The legal sector is on a digital transformation journey. While some business processes have been successfully digitised, there are firms that are still relying on manual input, or legacy systems, to complete tasks. Even those firms that are investing in IT modernisation have not necessarily been able to drive the expected benefits. Legal processes are still often time-consuming and stressful for both lawyer and client. This not only creates a poor client experience, but it can also dominate the time of high-value members of staff who should be delivering more profitable services.
The solution is for more savvy investments in tech—ones that focus on low-code platforms to automate, integrate legacy systems and deliver outstanding experiences without requiring specialised developer support.
A Purplebricks moment
Many law firms took stock of their business during the pandemic and came to the same conclusion: one of the best ways to improve performance, profits and client loyalty is to focus on the experience they deliver to those clients. In fact, according to LexisNexis, “client experience is emerging as the new frontier on which law firms are competing.” Its report reveals that law firms have made significant progress on this in recent years. That could imperil those unwilling or unable to make the necessary changes. As technophobe practices slowly fall away on the back of poor client experience, tech-savvy challengers or Alternative Business Solutions (ABS) providers will take their place, just like we’ve seen with challenger banks disrupting financial services.
Think of it as the legal sector’s “Purplebricks moment”. The eponymous online estate agent burst onto the scene in 2014 to disrupt the property market by putting control back into the hands of buyers and sellers. Its laser focus on transparency, usability and a simple fee structure has led it to become one of the best-known brands in the country, and the UK’s largest and highest-rated estate agent. If traditional legal practices don’t embrace digital transformation, their business could be exposed to tech-centric challengers with a similarly fierce client focus.
The need for speed
Manual, opaque and potentially error-prone business processes are everywhere in the legal sector. Take house buying. From examining draft contracts and seller TA6 forms, to property searches, mortgage valuations, exchanging contracts and paying stamp duty, there are multiple steps to walk through and multiple potential points of failure. A lack of regular updates and clear communication from the solicitor can amplify what is already a stressful experience for their client. Too often, the latter are left in the dark—anxious, confused and frustrated.
Even something as simple as client onboarding can be a long, drawn-out affair. Most practices have developed an idiosyncratic way of managing new client registrations built on their legacy IT systems and personal preferences. Rigorous Know Your Customer (KYC) checks to validate ID documents and source of funds might rely on endless back-and-forth messages and even face-to-face meetings. All of which creates a negative customer experience and adds a significant internal administrative burden. Solicitors may even jump in to check on the progress of onboarding when they should be working on more profitable tasks.
The truth is that clients are less forgiving of such roadblocks today. They want transparency and regular updates on where they are in the process. Some 79% of clients expect at least weekly updates on a matter in hand, and 69% demand same-day responses to their queries, according to one Law Firm Marketing Club study last year. Law firms able to meet these evolving requirements through digital transformation stand the best chance of success. Separate research finds that innovation (32%) and client collaboration (56%) are among the top ways law firms can increase their share of clients’ external spend.
Fortunately, the majority of European legal firms polled last year said they expect change in how services are delivered going forward. Most (78%) predict a focus on innovation, and technology designed to improve productivity (81%). However, only a third believe their firm is “very prepared” to capitalise on the increasing importance of technology to the sector.
To get on the front foot, law firms need to consider embracing low code solutions. Low code reduces the risk associated with development and is designed to deliver new digital experiences without the need to engage IT or development specialists. It’s about empowering technology enthusiasts in the organisation to build their own solutions, thus reducing costs and speeding up time-to-value. By applying this approach to the development of client-facing apps, practices can enhance the client experience with instant case updates, self-service capabilities and more streamlined, automated workflows. Even better, low code allows organisations to utilise existing legacy technologies they are familiar with, but surround them with a “digital wrapper” to enhance usability and automation.
Consider an online payments portal to replace existing inefficient manual processes. The portal could be built with minimal fuss by a team member using a low code platform. It might automate KYC checks and integrate with common identity management and fraud prevention tools to enhance security and minimise business risk. Most importantly, the portal means clients can make payments at their own convenience, taking the pressure of in-house staff who’d otherwise have to manage them.
Professional services firms have raised the bar when it comes to client experiences over recent years. Law firms must join them by embracing the digital revolution, or risk being overtaken by those who do. Clients demand flexibility, transparency and efficiency from the businesses they interact with. And they’re prepared to vote with their feet.
With low code, embracing this change doesn’t need to be an expensive or painful endeavour. It could make any legal practice a more agile, responsive and ultimately more profitable business.
Copyright © 2021 Legal IT Professionals. All Rights Reserved.