Lawyers are not technophiles
Last week I went to my bank for a personal loan. As a new account manager, I have to represent myself, and I tell her quite proudly that I’m the founder of LegalProd, a startup that develops totally innovative management software for law firms. Well, I admit I got a bit of a slap in the face when she said, “Software for lawyers? But they’re still using paper and dictaphone! (She must have been reading Les Fourberies de Scapin while on vacation…)”.
At first, I didn’t want to argue, she thinks what she wants, but I know lawyers and my products sell. And then after a few seconds, I said to myself, “No! You need to explain to him why innovation and technology have their place in the firm – it’s your loan that’s at stake!
So yes, the legal profession isn’t the most digitized, but the important thing once we’ve posed that fact and the famous “Why?” question.
Because lawyers are too old? No, statistics show that the population is getting younger.
Because they quickly get lost when using technology? No, on the contrary, go and hang out in the law firms and you’ll see all the lawyers, phone to their ear or chatting with their contacts on Whatsapp and with a laptop under their arm.
Because technology has no place in the legal profession? On the contrary! Technology is a real source of development for firms.
But why? The answer is actually quite simple… nothing has been thought of for them! It’s as simple as that. For years, software publishers have tried to sell tools made for businesses, without taking into account the specific needs of lawyers (I wrote an article on the subject (link to article). So the game was already up.
So what’s changed today?
For several years now, LegalTech has been focusing on the real needs of lawyers in all their activities: HRIS, translation, drafting assistance, EDM, file management, law firm administration… and now Artificial Intelligence…
Law firms began to digitize around ten years ago, and although they are still relatively under-equipped, they have fully understood the benefits of equipping themselves with such tools. Without making an exhaustive study of all that digitalization can bring to a practice, we can focus on two key elements.
Putting the customer back at the heart of law firms
You’re bound to tell me that technology is dehumanizing relationships between people, that interactions are becoming less personal and human relationships more distant. Although these stereotypes are hard to dispel, the reality is quite different! Technologies and innovations are in fact catalysts for human relationships.
For some twenty years now, consumers have no longer been passive consumers, but have become attentive and increasingly demanding players. They want to know what they are buying, what products are used in the production process, where their purchases come from… In short, they are becoming more and more demanding and demand transparency. The consumption of services is no exception to this rule.
Companies, for their part, have no choice but to adapt, as consumers now have powerful weapons at their disposal to make or break a product, a service or a brand name. With the Internet, buyers rate, evaluate and use social networks to express their dissatisfaction to anyone who will listen. Law firms, like any other business, have to face up to this new phenomenon.
The other factor to take into account is the change in consumption patterns. With the Internet, you can decide what to buy online, order online and track your order online. The advent of telecommuting has only speeded things up. More and more lawyers are telling me that they see less and less of their clients!
Law firms are hard hit by these changes, and have to face up to them. This is where technology becomes a lifeline.
To sum up, lawyers’ clients want :
- Become a player in their case,
- Be kept informed in real time of developments and of the work done by their lawyer,
- Communicate easily with them at any time and from any distance.
To meet these needs, lawyers can rely on technology to provide easy remote access via an intranet, or use a secure chat system, for example.
In these examples, technology reduces the distance between lawyer and client.
The secure chat will enable the two parties to exchange information as discreetly as if they were in the same office. Customers no longer have to fear that their information will be divulged, and can feel secure in the knowledge that they are doing so. What’s more, he can ask a question at any time without waiting for his lawyer to be available.
A secure intranet access will enable customers to follow the progress of their case, and if equipped with a safe, to deposit documents as if they were hand-delivered, without having to go anywhere!
These two examples clearly show that technology, when used properly, reduces the distance between a client and his or her lawyer, and even more so, reinforces the notion of trust that is so vital to a lawyer’s work.
Implementing such tools puts the customer back at the center of the relationship, who no longer sees himself as a mere number, but as a singular person to whom we pay attention. And you know what else? That’s exactly what these new consumers are waiting for! That’s what customer relations are all about!
Create synergies within the firm
It no longer needs to be shown that the added value of a group must exceed the sum of the value of the individuals making up that group. Law firms are well aware of this, and at least my clients are asking me more and more about it.
Law firms have perfectly understood that by multiplying and facilitating interactions between associates, synergies will automatically emerge that will rapidly improve the business as a whole. So yes, lawyers haven’t waited for technology to exchange information, but these exchanges are fairly limited. When I talk to my customers, they tell me that they limit themselves to the coffee machine, the lunch break and a few meetings a year. But let’s not hide behind our little fingers: these interactions remain fairly weak and are mainly based on cronyism.
And yet, law firms are sitting on a goldmine that has yet to be fully exploited: the internal network!
It’s this network that we need to work on as a priority, but it’s not enough just to say so, or to want to. If everyone knows this and everyone agrees, why isn’t it being implemented? Because there are obstacles that technology can overcome quite easily.
The main obstacle comes from asymmetries of information: “If I give a contact to one of my associates, will he do the same?”, “How can I be sure of being remunerated for a business contribution?”, “If I give one of my productions to an associate, how can I put a value on it?
These are legitimate questions, and technology is the perfect answer!
Using a CRM largely solves these problems. But not just any CRM! A market CRM is absolutely ineffective and doesn’t answer lawyers’ questions. What’s needed is a CRM specifically dedicated to law firms. The latter must be able to anonymize contacts, i.e. hide from other associates the information required to make contact, but make certain information available, such as the associate’s job title.
For example, I know that my Associate has a HR contact in such-and-such a company, but I don’t know who he is, so I have to ask him for authorization to access other information such as first and last name, telephone number, e-mail address….
In addition to being transparent, this system has the advantage of forcing lawyers to work together, as all partners benefit. The associate who requests a contact creates a business opportunity, and the associate who shares a contact gets paid and keeps the origin of the account!
Another fundamental tool within a law firm is an EDM, which will enable the whole firm to find precedents or production models. But once again, we’re talking about an EDM that meets the needs of lawyers!
Let’s take the example of a partner who produces a document for 5 hours but only sells it for 3 hours (this is quite common in law firms). An EDM for lawyers should be able to make this document available to the rest of the firm, so that it can be resold for 2 hours during another case. Here too, everyone wins: the partner who produced the document is paid for all his production hours, and the partner who retrieved the document already produced can also monetize it.
And yes! As you can see, to collaborate, each party must have an advantage in doing so, and prevent free-rider behavior.
So no, lawyers are not anti-techno! On the contrary, the delay in digitization that law firms are experiencing today is simply due to software publishers who have not deemed it necessary to invest in this market. Fortunately, those days are over! Legaltechs have emerged to develop specialized products aimed exclusively at lawyers.
At the sight of these explanations, I could feel my business manager laughing! I guess you could say I’ve done my job, as they say. A few days later, the good news came – I got my loan!
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