New breed of ‘clients’ demand a new class of ‘professional’ who needs ‘modern’ technology to deliver a ‘quality’ service

ARTICLE BY RIY RUSSELL, CEO AT ASCERTUS

Clients in both the commercial and personal legal sectors have changed markedly in the last few years – they are cost conscious, technology savvy and critically, judge law firms by the ‘quality of service’ they provide across all aspects of their matter. To meet the requirements of this ‘new client’, a new type of legal professional has emerged – one who can deliver the best legal advice of course, but also one who is adept at timely communication and collaboration. To satisfy these demands, the new professional in turn needs the right kind of tools to be able to react in the best way possible and in real-time.

However, the new professionals (millennials) are often frustrated as law firms are unable to facilitate such capability. These fee earners, who are accustomed to using the latest mobile devices, cloud technology and social media platforms for instant correspondence in their personal lives; are forced to use ‘email’ as their collaboration tool, which is supremely inadequate for the job. Disconnected from the rest of the corporate information network, email systems aren’t truly searchable or scalable and in fact hinder true collaboration between teams and organisations. Why? Because email is designed primarily for one to one communication alone the new professional and new client require a more versatile, seamless way of collaborating. They also want the ability to work from anywhere and at any time. To do so, genuine mobile working capability is necessary, regardless of the device being used – tablet, laptop, smartphone, etc.

In the absence of law firm technology systems to support this kind of seamless working, the new professionals are quite capable of sourcing their own make-do applications to assist productivity and provide their clients a solution. These ‘shadow IT’ solutions are used within organisations without explicit organisational approval. Paradoxically, whilst satisfying the individuals these systems fall outside the remit of corporate networks, security and compliance policies, posing a substantial risk to both law firms and clients. Legislations such as the new EU data protection regulation mean business – a financial penalty of up to four per cent of global revenues is no small amount.

Today, the successful, progressive law firms are those who understand that a key part of business transformation is to arm their new professionals with the right legal technology – either through the adoption of new systems or by better leveraging existing systems. Elaborating further, firms needs to adopt modern technologies that automate information sharing and management processes end-to-end. Only then will professionals be able to smoothly manage matters and transactions across the lifecycle of their client engagements. In doing so, firms will take away the time consuming administration and the ‘technicality’ of using technology, to providing transparency of activity to both parties. Linking everything from document management, task management, optical character recognition-based scanning, contract management and digital signatures through to integrated legal spend management can provide such automation for true collaboration.

Unless law firms proactively provide tools that work the way their new professionals expect to work, processes that are transparent and unified and deliver against the real-time information sharing and collaboration requirements of clients – it won’t be long before customer organisations start dictating the use of their own technologies to law firms. Envisage the nightmare scenario where your fee earners are required to use and your IT department is required to support a variety of web interfaces or applications for communicating with each individual client via the latter’s’ preferred collaboration tools. The good news is that this situation is entirely preventable, but you must act now to avoid it.

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