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January 01, 2019 TECHREPORT 2018

How Client Management Will Define the Future of Law

Reagan Attle

The typical law firm deals with a constant stream of inquiries, yet only a portion of them actually result in billable work for the firm.

If that doesn’t sound familiar, consider this: in a recent survey we conducted of more than 1,300 legal consumers in the US, we identified that 57% faced a legal problem in the past two years that they did not pursue legally (whether it be going to court or filing a legal document)—meaning they either ignored the issue or dealt with it themselves outside of the legal system.

What’s even more shocking is that 68% of respondents spoke with, and 58% had a formal consultation with, a lawyer whom they did not hire.

This is concerning since over the past three years, our Legal Trends Reportwhich looks at aggregated and anonymized data from tens of thousands of legal professionals—has consistently found that the average lawyer only dedicates approximately 2.4 hours of their day to billable work.

What’s eating up the rest of their working day? The majority of law firms dedicate significant time to finding new clients. In other words, in the ongoing effort to find new clients, lawyers spend time speaking with clients who never hire them—which ultimately hurts their ability to focus on revenue-generating tasks.

Getting to “Yes”

When we say that 68% of survey respondents spoke to a lawyer they never hired, it’s worth noting that not every client will be the right fit for a firm. A client’s issue may not align with the firm’s area of law. Or, their issue may not be suitable for legal action. But another very common issue is that even when it becomes clear they should take legal action, they never follow up.

There’s also no getting around the fact that communications and consultations with potential clients take time—and that these touch points are really about making sure the lawyer-client relationship is the right fit for both sides. And, sometimes getting to “no” is a better, more efficient outcome for everyone; the client feels taken care of, both sides have built a relationship, and the prospect knows the lawyer isn’t out to take just any case for the sake of money.

But getting to “yes” is even more ideal in helping address that 57% of consumers who don’t pursue their problems legally when it’s in their best interest to do so. (A related study conducted by the World Justice Project found that 77% of those who experience legal problems in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago don’t turn to an authority to resolve their problem.)

Clearly, the solution isn’t to avoid speaking with potential clients. The solution is to improve the overall quality of communications so that the client can get the information they need with the type of expediency that suggests the lawyer they’re working with is unquestionably efficient and organized. And, there’s no avoiding that speed is a factor here: According to our research, 67% of consumers look for a lawyer who responds to a phone call or email right away.

Delivering a more client-centered experience—by being more responsive and being more prepared for every client interaction—will help move a legitimate case forward (while also helping those without a case move on to other solutions).

To support the type of client-centered approach that’s needed in today’s law firm, many lawyers are implementing customer relationship management (CRM) software in their practices.

The Shift to More Client-centered Law Firms

According to the ABA 2018 Legal Technology Survey Report, CRM and remote access are the only communication software trends that haven’t seen any dip in the past four years, with CRM software showing a 41% adoption rate among respondents in 2018.

While 41% adoption may suggest a large portion of firms are focused in the right direction, 50% name Microsoft Outlook as their CRM tool. Although Outlook is a powerful tool for contact management, it falls significantly short of offering the functionality of a CRM software. (Dynamics would be the Microsoft offering of a CRM.)

What distinguishes CRM software from basic contact management?

A contact management program is basically a database of contact information. It keeps you organized and lets you access your information when you need it.

CRM software goes beyond contact management to help you manage the whole intake process—which in legal, is really a type of sales pipeline. Though, when we say “sales,” we aren’t suggesting that firms adopt the type of high-pressure, anything-goes tactics that might be common in other industries. Instead, for law firms, it means diligently managing every touch point to ensure expectations are met for everyone. When dealing with so many inquiries from prospective clients, it’s up to the law firm to ensure these inquiries don’t get lost or forgotten about.

CRM software ensures that you always know your next step to progress a relationship—helping ensure that both the prospect and the firm are clear on what the next steps are for a matter, and how it can be moved forward. CRM software can also streamline the process for gathering information on a matter, as well as organizing and scheduling upcoming meetings so that everyone has access to the most up-to-date information at all times.

Better Responsiveness Working in the Cloud

It’s worth highlighting that the strongest trend for communications software in the  ABA 2018 Legal Technology Survey Report is the steady increase in remote work being performed through cloud-based software. It’s clear that there’s been a fundamental change to how lawyers make use of technology in their practice. Modern law firms are looking for more convenience, portability, and security—which are all key tenets of everything we do at Clio.

Consumer expectations are increasingly shaped by their experiences across every industry, and we believe that the future of the legal profession involves reimagining a more holistic client-centered experience. Delivering this experience means creating a law firm that’s hyper-efficient and organized so that lawyers can support their clients at every crucial moment.

Clio has always been the leader in cloud-based practice management, giving firms the ability to manage their case and billing workflows seamlessly and with less effort. As customer expectations evolve, we’re committed to building a thriving technological ecosystem that will drive new, research-based innovations in the interest of more client-centered legal experiences.

You can read more on the findings from our extensive consumer research—plus an in-depth analysis of law firm efficiencies and operations—in our 2018 Legal Trends Report.

Reagan Attle

Reagan Attle is the Vice President of Marketing at Clio, the leader in cloud-based legal practice management. Prior to her work in expanding the market for legal tech innovation, Reagan led the marketing organization at ACTIVE Network, driving global marketing strategies and corporate communications through an IPO and over 10 acquisitions. She oversees Clio’s demand generation, product marketing, partner marketing, digital strategy, and brand, and she’s happiest with a complex spreadsheet and a soy latte.

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