For legal firms, customer onboarding is not very high up on the digital transformation to-do list. More eye-catching projects tend to grab the attention instead. Yet there’s a tremendous opportunity here to streamline business processes, improve efficiencies and productivity, and ultimately take accounts to profitability much earlier.
The truth is that legal practices can do much more than Robotic Process Automation (RPA). And they can do so without even needing to rip-and-replace legacy systems.
The drive to transform
When it comes to digital innovation, the legal sector has not always found the process easy. Practices are understandably cautious when investing in new technology, as the sector adheres to such strict security and compliance measures. In addition to this, the proliferation of legacy IT systems like case and practice management software can create a roadblock for firms when transitioning to more modern processes.
Yet the pandemic provided a major new impetus for many. Research into law firms and other legal businesses in the UK and Europe reveals firms that had already modernised their IT systems were better placed to serve clients remotely through the crisis. Now three-quarters of senior UK partners have said that there should be more investment in technology. They want to increase the profitability of highly qualified employees and deliver client experiences that nurture trust and loyalty.
At first glance, onboarding may not seem like it would generate these kinds of results. But in fact, it is exactly the sort of labour-intensive, repetitive process where law firms can score some big wins. Rigorous Know Your Customer (KYC) checks on new clients, involving validation of ID documents and source of funds, have traditionally relied on endless back-and-forth missives and face-to-face meetings.
They can add a considerable administrative burden to each legal practice. Yet onboarding must be done right, and the manual nature of the job increases the risk of human error, which protracts the process further.
This matters because the more time a solicitor is forced to chase up client information, the more time they spend away from working on more profitable areas of the business. Ideally, law firms want to complete these checks quickly and accurately so they can begin servicing the client.
Yet many UK-based solicitors are concerned about tampering with a process that is heavily regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) – the regulatory body for solicitors working in England and Wales.
In particular, the SRA enforces stringent rules for firms to help them guard against money laundering, where they suspect a client might be embroiled in it. As such, there is a reluctance among many solicitors to embrace tech that might actually make their jobs easier.
Transformation without the code
The result is that onboarding across the UK’s legal sector is, frankly, a mess. Each firm has a bespoke way to manage the process built on their own legacy systems and personal preferences. Some have tentatively explored digital enhancements like RPA, but all this does is automate tasks at the final stage of the endeavour.
This is where low-code tools come in. As the name suggests, these are development platforms which allow organisations to create new digital experiences without needing to deploy significant IT skills. It means the staff that will end up using the system are the ones who are involved in building it. This is a major win given the high demand and cost of skilled developers. One global study from February 2022 found that even when IT resources are available, 52% of digital projects weren’t delivered on time over the previous 12 months.
The right tools will not only empower legal practices to bypass this IT bottleneck, but also build systems which connect to – rather than replace – legacy data stores. By creating “digital wrappers” that work alongside legacy systems, low-code tools can seamlessly integrate apps and portals with their traditional case and practice management technology. That will save yet more time and money in the long run, as users will be familiar with the layout and not require additional training.
If law firms are serious about streamlining their digital transformations, they should use these tools to build entirely self-service onboarding experiences for their clients. In-built analytics will ensure that each process is completed correctly and not in breach of regulations, removing the need for any manual intervention. It all adds up to a faster, smoother experience—one that could drive cost efficiencies, free-up practitioners to focus on higher value work, and impress new clients.
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