Technology Efficiency Transforms Client Collaboration
Even in today’s still-troubled economy, there is a lot of work available for those lawyers who are flexible enough in their cost structures and use of technology to be competitive and give clients the legal services they demand. Successful lawyers need to pay close attention to the needs and wants of their clients. That is the foundation of the lawyer-client relationship, and all lawyers must be more attentive in the future if they expect to attain and retain the loyalty of their clients.
Constant communication is the way this relationship deepens. The obligation to promote quality communication between attorney and client and to assure the client understands what to expect lies squarely with the attorney. This can take place on multiple levels of interaction.
Providing satisfaction. This is the minimum threshold of client expectations and is synonymous with communication to learn and deliver what clients want.
Exceeding expectations. This goes beyond mere satisfaction, but ultimately is unsustainable if client demands are set too low or unsustainably high.
Earning loyalty. The standard here is time, where the firm delivers the value that maintains client relationships measured in years and even decades.
Creating collaboration. Here lawyer and client work together to assess needs and develop a proactive, interactive approach to actions and decisions that are mutually beneficial.
Collaboration in the context of providing greater value in legal services produces more effective representation at a lower cost to the client without discounting either the value or the per hour fee of the lawyer. Law firms that can partner with their clients, and can show their clients how they can reduce their legal costs (without reducing the lawyers’ per unit fees) will have a strategic advantage in the marketplace as true value-added service providers. And the key to doing this is using technology to become more efficient.
Technology – everything from e-discovery software to knowledge management systems – will increasingly transform the quality of the legal service/product delivered to the clients. Its efficiencies improve the delivery of legal service while lowering legal costs. It is the overall legal cost, not the hourly rate, that the client cares about. Technology enables law firms to reduce the cost of operations and thereby to pass on to the client some or all of those savings. Such a dynamic will redefine client loyalty in “new normal” economy of the future.