Using technology to optimise communication in Private Client law practice

Ahead of his seminar on Private Client services at LegalEx later this month, Craig Matthews, Director of Lifetime Planning at LEAP Legal Software, explores how firms can utilise technology to instill effective communication methods within Private Client law practice.

In a fast-evolving world where advances in technology, world events and developing societal perceptions are all contributing to change, thriving private client law practitioners are realising the importance of using technology to update and optimise client communication methods.

Private client work poses the second highest risk of all legal services, as far as professional indemnity is concerned. Completing this work properly, conscientiously, and comprehensively, using effective, best practice communication methods, is vital. Practitioners are constantly looking at how best to communicate with clients directly and advise clients in terms of communicating with their families.

The risks are so great and the work so important that time is needed for private practice lawyers to consider each client estate and prioritise services to fulfil client’s needs properly. The personal service provided is key and the documents produced are some of the most important documents your clients will ever own. It is their legacy, set out in words, printed, and signed under witness. The legislation around the advice given and the data captured is considerable.

Software can help with defining and communicating the best product offering and, at the same time, add efficiencies to processes to ensure this work remains profitable and is not a “loss leader”. It is important to mention that a technology optimised client communication strategy should always be focused on enhancing the value of the service provided. It should not be focused on keeping costs low to win business and then upsell additional services. The Law Society Wills and Inheritance Scheme specifically prohibits this practice. It does not need to replace traditional methods entirely but should optimise your ability to communicate with your clients in the most appropriate way for them.

Embracing the right technology can enhance communication and transform the productivity and efficiency of a department without detracting from the critical work performed by the solicitor. Clients of private practice lawyers require high levels of service and the guarantees associated with a reputable law firm.

One of the gaps that technology can fill is to assist with communication, both with testators drafting the documents and with the executors or beneficiaries dealing in the administration of an estate. A paper-based approach can be backed by a digital approach and vice versa, providing the client with the ability to choose which works best for them.

Providing client access to a client portal with the ability to review draft documents, to annotate, to ask questions and to send messages is no different to the service that clients undergoing a conveyancing transaction have come to expect. The client portal becomes a method for ongoing communication where clients can access their documents and review their wills at any time. A personal asset register provided when, for example, a will is drafted and updated from time to time can simplify estate discovery and help build client relationships.

An assumption that clients don’t want a digital first or digitally backed service should be re-evaluated.  Increased adoption of technology amongst Gen X, those born between 1965 and 1980, continues to rise. Certainly, the following generations, millennials or Gen Y born between 1981 and 2000, will all expect to use technology to facilitate communication and data exchange.  Their communication with their solicitors will not be an exception.

Private Client services is an often overlooked and undervalued area of practice and now is a good time to facilitate law firm growth, with communication playing a critical role. Implementing advanced technology will ensure firms maintain a flexible approach to embracing both traditional and digital methods of communication, and therefore position themselves to meet the needs of individual clients and estates for years to come.

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