In a fiercely competitive marketplace, now hotter than ever thanks to the incursion of new models and players, it’s getting really important for law firms to embrace innovation as a route to manageable organic growth. In this blog, we share some ideas on the methods, ideas or products that law firms can introduce to help them grow and compete.
Improving the client experience
Innovation that improves the client experience will be a foundation stone of future growth. Firms should work to retain the loyalty of existing clients and to land new ones. Remember too that in today’s world, satisfied clients are the engine that drives all-important referrals and positive reviews.
Improving the client experience should probably start with listening to clients’ needs. The majority of customers still want to meet with their lawyer face to face, however, only 2% of lawyers thought their clients preferred in person meetings. That’s a dangerous mismatch which suggests clients aren’t being heard. Firms should instead build a client-centred approach through understanding the client’s journey and systematically soliciting feedback. A good customer relationship management (CRM) tool will help you to stay in touch with clients, distribute regular targeted communications that build your brand, and keep track of all the interactions with existing clients and prospects as the relationship develops. If you already have a CRM, it might be time to reassess how well it’s working for you. And technology can help whenever remote meetings are requested or required.
Another factor to keep in mind is that client expectations are evolving. Clients are consumers and like everyone else are becoming used to near instantaneous online transactions. They expect the same from their law firm. In this respect your firm may have to up its game, for example, by offering client portals so clients can update themselves on ongoing matters; and by introducing document collaboration tools. Or by developing a more streamlined, self-service onboarding process for new clients. (This has the added advantage of saving the firm time and also of reducing manual keying errors.)
You also need to think about service levels and responsiveness. It calls for slick internal case management systems with propulsive workflows that minimise delays. You could also ask your clients how they want to be billed. Many are habituated to hourly rates, but there’s an increased interest in fixed fees which give clients predictability. Firms can offer fixed fees with confidence if they’re on top of data analytics that generate accurate predictive pricing. Indeed, this information can be derived from time recording platforms.
Finally, in a world where law firms are being targeted by sophisticated cybercriminals, clients also need to have confidence their data is being handled and stored very securely and in compliance with regulatory obligations. To give clients that reassurance, firms can look to get an internationally recognised information security certification, such as ISO/IEC 27001, or to adopt a cloud-based document management system that will not only help you save and retrieve documents efficiently, but in addition protect them with advanced levels of security.
Improving the lawyer experience
In terms of innovating for growth, a second front that firms can move on is improving the lawyer experience. Law firms can’t fulfil their obligations to clients and achieve growth unless they have enough skilled and willing lawyers.
Also bear in mind that another way to achieve growth is via lateral hiring – a practice that becomes infinitely easier if the firm has burnished a reputation for being a great place to work. So, what are the components of building that reputation?
A key factor now is enabling flexible and remote working and giving people some control over this. This requires investment in the right, secure, cloud-based systems, that in addition, can reduce the firm’s office overheads whilst allowing for hybrid working. However, remote working needs to be handled sensitively. it can also mean that junior lawyers, in particular, suffer from greater isolation and a lack of mentorship.
On that note, firms may also need to think about their culture, and how staff wellbeing is nurtured. This is an area garnering more attention in the profession, and as a result lawyers have increasing expectations of firms, which might include access to wellbeing programmes and Mental Health First Aiders. Other innovations that can help include scheduling more catchups and appraisals and building more autonomy into roles. At the same time, stress levels and work pressures can be alleviated by high quality modern tools, such as legal speech transcription software and software that automates workflows or can strip out dull tasks like document filing. Also the firms that invest in modern technology will find it easier to attract and retain younger legal talent.
Firms have many opportunities to innovate for growth. The key is to identify areas where you can do better and to make timely improvements.