Did you know that when it comes to client satisfaction, your technological expertise has a stronger impact than your legal prowess?
That’s right. Your technological competence has a bigger impact on the client experience than your ability to practice law. In fact, your clients are a lot more likely to have doubts about your competence as a legal professional if they find fault in your tech skills.
Furthermore, there’s a big difference between satisfaction ratings from clients who said their lawyers were just pretty good with technology compared to those who reported that their lawyers were top tier at tech.
Here’s what we found in our recent study:
- When the attorney’s tech skills were somewhat high, clients were very satisfied 48.2% of the time
- When the attorney’s tech skills were very high, clients were very satisfied 87.7% of the time
That’s a pretty good reason to brush up on your tech skills, isn’t it?
How your clients judge your tech savvy
Your legal clients don’t know or care what kind of back-office software you use, and they probably don’t have a strong opinion on whether you use a digital or paper calendar.
They do, however, expect to use a certain amount of technology when they interact with you.
They’ll also notice if you seem to struggle with digital documents or message them from an AOL email address.
The tools you use every day can also have an impact on the client experience, even if they never see you using them. Your intake software, invoicing tools, and even the tools you use for task management all create touchpoints where your clients will feel the difference.
Aside from the nuances of your back office, though, these tech habits will tell your clients that you’re not up to date with modern technology.
Red flag #1. Using paper records
The legal profession is record-intensive.
That doesn’t mean that your office has to be paper intensive.
Intake forms, supporting documents, forms to be filed, office records — all of these things pile up fast, and printing these documents to store them in an actual physical filing cabinet is overwhelming. Most of these things will start as digital files, and they should stay that way.
This is why most firms have already shifted to a paperless law office — or at least an office with drastically reduced paper usage.
If you haven’t, it’s time to catch up.
Begins by using a digital client intake system. From there, get in the habit of scanning any incoming paper documents. While it might not be practical to scan all the files you already have, you can draw a line in the sand and start digitizing anything new.
When you’re ready, you should start moving all your older files to a digital format, too. Storage of paper records requires a great deal of space and organization efforts — both of which are in short supply at small-to-medium-sized firms.
Wet ink signatures aren’t required for eFiling; electronic signatures are now the standard for almost everything.
Your clients should never have to print anything to work with you. They probably haven’t owned or had access to a printer in a decade. Asking someone to give you a physical paper is a red flag that you’re not up to speed with technology.
Red flag #2. No virtual access
Many law offices are stuck in the outdated paradigm of in-person work only, where legal professionals must be physically present in the office to be considered “working.”
Shifting away from this strict mindset can allow for legal professionals to be more flexible with their work locations and allow better client service. There’s no interruption if you have to travel for work, and it’s easier to accommodate clients’ busy schedules when you’re comfortable with virtual meetings.
One of the best parts of embracing remote work is the ability to take advantage of collaborative tools.
These tools can allow the legal staff to work seamlessly with each other on such tasks as document management and case management. They can also be used for client communication and collaboration — another digital benefit clients will appreciate.
Red flag #3. Manual workflows
Your clients don’t know how you manage your workflows, but they are directly impacted when those procedures are manual and inefficient.
The more time and effort you spend on tedious and repetitive tasks such as drafting standard contracts and reformatting documents for eFiling, the less you can pay attention to other important details.
Inefficiency is very visible to your clients. You’ll be slower to return messages, and when you do talk to your clients, they’ll have to wait for answers while you dig through your files.
Keep in mind that most people already think lawyers are out to get every dollar they can. They assume that you’re going to do extra busy work just to bill extra for it. Because of the stereotypes, legal clients are very sensitive to anything that looks like you’re wasting time.
This is why workflow automation is so important.
Now the legal industry has the choice of numerous types of software and tech tools that can streamline work processes. Instead of being consumed with the management of email and Excel spreadsheets, legal professionals can do the higher-level thinking and strategizing they need for the modern landscape.
Red flag #4. Rigid communication methods
Do you still send faxes?
When someone texts you, do you call them back instead of responding to the text?
No matter how you slice it, working with legal clients is going to require a lot of communication. You might communicate via emails, in-person meetings, telephone calls, texts, or other ways. Sending an email or making a phone call isn’t necessarily an outdated practice.
However, requiring your clients to adhere to your communication preferences is an outdated mindset.
Okay, so you hate texting because you don’t like to type on your phone and you could get your questions answered much faster with a phone call. Some of your clients agree with you. Others, though, feel like texts are a convenient way to fit communication in around other priorities, and a phone all that requires them to stop what they’re doing and focus on you is rude.
Think about it this way:
When people hire a professional, they expect that the person they’re paying for a service is working for them. That means that the person providing a service should accommodate the customer, not the other way around.
It’s okay to chat with your clients through email as long as they’re comfortable with that. If they’d prefer to meet over Zoom calls, though, you should be flexible (and tech savvy) enough to accommodate them.
Getting up to speed
Ask yourself these questions:
- Is my law firm guilty of any of these red flags?
- Even if we’re not doing any of these things, are our tech skills great, or just good enough?
Remember that lawyers with the highest rated tech skills dramatically outperform those who are simply adequate at technology. It’s worth investing in your technological prowess to reap those big benefits.
The question is how to move from adequate to exceptional.
Aside from buying new tools or taking tech skills courses, here are some tips to help you build a more tech-forward law firm.
Tip #1. Get inspired by other industries
Law firms aren’t the only service-oriented businesses. Consider what it’s like to hire a mechanic, book a massage, or subscribe to a professional organization.
You’re a consumer, too. The next time you find yourself thinking “Ugh! Why is it so hard to give you my money!” as you’re trying to book a dental appointment or something, pause. Consider what is getting in the way.
Is it a poorly designed website where you can’t find the information you need?
Is it an inefficient customer service system that seems to be specifically designed to stop you from talking to someone for help?
These are exactly the kind of things you want to avoid at your law firm.
Positive inspiration is valuable, too. Look at the businesses you frequent most, especially for expensive services. What makes it so pleasant for you to make those purchases?
Can you book an appointment easily and find plenty of options that suit your schedule?
Does their website succinctly tell you exactly what you want to know?
Is their payment system so easy to use, you don’t even think about spending the money?
Be on the lookout for best practices that you can adopt for your law firm.
Tip #2. Talk to your clients
Maybe you don’t want to ask your legal clients if they’re impressed by your technological skills, but it’s a good idea to ask them if they’re feeling frustrated with your service.
Collecting customer feedback is harder than it sounds. If you ask the wrong questions, or ask the right questions at the wrong time, you’ll get confusing answers and miss out on valuable insights.
A good first step is simply asking your clients how they’d like to communicate with you. Communication preferences vary significantly by individual and age group, and you might be missing out on some obvious pieces.
(Get more data about client communication preferences in our free report: Attorney competence and the client experience.)
Tip #3. Use good technology to get work done
Don’t keep doing the same things because you’ve always done them. Actively look for ways to improve your workflows and make your job easier with technology.
For example, if you don’t have a case management system yet, get one. Your CMS is a foundational tool, and you’re wasting a ton of time and energy by managing your matters manually.
If you’ve got a CMS, start looking for integrations to make it more customized to your firm. InfoTrack, for example, allows litigation firms to eFile and order service of process directly from their case matter. You can also find time trackers (to automatically calculate billable hours), document management tools, and more.
Those improvements will free up a lot of time and space. Use your newfound hours to research project management tools, website features, or anything else you think will upgrade your law firm.
This is an ongoing process.
Technology changes, and so do your clients’ expectations. The only way you’re going to stay relevant is by changing, too.