By Legal Futures’ Associates Access Legal
During the recent Access All Areas virtual conference, Darren Gower (Access Legal Sales Director) was joined by a panel of industry experts to discuss the latest trends, challenges and opportunities we’re seeing in the legal sector. The expert panel consisted of Charlie Jones, Head of Finance – Wolferstans, Clint Milnes, Chief Information Officer – Winn Group, Stewart Mathews, Managing Partner – Neves Solicitors and David Sparkes, Owner – Milbourn Ross.
Below is a summary of the three key talking points and themes covered during the session:
All panelists agreed that their strategies, generally, haven’t changed since before the Covid pandemic but they have accelerated some of the activities. In particular, the implementation of technology and systems to allow staff to work remotely without any disruption to client services was a big challenge. Firms couldn’t afford a long drawn out change management process, firms quickly needed to provide the necessary equipment to staff, ensure secure access to systems remotely and give clients flexible options when engaging with the business.
This brought up the first key theme of the session around accessibility. For years, law firms have been looking at ways of using technology to improve efficiency and processes internally, however now they needed to look at their external facing tech stack and invest further to give clients the experience and service they expect via the channel which is most suitable to them and their needs. An omnichannel strategy has become key.
Interestingly, some panelists found that the demographic of their customers wanting certain communications or services to be delivered digitally has expanded. Historically, it was the younger generations, Millennials and Generation Z’s, who wanted to engage via online channels however older customer segments are now engaging more online and expecting a slicker customer journey. Client portals have become an important part of this online experience, providing 24/7 support and access for clients where they can view all their latest case files, documentation and progress updates.
Key takeaway – All firms must be able to offer all mediums for clients to engage with the business. No two customers are the same and each will have different preferences, wants and needs. Achieving a streamlined customer journey, on all channels, will improve client experience and, in turn, future profitability.
Key question – If serving customers completely digitally, will this mean they could be priced differently due to the reduced costs to serve? Can a firm develop a pricing strategy model based on different client preferences? Listen to the on-demand session to hear the panels thoughts.
Positive cultural changes
The next theme discussed was the positive cultural changes as a result of the pandemic. While it’s been a tough year for businesses and customers alike, there are some positive changes within the industry. One, unsurprising, positive change is the huge reduction in printing and postage costs within law firms. Adopting a more paper light approach is not something new for firms and one which has been on the agenda for many years, however it’s been a difficult one to solve with many set in their ways for printing all case files and often sending documents out to clients. However, with everyone working from home and everyone forced to engage mainly over the phone or digitally, law firms have seen the print and postage costs fall dramatically, saving money and allowing firms to be more environmentally conscious. This behaviour is one many law firms will be keen to continue when offices open back up.
Key takeaway – In order to maintain a paper light approach and encourage staff to continue the digital ways of working, firms need to ensure the systems and applications in place are easy to use and manage for staff. Alongside this, firms could reduce the size of the printing and postage facilities in offices to discourage use.
The changing customer, employee and the digital economy
The last key theme, which was discussed throughout the session, was how the environment in which law firms operate is changing. Customer and employee expectations have changed and firms need to understand this to evolve their practice processes and models.
Flexible and remote working will become the norm, clients expecting 24/7 access to services and the ability to engage via multiple channels is expected. Clients will naturally compare their experience of a law firm with other retail experiences such as dealing with Amazon or Google. While there are elements of legal practice which can’t be served digitally and some clients will prefer one to one contact due to the sensitive nature of the service, considering which activities or tasks could be automated and delivered online could be a key differentiator in a competitive market.
Another observation made by the panel is the opening up of potential competition from firms in different parts of the country. If more services are made available online, customers wouldn’t necessarily need to go to their local solicitors any longer and may search for cheaper and more convenient services elsewhere. This could make a firms digital footprint and customer journey even more important for winning new business.
Key takeaway – Firms need to ensure their technology allows staff to access systems securely anytime, anywhere and have the ability to monitor activity. Firms should closely look at how their customer base is interacting with them and understand what their expectations are. Key to this is making sense of all the data you hold in your ecosystem using analytics. The insight gleaned from your data will provide you with important information on business and staff performance while your customer data can help you understand which channels are most engaged with, spot trends in customer demographics and the differing journeys of each segment.
All the panelists agreed that at the heart of success for the future is a firms people. If the right people are working in the right way, with technology and systems to support them, then they will be happy. Happy staff with inevitably lead to improved services and experiences for clients which, in turn, will lead to increased profit as a byproduct.
The above is a high level summary of the session. To hear the full session including the answers questions posed from delegates below, listen to the on-demand recording.
Questions posed to the panel:
- With an ‘end in sight’ to Covid, how has your technology strategy altered in the last year, and what does it look like for 2021?
- What are your views on the legal market right now and what trends do you expect to see in next 12 months? What are the trailblazers / niche firms doing that we should be paying attention to?
- Thinking outside of the legal sector, what examples of business innovation or trends are you seeing you think the legal industry should adopt?
- What’s your biggest business challenge right now? And is this different from 12 months ago? Any opportunities that have arisen from the challenges of 2020?
- Has the culture in your law firm changed over the last 12 months? How has your firm adapted?
- How do you strike the right balance between putting fees (profitability) or people first (your team)? Do you need to choose one or the other?
- What does client service excellence look like for your firm?
- Data holds a lot of power in informing our decision making. Thinking about data and BI, what one metric do you rely on / fall back on to offer insight? How do you use it in your firm?
- In 3 words … What does 2021 hold for you and your firm?