In the last year, many legal organizations have done a good job of focusing on their internal technological needs. But fewer have fully explored how technology can enhance their client relationships.
How effectively are you communicating and collaborating with your clients today? What systems do you have in place for keeping in contact with new and prospective clients and tracking that you’re doing it as often as you should?
The right tools are integral to making sure your team members have what they need for effective client communications.
COMMUNICATION AND COLLABORATION
At nearly every business — and law firms are no exception — video communication tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have become standard, even if many people had never used them just 18 months ago. While these tools should certainly continue to be the standard for client communication going forward, perhaps even permanently replacing face-to-face contact in many instances, many firms are overlooking the critical role they can play in business development.
For starters, video communication tools alleviate some of the geographic limitations that previously served as roadblocks to business development. While business development activities were limited to situations where we could easily get in personal contact with other people, the ability to make connections outside of our geographic proximity has been greatly enhanced as everyone’s comfort level with these tools has grown.
In other words, the door to business development has been opened to a much broader market — legal organizations just need to walk through it.
It’s also important not to ignore the channels of communication that have always been open to you, even if you didn’t always use them. Traditional communication methods like emails and newsletters are still relevant. Furthermore, your efforts in these areas should increase because they’re a great way to reach people who are working from home. The same is true for webinars — they’ve been an option for years but often got little attention before the pandemic. Now is the time to get comfortable with the idea of presenting face to face via technology and lean into offering webinars that will appeal to your current clients and the new business you want to land.
STAYING IN TOUCH
But aside from networking and connecting with new people, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other video communication tools also provide attorneys with better ways to connect with current clients. What might have only occurred before over the phone or in person is now done through video — with the opportunity to see body language (which has its own benefits) and the ability to screen-share and make the call more engaging.
With Microsoft Teams, law firms have the option of replacing legacy phone systems and using a Teams phone as a way to support collaboration within the firm and with clients. In addition, attorneys can easily access any relevant files in their document management system and pull them up on the fly to review, edit and approve all while in a shared environment.
“Capitalizing on this openness might be exactly what you need to successfully introduce tools that will better engage the sales process and improve attorney communications with clients in general.”
As a result of using these collaboration tools for day-to-day meetings, many are also using the chat functionality rather than sending emails. These systems have proven to be a great way to communicate with co-workers and clients. It’s easy to see who is online and available, documents can be easily shared, and it’s quick and simple to jump on a video chat or get an update on a project.
But being able to adequately communicate with current and prospective clients is just the first step. Once you’re able, it’s important that you actually do it. Every firm needs a reliable way not only to keep in contact with clients on a regular basis, but also to track those contacts and send reminders to do it if necessary.
Customer relationship management (CRM) tools have been available to law firms for many years now, but they’ve historically been used simply for consolidating marketing lists and sending out firm communications. They’ve been underused by attorneys for business development purposes, largely because attorneys have found them to be cumbersome to implement and use. Some firms have resisted implementing CRM solutions altogether because they’ve traditionally come with a high price tag.
Thankfully, some recent changes have made CRM a more accessible option for firms and their attorneys. New cloud-based CRM systems have dramatically lowered the cost of entry, and even some of the largest players in the technology arena now offer cloud versions of their popular solutions on a subscription basis.
CRM technology has also advanced, with pipeline management tools gaining popularity either as a front-end addition to existing CRM systems or as stand-alone solutions. Pipeline management tools are more interactive with Outlook, helping attorneys keep track of their client and business development contacts and proactively prompting for follow-ups. They easily generate the reminders that traditionally only happened after a good amount of data entry on an attorney’s part.
A 2020 study by Ackert Inc., “The State of CRM at Law Firms,” shows that while the adoption of CRM and pipeline management tools is increasing at law firms, it’s still only a minority of attorneys who are using those tools, both in general and particularly for contact management. The study suggests that this is largely due to a lack of buy-in at a leadership level.
As with any technology, these new CRM and pipeline management tools will only be effective if attorneys are willing to make changes in their habits and routines. Commitment and buy-in from attorneys and firm management remain critical if these tools are to make a real difference for client communications and business development — one-off use by personally motivated attorneys isn’t enough.
The good news, though, is that this might be the perfect time to secure buy-in for new technologies. With everyone working from home, they might have more time to devote to mastering new tools, and they’re already primed for incorporating new technology into their routine, having had to make changes on a regular basis to remain functional over the past year. Capitalizing on this openness might be exactly what you need to successfully introduce tools that will better engage the sales process and improve attorney communications with clients in general.
The lack of in-person meetings and events doesn’t have to hamper your firm’s ability to maintain communication with your clients and develop new business. More than ever before, technology is integral to law firm functioning. Now’s the time to realize its ability to help you cement client relationships and attract new business.
About the Author
Article Source: April 2021 Issue of ALA Legal Management Magazine