The experience of north-west law firm Farleys shows how an online service delivery capability can help law firms meet the challenges presented by the Legal Services Act, explains Epoq, a Legal Futures Associate.
Farleys Solicitors LLP is a north-west based law firm with six offices and 180 staff, including over 80 specialist solicitors and lawyers who provide expert legal advice to business and private clients.
Forward-thinking and innovative, the practice is well-established and delivers a prompt, affordable service with a consultative and collaborative approach. The practice has thousands of regular clients and prides itself on recommendations, both from existing clients and fellow professionals, as being its main source of business.
Farleys recognised that in order to prepare for the impact of the Legal Services Act, to cope with a rising demand for more affordable, accessible services, and to compete with new entrants into the legal market, it would need to consider alternative ways in which to attract new business.
In particular, Farleys saw the ability to offer online services as crucial to capturing new clients as well as retaining existing ones. In addition, as operational efficiency and cost effectiveness are key components of its profitability, it wanted a system that could help attract new clients without increasing workloads and costs.
Following consultation with Epoq’s sales and product teams, Farleys chose to implement DirectLaw, a “virtual law” platform that enables law firms to offer online documents to their clients, as well as improve the efficiency and cost effectiveness of their drafting process.
An online services web site was created for Farleys by Epoq, and then linked seamlessly into Farleys’ main site. The new site provides an interface to Epoq’s legal document library and Rapidocs, its sophisticated document automation system, which allows clients to complete an interview online, enabling them to provide most of their information prior to a visit to one of the law firm’s offices.
Once completed online, the draft document is then reviewed by a Farleys’ solicitor and can be downloaded into Word to be amended if required. When the final document has been approved and uploaded by the solicitor, an e-mail will alert the client, who can then retrieve the final document online, or can then come into the firm for a face-to-face meeting.
By reducing the time that Farleys’ solicitors have to spend drafting the initial legal document, the DirectLaw solution effectively frees up valuable billable hours, which can be used on more profitable services or new business. Furthermore, the service can be offered at a discounted price that is more attractive to clients, particularly the generation of tech-savvy clients for whom the Internet is both second nature and their first choice for business transactions.
With regard to ease of implementation and affordability, as DirectLaw is provided as Software as a Service (SaaS), Farleys could create its virtual law practice without any major capital investment and without having to develop complex software applications on its own. Furthermore, once Farleys’ requirements for the web page had been agreed, the system took only a couple of weeks to implement.
Steve Garbett, IT director at Farleys, comments: “Farleys strives to offer the best in legal expertise and client services. We recognise that our clients are our business and that to be competitive and survive we need to constantly review and change our practice to meet their needs. At the same time, however, we need to run an efficient, cost-effective and profitable business and are always looking for ways to run our practice with optimal efficiency.
“The introduction of DirectLaw has addressed the dual requirements to improve the speed and efficiency of our document-drafting process, as well as make us more competitive by offering a more convenient and affordable service to our clients”.
Today’s legal firms are facing an unprecedented range of new and potentially damaging external influences and demands. The recession, the Legal Services Act, and the increasing consumer expectation for instant and affordable professional services mean that all law firms need to re-evaluate the way they run their practices if they are to have continued success.
Cost-effective systems and processes have always been a high priority for the smart law firm, which keeps abreast of the latest technologies to ensure its practice runs with optimum efficiency. Yet, until recently few law firms have embraced the opportunities offered by the Internet to not only improve practice efficiency, but also to maximise profit potential by marrying the cost-savings benefits with client demand for convenient and speedy service delivery.
Farleys Solicitors LLP is an example of an early-adopter firm and, as this case study illustrates, has put itself ahead of the curve by using the online capability provided by DirectLaw to be more competitive, attract new clients and improve the profitability of its practice.