According to a recent study by Incom Business Systems ‘finding effective ways of using advanced communication solutions will be key to future success in the legal market’ 
Technology is progressing, as are client expectations and demands. In order to keep up with the new requirements of clients, Law firms now need to explore new ways of communicating that reflect the modern expectations of their client base. In a world where almost every other service is available instantly and on demand, the legal profession cannot afford to be left behind.
Alongside these new expectations, there are also the age old presumptions from clients about how often they are expecting to hear from their solicitor - after all, people generally need their services at particularly stressful times in their life, so there is the expectation that their case and their needs will be just as high priority for their solicitor as it is for them.
So, not only are law firms expected to get the technical side right, they are now expected to deliver a high level of customer service to match with their client’s new expectations. The most crucial aspect of providing this service, is getting the communication right from the beginning.
A recent report by the PWC showed that up to 73% of workers believed that technology was no substitute for genuine human interaction and input (2), and this could explain some of the resistance within the legal profession when it comes to implementing technology to improve their communication.
However, when it is used properly, technology can actually enhance the experience your clients have, and improve the quality of the communication you have with them. By removing the constant, small scale conversations, you are ensuring that the face to face interactions you then have are more meaningful and more constructive because the client already has the key facts and updates that they need.
One of the main gripes when it comes to client communication, is that if a client doesn’t hear from you, or they have to chase you multiple times for updates, they assume that you are not doing your job, or that nothing is progressing - I know from my own time as a solicitor that this is usually not the case!. Having an effective communication procedure in place should allow you to provide regular updates on progress, without having to sacrifice too much working time to endless phone calls and email responding. Much as it might seem an odd thing to say, now is the time to consider that emails and more traditional methods of contact might not actually be the best way to communicate with your clients.
This is where the developments in technology can really come into their own. Think about how many other business and service providers out there now use mobile apps and other innovations alongside the traditional offerings. When we were developing The Link App, we were very determined that the ‘app’ side of things was our main priority, although we also offer a web-portal option as well. We believe the focus should always be on how the client experience can be enhanced and improved through a more effective communication process. Via a product such as ours, clients have the ability to be far more in control of the contact they have with Law firms, they can access their information whenever they need, even if its the middle of the night, without having to worry about what time the office is open.
From this point of view convenience is king and the ability to log in to a mobile app at the touch of a button, or a scan of your face, is a far simpler process than having to wait for a computer to start up, search through your emails for the right address and then send something over. All the while knowing there’s a chance it may get missed in amongst all the other emails that are going through, or worse - end up being classed as spam. Mobile apps allow automatic notifications and alerts, which also bring peace of mind to the client.
The other key thing to consider when looking into different communication strategies is the security of them. We all know by this stage that email is not the safe haven it once was, with phishing emails and cyber attacks happening on an almost daily basis, and becoming so convincing that it can be extremely hard to avoid them, even with the most thorough training and monitoring. Clients need to know that the communication they have with their solicitor is confidential, and will remain that way. During certain cases, sensitive documents need to be exchanged, including copies of passports and bank details. Your client needs to be reassured that they can send these over without having to worry. Encryption is key here.
It can be difficult for a firm to implement new practices and processes, particularly with existing corporate clients who are used to a certain way of doing things. We regularly host innovation events around the country to discover more about our Users and the issues Firms face. One of the key ways we have found that firms use to onboard new and existing clients to new technology, is by making sure that the changes are explained as clearly as possible, and that the client is made aware that these changes are for their own benefit, not that of the firm.
One way in which you can support your clients through this process, is by ensuring that you are marketing the changes you are making effectively. If using an external company or supplier, check whether or not they could supply personalised marketing material for your firm, including images for sharing on social media, guidance on how to initiate the conversation with your clients, and helpful video guides on getting the most out of the product you are using.
By implementing a concise, structured system that supports the changes you are making you are not only improving client communication in the long term, but you are also building a much bigger support system around the new process, which reassures your clients that it is something that has been thoroughly considered and is the most beneficial option to them.
With the recent regulations about pricing transparency it is no longer a realistic option to be able to use price as a unique selling point for your business, Firms need to be able to differentiate themselves from their competitors and stand out from the crowd by offering something new and innovative that shows they are moving with the times. Having a clear, effective and simple communication strategy in place, that reflects the modern demands of your clients, whilst providing the level of security and peace of mind that they expect, can be a real selling point for your firm - particularly in today’s competitive market.
Another key benefit to your firm, from implementing a new communications strategy, is an improvement in how your firm is viewed by your clients. If queries are being responded to quicker, progress is able to be tracked easily, and documents can be sent when it’s convenient to them, a client is far more likely to recommend your services to others, and to return to you when they need legal assistance in the future. You are maintaining strong relationships with the client base you already have, increasing your retention rate, and securing new business for the future, simply by using technology to improve how you communicate.
Communication is a very human aspect of our society, it influences who we are, the choices we make, how we act towards others, and getting it wrong - whatever your profession, can be extremely detrimental. Technology is not here to replace what makes us human, but, used correctly it can certainly enhance relationships that already exist and help to build new ones.
About the Author
Lauren Riley, a qualified solicitor and entrepreneur, is based in Manchester where she runs her fast growing legal-tech startup – The Link App.
The Link App is a unique application that
helps legal firms optimise client communication. Their goal is to redefine the way law firms operate in a modern world; helping them stand out from competitors, improve customer service, increase productivity, and save money.
Due to her appearances on BBC’s The Apprentice and subsequent press coverage, Lauren’s profile has raised significantly over the last couple of years. This has helped increase coverage of The Link App, and a noteworthy milestone was Sir Nigel Knowles’ appointment as Chairman of the Board.
Lauren makes regular media and conference appearances, as well as being a prominent figure on social media - @misslaurenriley. She is also impressively ranked in the LinkedIn power list Top 10 for Technology, and featured in Forbes Top 100 Female Founders to Follow