The Future for Law Firms is Client-Centered

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The Future of Law is a monthly column from Clio CEO, Co-founder, and author of The Client-Centered Law Firm, Jack Newton. In it, Jack discusses key ideas to help law firms thrive in a rapidly transforming legal industry.

The practice of law is one of the oldest, most respected professions in modern society, but this doesn’t give legal professionals license to run their firms based on historical convention.

When the research shows that some crucial elements to the practice of law are broken, specifically in the realm of client service, this should be a rallying call to fix them. As business practices and technologies evolve, legal professionals should think hard about how to improve—both to benefit themselves, and their clients.

According to the 2019 Legal Trends Report, 60% of law firms don’t respond to email inquiries from prospective clients, and 27% are unreachable by phone. This data is based on 1,000 emails and 500 phone calls to a random selection of US law firms across five different practice areas. Of the firms contacted, the vast majority were unable to provide some of the most important information that a typical client looks for—such as whether the firm could help with a particular type of case, an indication of rates or overall cost, or what next steps would be if the client were to pursue their case.

Success in the market for legal services is wholly dependent on meeting the needs of clients, and clients have more freedom now than ever to choose who they work with, who they hire, and who they won’t hire. This is a reality that is increasingly shaped by publicly accessible online reviews.

As consumer expectations shift alongside the rise of modern cloud technologies, clients have suffered patiently as law firms struggle to adapt to new, more efficient ways of running a business.

Clients know a better experience is possible, and they expect it everywhere. They use Google, instant messaging apps, and online credit card payments every day, which means they notice when a law firm hasn’t bothered to adopt these technologies. People used to be willing to play phone tag, but now—with options like texting and online scheduling tools—clients are more discerning about such inconveniences.

The myriad of tiny interactions that happen before, during, and after a consumer buys a product might seem inconsequential individually, but collectively they can make or break a business. This is true whether your organization sells a tangible product or provides a service.

When I say that the future for law firms is client-centered, I say this because it’s the only way that firms will survive. Through the market of natural selection, firms that evolve in a way that meets client needs are the ones that will earn better reviews, more referrals, and more returning clients. This doesn’t need to come at the expense of the firm itself—far from it. Client-centered firms know that providing good client experiences and running an efficient, profitable law firm aren’t opposing ideas. With the right approach, they drive each other.

These are the trends that we’re seeing in the legal industry, and across all professional services, and I want to ensure lawyers have the tools and knowledge they need to succeed in their evolution. That’s why I’ve written The Client-Centered Law Firm, which is both a rallying call for a tectonic shift in the legal industry and a handbook for becoming a client-centered law firm. Divided into three parts, covering the what, why, and how of running a client-centered practice, it features numerous examples from forward-thinking legal professionals who are already putting client-centered practices into action.

The opportunity for law firms today is tremendous. Learn more about how to create a more client-centered law firm by visiting clientcenteredlawfirm.com.

This column was originally published in the print edition of the ABA Journal as part of the Insights series by Jack Newton.

Categorized in: Business

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