This year’s LMA conference was special, not just because it was the first held in the Midwest, but also because of a resounding theme throughout the sessions from the keynote to panels and workshops. Over the course of the day, industry mavens discussed technology’s role in the legal industry and how it’s changing the way we should think about client relationships.
While firms continue to evolve their social and digital strategy, it’s necessary for them to start considering how they’re integrating various technologies into the entirety of their business plans from the inside out. This is partly because the legal market landscape is changing, with non-legal institutions squeezing their way in while firms are simultaneously growing in size and shrinking in population.
With this influx of competition, firms can no longer lean on their legal expertise and talent pool to differentiate themselves. As it was so pointedly said during the LMA Midwest keynote, other firms have good lawyers, too.
When a firm can no longer rely on talent alone as its unique selling point, the next logical step would seem to be to zero in on its superior client relations. But, the relationships lawyers have with their clients are also changing. Clients are more sophisticated, more educated and have better, faster access to the information they need. In other words, being buddies on the golf course no longer translates automatically to happy clients.
The fact of the matter is that the advent of technology has changed the professional service landscape, where building and maintaining relationships with clients and prospects lives online and through tech. In order to not only survive but thrive in the changing market, firms need to consider three categories of technology when discussing how they build and maintain client relationships.
1. Your Digital Identity
Understanding your firm’s Brand is the key to stepping out of the “sea of sameness” that exists in the legal marketplace. Using digital channels to create a holistic identity and integrated messages is necessary to building out your firm’s individuality.
Creating a website that reflects your core principals and creates a user experience targeted at your client-base is just the beginning of developing a digital identity. Your firm must think critically about its storytelling style when creating a strategy. Even though many firms get a bit skittish when it comes to implementing social media, platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter can be powerful recruitment and thought leadership tools.
These digital decisions allow for interactive touch points with clients where they already are. With the smart implementation of communication approaches and content, doors open to interact with clients in a personal and efficient way, regardless of where they are in the world.
2. Your Data & Information Management
Of course, there’s more to building a client relationship than sharing your insights. Understanding client preferences and industry patterns can help your firm not only create engaging, relevant content, but also offer proactive solutions to individual client objectives. These client needs aren’t always the easiest to uncover, but the advent of data and information management has made it much easier to translate industry patterns into client necessities.
Coordinating an experience management system will not only keep your firm organized internally and able to access information efficiently, but will also give you the opportunity to analyze patterns of past projects and client history. Keeping track of relationships among clients and lawyers can give insight into how deep your bench is for various assignments. This information can be leveraged when a client is looking to expand services past one lawyer’s expertise, giving a firm the proactive ability to suggest options that still lie within its scope.
This kind of thinking can also be applied when considering SEO, social data and click rates. By keeping track of what kind of information target audiences are searching as well as trending topics (Brexit, for example), a firm can begin to understand emerging circumstances and opportunities to research, expand or adjust services options.
3. Your Security Measures & Protocols
The legal industry is one of discretion. Security is an essential aspect to the practice and client work, so using a trustworthy digital system is crucial to any firm. But there’s more to security than resetting passwords every three months. A firm needs a strong handle on its technology, from hosting services and hardware to cloud files and email.
It can be assumed that a client chooses a firm for multiple reasons, but trustworthiness and confidentiality is an implicit part of the industry. When choosing technology, you need to consider how security is either supplemented or put at a greater risk within your organization, and how it may affect clients. Because of this inherent client trust, choosing technology with a firm understanding of security measures is an essential, oftentimes invisible aspect of client relationship-building.
This year’s LMA Midwest brought a variety of insights from all kinds of experts, but the theme of technology driving relationships was echoed throughout. Firms need to think about how they can be building and maintaining their client relationships through thought leadership vehicles like social media and interactive websites. They must consider how they are tracking client decisions and patterns internally and as general trends in order to better understand client needs and industry developments, keeping them ahead of their competition. Of course, considering how digital affects client security, and can even enhance security services is necessary to shape essential trust in any healthy client-firm relationship.
Truly, LMA Midwest showed us what a resourceful modern firm looks like. The tools newly at our fingertips allow lawyers to become innovators, to take charge and reshape how conversations start and advance in their industry and beyond. Firms need to decide the best ways in which to integrate technology into their own practices and to always remember that these tools are meant to enhance client relationships. Those who do it best are bound to end up on top, no matter how the market changes.