The next big thing in law isn’t artificial intelligence - it’s emotional intelligence, says Rebecca Smith-Bains of Wilford Smith.
Bitcoin, Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning… it’s next to impossible to pick up any legal sheet without seeing at least one of these touted as a game changer for the legal industry. To see how they impact lawyers in their day-to-day lives, Unlock the Law sat down with Rebecca Smith-Bains, of Wilford Smith for a quick chat about technology in the legal sector.
Rebecca, how has technology affected your business?
You mentioned AI and so on, but it’s rare to find anyone pointing out a practical application for these technologies in the day-to-day life of the average lawyer! All that these technologies do, really, is enable the automation-at-scale of human interaction. We live in a totally different world to the one the traditional law firm was born into. Arguably, the days of “having a client” are gone. Modern consumers are savvy, service-conscious and able to shop around much more easily than ever before. We know a lot of website traffic comes from mobile and tablet devices. We know the busiest day in terms of phone calls and this allows us to plan accordingly.
Online, people instruct us who have never known life without the internet and probably wouldn’t dream of simply wandering into a law firm off the street. The dynamics of how they purchase are completely different.
So what do these clients want?
They want to be treated as customers. The internet has put a great deal of power in their hands, not just in terms of access to information, but in their ability to be heard. Online reviews are the lifeblood of the modern economy to some extent. Customers can submit a review in seconds - and make a formal complaint just as quickly. Where once there was a client-professional relationship, the internet has allowed this to be rebalanced to one more akin to customer-service provider.
Other industries lead the way in this regard. Insurance, banking and private medicine are already ahead of law, and more ‘fun’ industries like travel and retail are way, way ahead. There’s so much we can learn from how these industries market to, sell to, communicate with and work to retain their customers.
Communication is king. Fundamentally, a client wants is to be seen as a person, to have their problem recognised and rectified, and to feel cared about. We use technology to map out our clients needs across the buying and transaction cycles and plan communications to that.
What exactly are your clients needs?
The first step in the modern customer journey is to research the problem. This obviously begins online. In some cases it will be straightforward, moving house for example, but it can be more complicated - something like leaving specific legacies in a will, for example. Then there will be consideration of the pros and cons of taking action, then there will be comparisons of their preferred providers - law firms. Thereafter, there will be the process of instructing that firm.
Throughout that journey there is a need for information. Legal information, case studies, testimonials, reviews, pricing, processes and so on.
Not only will potential clients want information they can consume in their own time, they are now accustomed to being communicated with by service providers and wooed, if you will. One of the most obvious ways customer behaviour has changed is that they need to feel like you want their business. So few law firms actually follow up with enquiries it’s frightening! Statistically, you are more than 80% more likely to win business if you follow up 7 or more times. Think of any purchase you make yourself - you get the idea, do some research then leave the idea and come back to it. Life gets in the way! We aim to keep the idea and ourselves front and centre in the clients mind in as helpful and unobtrusive a fashion as possible.
How do you do this?
Having a robust communication plan which is backed by technology saves so much time and effort in other areas of our business. We drip-feed clients and prospects the information they need both pre and post transaction. We’re looking into other ways of communicating with clients such as text-messaging, again enabling us to communicate with clients in a way and at a time that suits them.
Thanks Rebecca, where can people find out about you?
They can visit our website! www.wilfordsmith.com