantly more efficient and often considerably more accurate.
Taken together, mobile applications and Cloud based self-service portals are a great way to reach out and service your clients. It provides them transparency in your operations and minimizes your overheads, allowing you to drive cost efficiencies at your firm. In the 21st century, can any law firm afford to be offline?
Nagib Tharani is the Director of International Expansion for Clio, a Cloud based practice management system for lawyers. For more information visit www.goclio.eu