By Legal Futures Associate The Institute of Legal Finance & Management (ILFM) 
We are consumers, all of us, so you’ll understand when we explain why we are a savvy lot when choosing a law firm to work with our business, or indeed, our personal affairs.
How many people in your accounts department do you know? The director? The COFA? The debt recovery manager? The legal cashier? Of course this depends on the size of your firm, as you may well be a sole practitioner, using a remote legal cashier. The same question works – how well do you know them and their experience surrounding compliance?
Every legal finance professional has access to training and qualifications through the ILFM, but do you as the practice manager or senior partner understand why advocating membership is good from a consumer choice and review perspective?
The finance teams within a legal firm are often the quiet, resilient ones working away with their heads down, solving your accounts’ queries and chasing debts. The majority of solicitors, fee earners, paralegals etc won’t know the ins and outs of what the legal cashier does, and certainly won’t understand the pressures they are under.
Why does this matter about your consumers? Because they (we!) are becoming more and more savvy with their choices of which law firm they choose.
What consumers look at when choosing a law firm
When it comes to looking at your firm from a business perspective and cashflow, having a marketing strategy is of course important. The website, the information, the landing pages, the social media and email marketing should be cared for whether it’s inhouse or outsourced agency. A no brainer even, our website’s are the heart of digital marketing but more than that, Google (and SEO) powers the authority and trust of a business online. When it comes to Google Reviews, Google (and other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo) is witnessing and documenting for future updates, a hike in reviews that mention legal firms’ accounts’ teams, not just the lawyers they worked with.
There is clearly a shift in consumer behaviour and shows us that whether or not you offer B2B or B2C legal services, the reasons for choosing a law firm are no longer about pricing or the specific partner overseeing the work.
Quality, trust, how the teams work together, the happiness of employees, the support and training of everyone in a firm, qualification updates and Google reviews are the choices of a modern consumer instructing a firm.
Perusing your website informational content for specific purposes, looking at ALL the team (not just the “fee earners”), together with researching LinkedIn, asking questions of friends and not just resting on their laurels if they have received a recommendation.
It’s surprising to see a dramatic change in online reviews and overall research findings in reference to what people want to know about a firm’s accounts department; how compliant they are, are they fully trained in AML, do they know how to handle client money, etc. It stems from a fear of fraud of course, and the more the media bombards us all with genuine horror stories of fraud and online terrorism the more we want to protect our assets and that includes knowing the legal cashier is savvy with their knowledge too.
The Solicitors Regulations Authority and legal finance qualifications
The SRA held an online briefing in May entitled “What should our priorities be for 2021-2022?” hosted by Tracy Vegro OBE and Chris Hansford.
Their strategy is extremely progressive and they are pushing for transparency and accessibility around legal tech, data and innovation. They mentioned how qualifications for tech skills are needed in a digital world, and again, the “reviews” came into the discussion – under “how can consumers know who to trust?”.
When asked about all legal firms ensuring all their staff had training and had access to further qualifications, including their legal cashiers, Chris Hansford said,
“We appreciate the efforts that the ILFM do in this area…..on-going competence is great”.
Tracy Vegro, agreed that all efforts to show consumers that their chosen law firms were compliant and competent in all areas would only enhance confidence, knowing that client money is safe, moving quickly and appropriately.
Consumers may well ask these questions, so when it comes to Google Reviews and Trust Pilot reviews, these can give savvy consumers informed choices, which leads to fairness.
Anti-Money Laundering Guidance – The Law Society
AML training has never been more in need of rolling out as the digital age has moved forward swiftly owing to Covid and the pandemic. Working from home, accounts and software updates and security are paramount for stopping fraud. Workly remotely, especially in finance, can have its pitfalls, so supporting your colleagues and staff must be key to keep their training up, vigilance on point and protecting your clients.
As published in January 2021, the need for training within law firms is key:
“The Legal Sector Affinity Group (LSAG) has reviewed and redrafted the anti-money laundering (AML) guidance for the legal sector following the implementation of the EU’s 5th Money Laundering Directive.
The guidance is designed to help legal professionals and firms comply with the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 (as amended).”
Consumers are more on the ball when it comes to research, data and intelligence surrounding the choice of working with a law firm. If you haven’t been established a long time (gives the air of stability and competence), the work on your supporting your teams and getting those online reviews showing off all your attributes,
If you’d like to talk about firmwide ILFM membership, get in touch with our team  to work out a plan that’s flexible for you.