I just read The Client Centered Law Firm by Jack Newton. I met Jack at the Clio Conference back in 2019 and I was impressed by his vision. He allowed me to interview him, and you can see the story here: The Massive Capital Raise Made Me Stay In Vancouver
ClearWay Law and Clio get along well because we are both trying to innovate the legal industry. I’m close to George Psiharis, the COO of Clio. He’s brilliant and he knows where the legal industry is going.
He also understands how hard it is for lawyers to see the future of law. Even for lawyers that see it, many have a hard time acting on it. George Psiharis wanted to be a lawyer in the past, but then he decided to get into technology instead. It was a good decision as Clio just raised $250 million USD!
The Problem With The Legal Industry
In some courts, at least 40% of people are self-represented. Reports show that is not because they cannot afford a lawyer. It’s because hiring a law firm and dealing with lawyers is too complicated.
The legal sector needs to change, access to law needs to be easier for all. ClearWay Law believes in great customer service for consumers and a fair opportunity to work for all. The 2019 Legal Trend Report showed that 64% of law firms don’t answer the phone. The bar to raise is unbelievably low for law firms.
ClearWay Law was created out of necessity. It was built with a belief that there is a strong need for change in how law firms provide service. Most law firms provide terrible customer service. Further, they are resistant to the adoption of technology.
Many lawyers struggle to move away from the traditional structure which prevents investment. Modern-day law firms need to enable agile working and an offering that most clients can afford.
The Client-Centered Law Firm- Risk Adverse Lawyers
The Client-Centered Law Firm explains that it makes sense that lawyers are risk-averse. It’s a lawyer’s job to look for risk and examine how to avoid it. Further, law firms are heavily regulated, and lawyers always risk losing their license to practice law.
Law firms are behind other industries in terms of innovation and technology. This is due to risk-averse lawyers which leads to massive resistance to change within the legal sector.
The lack of ability for the legal sector to adopt technology, innovation and the desire to change results in law firms “doing things the way they’ve always been done”.
In many law firms, lawyers must focus on marketing and intake, which they are not good at. This results in many law firms having outdated strategies.
Also, many have little or no systems, no human resource management, inefficient service, and minimal client relationship management.
Client-Centered Law Firm- Key Take-Aways
- Lawyers need to become more open to using technology
- You probably already use the cloud, even if you don’t know it (email, Youtube, and Facebook.)
- People don’t hire lawyers for their knowledge. Instead, they hire lawyers to help them sleep at night.
- Clients care about cost, but it’s not the only thing they consider.
- Clients want transparency around costs and the process if they hire your law firm.
- Lawyers are not special. They must focus on customer service. The days of the lawyer doing what they want is gone. Clients want to co-pilot.
- 40% of people looking for a lawyer have a hard time finding one. This is mostly due to bad websites and poor communication. Technology can help solve this problem.
It’s Important To Have Happy Clients
The accumulation of these challenges is that lawyers become stressed and clients dissatisfied. This affects the firm’s revenue which in turn leads to slow growth. However, even with all the problems and stress, established firms still produce large incomes for their partners.
Research by the University of Windsor in a 2013 report suggested that at least 40% of litigants in family cases are self-represented. This means that they don’t have a lawyer. This is similar to doing surgery on yourself because you can’t afford to go to the hospital.
The prevalence of self-represented litigants is unlikely to change under traditional law firms. The costs for hiring a lawyer often amount to tens of thousands of dollars which are unaffordable for many Canadians. Therefore, many people end up not getting much needed legal advice.
The Client-Centered Law Firm- Jack Newton
An increasing number of consumers are willing to expand their online purchasing behaviours. This includes high-value professional services such as purchasing legal services online. Lawyers should be looking to adopt more flexible ways of achieving a work/life balance. There is a unique opportunity to be a better law firm.
Law firms should use technology and automation to keep overhead costs low. Further, they can use cloud-based programs which is an affordable way to keep lawyers on track. It’s important to be clear on what’s non-negotiable (excellent customer service and affordable products).
However, you also need to also some flexibility (hours and style of working that our staff and lawyers work). Lawyers must have the ability to deliver fast, efficient, and client-friendly legal services.
Lawyers Recording Time On Paper
The book talks about how afraid many lawyers are of using new tech, like Clio. Some lawyers still record their hours on paper. That is tragic. What happens if you lose the paper??
Lawyers have a professional duty to be aware of the pros and cons of new technology. Many lawyers are far behind on their awareness. Some lawyers are just starting to talk about social media. That is something that became popular over a decade ago.
Jack Newton created Clio to try and make it easier for lawyers to make the jump into technology. Many managing partners have a hard time keeping things organized. Being organized is key to dealing with law society trust audits. It’s also important to be organized when you have to file discovery. That is something Clio Share can help with!
Delivering Legal Services Through A Website
Law firms can achieve this through their approach of hiring legal talent (legal assistants, paralegals, and lawyers.) Also, they need to focus on the delivery of legal services predominantly via its website. If law firms want to be truly innovative, they should focus on the following things:
- Providing a better quality of life for lawyers
- Take risks and encourage the entire legal industry to innovate more
- Make it easy for clients to hire a law firm. The Legal Trend Report shows how hard it currently is.
- Build a strong C-level team, mentors, and non-lawyer managers.
In conclusion, I highly recommend reading the book! If you are a law student, paralegal or lawyer you could learn more about where the legal industry is going.
Author: Alistair Vigier is the CEO of ClearWay Law