Are Lawyers Using Innovation To Better Serve Their Clients, Or Themselves?

Last week I was very honoured to win an individual award at the Janders Dean and LexisNexis Legal Innovation Index 2017 for my work with Automio. At the Awards evening I was surrounded by others who were intrigued by what we’re doing at Automio, and who are working on super interesting innovations themselves. Here are a few snaps from the Awards evening:

At the Awards evening Michelle DeStefano from LawWithoutWalls said something in her keynote speech that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about (I’m a law nerd, don’t judge me). She explained that while innovation in law firms is increasing, this innovation is aimed at improving law firms internally, but the benefits of these improvements are not being passed on to clients.

So an example of this is using a new technology that speeds up a lawyer’s job which results in efficiency gains for the law firm, but the benefit of this efficiency gain is not being shared with clients.

I realised as Michelle was talking that there is a real disconnect here. We’re so preoccupied with trying to improve our law firms internally that we’ve forgotten to share these benefits externally with our clients. We need to up our game with using innovation to better serve our clients, not just ourselves.

Why are lawyers not sharing the benefits of innovation with their clients?

Here are a few reasons that spring to mind:

1. Lawyers are flying blind about what their clients want

Lawyers often avoid speaking to clients about what their clients really want from their lawyers because we’re afraid of what we might hear. We’re afraid that clients will tell us we’re too expensive, too hard to get hold of, or that we’re not doing a good enough job. It is difficult for lawyers to share the benefits of innovation with clients in a meaningful way when we don’t understand what clients want.

The solution? Lawyers need to either speak to or survey their clients regularly about what is working well, what isn’t working well, and the opportunities clients can see for lawyers to use technology to better serve their clients. Contrary to what many lawyers think, clients are not looking for an opportunity to provide negative feedback. Instead clients appreciate being asked for their input. At Legal Beagle we sent a survey to all clients at the end of nearly every matter. Clients gave us thoughtful suggestions and had a sincere desire to help our business. You will get the odd bit of feedback that hits a nerve, but you need to remember the purpose of the exercise is to get better, not bitter.

2. Lawyers think the only way to share the benefits of innovation with clients is to lower their fees

We’ve all heard about lawyers who use clever technology to prepare a legal document requested by a client either during or immediately after a meeting with the client. The lawyer then doesn’t provide the document to the client for a few days to keep up the appearance that a lot of time and effort has to go into preparing that document so the lawyer can charge the client the “usual” fee. This is a good example of why lawyers are so afraid of change - if we can’t bill a client the “usual” fee for preparation of a legal document how will we survive?

Listen up peeps - clients aren’t silly - they know about the technology that’s available to us. This is why clients are demanding that we serve them faster, better and cheaper.

The solution? There are many ways we can pass on the benefits of innovation to our clients that don’t result in us having to lower our fees. To work out what is best for you and your clients, you need to first find out what your clients want, and then brainstorm innovative ways to deliver that without sacrificing revenue. A couple of examples to get you thinking:

  • Lawyers can provide their clients access to a range of automated documents or templates that could be useful for their business for a set monthly fee - eg - terms and conditions of service, employment agreement etc. Getting a recurring subscription model like this happening isn’t too difficult to achieve. Plus this will largely be passive income, and will free up your lawyers to do more rewarding and challenging legal work.
  • Where clients have repeat documentation, for example say you have a client who asks you to prepare an NDA for them every week, offer to build them an NDA generator so that they can generate their own NDAs and just send them to you for review if needed. It is true you won’t get the fees from creating each NDA for them, but you’ll get fees to build them the NDA generator, and the ongoing fees to maintain the NDA generator and carry out reviews. You can easily build document generators for your clients using Automio without any software programming or coding skills. This is a great solution for you and your client.

 

3. Lawyers aren’t too hot at strategic planning

There’s so much noise out there about technology and innovation in the legal industry. The result is lawyers are freaking out and not making decisions to try new technologies because they have no idea what they’re doing. When it comes to lawyers making decisions about technology and innovation, law firms need a strategy with a strong digital component in place. A good strategic plan will be largely driven by what your clients want, and will have lawyers regularly trying new technologies that support them achieving their strategic goals.

The solution? Once you know what your clients want, and you and your team have brainstormed some innovative ways to deliver your clients with what they want, then you can create or update your long term strategy around how to use innovation to improve your law firm AND better serve your clients. You’ll feel less anxious about the future when you have a plan in place that deals with how you will defend your career and law firm against new technologies that threaten the legal industry in its current state.

Ask yourself this question:

A good question for lawyers to get in the habit of asking themselves every time they assess new technologies is “will this help me to better serve my clients and achieve our law firm’s strategy?”. If the answer is yes, jump on the opportunity asap. Don’t wait, or you might get left behind.

Stay classy,

Claudia

PS. If you want to find out if document automation will help you to serve your clients better, book a free online demo of Automio. Automio is automation software that empowers lawyers to automate repetitive, time-consuming tasks like drafting legal documents.

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