5 Ways Law Firms Can Become More Client-Centric

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Corporate decision makers today are not only looking at cost or outcomes to drive their choice of law firm, but now also take into consideration the experience of arriving at those outcomes. 

Business-savvy organisations, including top law firms, are turning to the concept of customer- or client-centricity to ensure their offerings and setup are optimised for the clients that they serve. 

Gartner defines customer centricity as “the ability of people in an organisation to understand customers’ situations, perceptions, and expectations.” Most digitally native companies understand that client experience and perception are intrinsically linked to the success of a business, and set up their companies with this mentality.

However, the legal industry has typically prioritised outcomes over client experience. As noted legal industry commentator Mark Cohen puts it

The legal function has long operated by its own rules, standards, homogeneity, cultural norms, economic models, language, speed, and rewards. Law has historically measured success by internal metrics — profit per partner and lawyer-proclaimed ‘exceptional legal work.’ In the digital age, the key metrics are net-promoter-score and an exceptional customer experience.

The good news is law firms can take steps to adopt a more client-centric mindset and benefit much in the same way as digitally native companies, and many forward-thinking firms are already reaping the rewards of this approach.

To achieve client-centricity, firms need to look at the delivery of legal services from the perspective of their clients and determine which processes, skill sets, tools, and technology would help them to achieve the best outcomes and experience for them. 

This shift in thinking enables your team to offer legal advice as well as business advice, and positions your firm as a high-value ally, not just someone to call when a problem arises. Below we outline some of the steps you can take to become more client-centric:

1. View transparency as a right, not a privilege 

Can you imagine ordering something online and not being provided with any information on the progress of your order or estimated shipping dates? Probably not. Transparency is now a common consumer expectation, so it’s no surprise that this extends to legal matters. 

Providing your clients with access to the tools that you are using yourself, with their own custom permissions, and enabling them to view and keep track of their case and estimated completion times for reviews not only demonstrates your commitment to transparency, but is also a great way of fostering trust. 

If clients can see what’s happening with their own matter, monitor progress, and access statistics at a glance, they instantly feel more integrated with the case team (as opposed to everything happening in a black box) and have more confidence in your firm. 

Going a step further, having the functionality to communicate within the review platform – and do so securely – enables you to open up a dialogue with the client where you can ask them questions about what acronyms and phrases mean, and they can actively engage with the process. You can shortcut a lot of the back and forth this way, and it also helps to demonstrate how thorough your team is in ensuring client data is fully understood. It’s key to remember that it’s their case, so they have a right to see what’s happening. 

2. Eliminate tedious processes – and ensure the remaining ones are robust 

Your client’s time is valuable, so make it clear you understand that by cutting out unnecessary processes wherever possible and ensuring the remaining processes in place are built with efficiency in mind. 

First, take a moment to examine many of the regular processes currently in place within the firm and analyse whether they are actively helping your clients. It’s also worth documenting this analysis to demonstrate your thoughtfulness to the client when they’re looking to engage with you. Streamline and update processes where necessary to create efficiency without compromising on accuracy or quality.

Then, take a look at how you can apply technology to a standard process, like edisclosure. Using AI-powered edisclosure tools that automate the majority of low-value tasks means that you can eliminate some of the more tedious elements of the traditional review process and deliver more efficient results for clients. Some firms are using AI in review workflows to classify data and to find relevant documents more quickly, leading them to complete a review in a fraction of the time it takes with a linear review process.

Client-centricity should be fundamental to your offering across the board, not just as it relates to technology. In the case of the global law firm, Kennedys, the DISCO Professional Services team worked closely with the firm to help analyse their processes and develop AI workflows that ultimately allowed the firm to locate the key evidence and implement AI-prioritised review. The Kennedys team was then able to determine that, of the 123,000 documents requiring review, only about 21% were likely to be relevant. This drastic reduction in volume enabled Kennedys to significantly streamline the review process and meet its tight production deadline on time and with confidence.

3. Be in a position to offer billing options that provide a guaranteed cost 

The billable hour has been a subject of contention for many years and, unsurprisingly, this is still something clients continue to push back on in favour of other pricing structures like flat matter pricing, project-level pricing, or blended rates.  

While firms recognise the desire for change, finding the right solution that helps clients without harming the business has been challenging. Unlike building a house, where you can build in contingency fees for the rising cost of materials, a lot of what happens in litigation can’t be controlled because there are other parties involved. Consequently, it’s more difficult to build in a “buffer.” 

By pricing matters and cases on a project level, where your firm can say how much a particular project or task will cost, you’re showing clients that you’re keeping their needs in mind by meeting them halfway, without compromising your business and providing them with the certainty they need when it comes to investment. For example, in some circumstances DISCO Review offers an on-time, on-budget guarantee —  an assurance you can pass on to your clients. 

If you’re using AI to support the review process, you can also look back at the performance of previous similar cases to help inform a more accurate quote for your clients. Some of our clients do this by looking back at how many hours a previous review stage took, using the experience of past cases to remain competitive while retaining efficiency. For example, the number of documents you’re able to eliminate from the process through the use of the technology in one review stage or case can help to inform a similar new case in future, leading to a virtuous cycle of gradual refinement of the process.

4. Ensure your entire ecosystem is client-centric 

Making sure your partner organisations are committed to your client-centric approach can reduce the hurdles you have to jump to reach your clients’ objectives. For example, if your client has extremely specific needs regarding security credentials, ensuring that your suppliers and partner organisations meet their requirements will demonstrate a client-centric approach.

If your clients are sensitive to business interruptions, make sure that your forensic collection partners or data collections tools and processes are capable of obtaining the data needed to represent the client while minimising the disruption to their employees.

By ensuring that even third-party organisations involved in any given case mirror your approach, you can not only improve the chances of a better end-result for the client but also further foster their trust that client-centricity is fully “baked-in” to your firm.

5. Develop a client playbook 

When it comes to clients that you have (or want to have) a longstanding relationship with, developing a playbook that outlines how to best handle their disclosure is a great way of demonstrating how you’re invested in making their matters run smoothly and efficiently. This playbook could include information such as where relevant data is stored, how it’s retained, and the process for collecting documents for the disclosure process. 

It’s often the case that when you’re working with the same client on multiple matters, the data is likely to be similar, even in different cases. 

Strategic processes that capitalise on this — such as using cross-matter AI — can help you cut down the time to evidence by leveraging information from prior cases to make recommendations for your current review.

This means that your team can quickly jump on cases based on the learnings from previous matters, and not have to start from scratch every time a new one comes in. It also shows your clients your commitment to putting them first, effectively undercutting your own billable time to help clients obtain the results they need faster.  

By taking the steps outlined above and embracing a client-centric approach, law firms can ensure that they fully optimise their end-to-end offering and deliver both solid results and a positive client experience quickly and efficiently. As a result, they can reinforce their position as a high-value resource to current and prospective customers alike.

Ready to show your clients your commitment to their goals? Talk to DISCO.

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Emily Rose