by James Boocock, General Manager - Legal Solutions and Small Law, Thomson ReutersFor professions that have been reluctant to stray from convention, the era of smart technology has been a game changer. Commoditisation of services and the availability of smart software to enable it has meant law firms have become businesses in the truest sense of the word and must compete for their market share. So what do these shifts mean for practice managers, and how can they evolve their firm to ensure it thrives in this new era?
As the age of smart technology has fallen squarely upon us, commoditisation of services across all industries has created certain expectations as to how services are priced, packaged and delivered. Consumers are becoming increasingly accustomed to acquiring inexpensive, fixed-price, pre-packaged, DIY or instant products and services online, and they are transferring these same expectations to legal services.
To ensure they develop a successful business strategy for growth in coming years, practice managers need to understand how smart technology is shaping prevailing consumer demands, and how they can use technology to meet those demands.
Here are four tips to survive in the smart tech age:
1. CommoditiseClients want legal services that match what they're receiving from other industries – instantaneous, fixed-fee, pre-packaged services with little to no commitment.
Rolling legal services into a click-and-purchase bundle is definitely a challenge, but it's not impossible, and innovative firms are finding ways to satisfy this demand. Practice managers should keep their minds open to novel business models that are enabled by smart technology, and find ways to integrate them into their firm's offerings.
Could you deliver some of your offerings as ‘virtual services’ or even create a DIY legal product?
2. Reduce costs to offer lower pricesThe consumer demand for faster, cheaper legal services can only be met with increased efficiency at the firm level, which requires quality practice management and workflow technology. The level of efficiency achieved by integrated practice management software solutions is simply unattainable for firms that are still working off paper-based processes.
Technological intervention can also be increased to reduce the fee earner spend on routine legal tasks. Could you deconstruct each legal service and approach it with a tiered taskforce, allocating specific tasks to technology and non-legal staff?
3. Smarten up your marketingPosition your firm where clients expect to find you. For smart technology users, this means online. A large percentage of consumers now prefer to research products and services online before purchasing and will go straight to a company's website or Facebook page.
A brilliant website is the heart and soul of any smart tech marketing campaign. It should be interactive, informative, up to date and allow your clients to learn as much about your products and services as possible before starting a conversation.
Could you increase your online exposure through social media, RSS feeds and blog posts?
4. Be an innovatorThe best way to stay at the front of the smart tech crowd is to be one of the innovators. Law firms are in the best position to conceptualise new practical legal technologies. Consider enlisting the help of a pro to develop a firm-specific app or software that sets your practice apart.
Could your firm develop an app to make it easier for clients to log into portals to view their legal matters and check their progress?
As technology advances, no doubt the role of lawyers will change and traditional methods of business will become obsolete. Practice managers who can continue to integrate smart technologies into their firms will be able to offer clients better service, affordable prices and the latest in legal innovation.