3 Key Client Experience Insights from the Law Society Gazette-Actionstep Roundtable 

From remote work to market freezes to upheavals in demand, COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the legal landscape. What does client experience look like in this post-pandemic world? We’ve gathered three key takeaways from the latest Law Society Gazette Roundtable, where 10 UK legal experts discussed how they’re addressing client management heading into 2022. 

For even more insight, you can also download the full roundtable report by Eduardo Reyes here

1. Clear Client Communication

One theme that emerged from the discussion is the importance of direct and straightforward communication when it comes to building trust with clients. Laura Devine, Managing Partner of Laura Devine Immigration, stressed that exceptional service entails being very clear when relaying information—whether the news is good or bad. Jonathan Lea of Jonathan Lea Network agrees, explaining that his firm establishes open communication with clients starting with the initial conversation. “Always try and get to the nub of the issue as quickly as possible and make sure you show that you understand both their business and what their actual concerns are, and always display a good tone as well – positive, upbeat, that you can resolve their issues,” he adds.

Simeon Spencer, Senior Partner of Spencer West, also emphasizes client trust with his trainees, saying, “…no matter the client, there are two things that have a reciprocal relationship. One is trust, to be instilled in one’s client all the time, and the other is integrity, to be maintained by the lawyer at all times.”

2. Flexible Legal Technology

Paul Linsell, Head of Boyes Turner’s Family Team, notes that the biggest shift since the pandemic is in the way law firms and clients utilize technology. “The clients now expect a greater variety of communication methods. So, I think they now have different ways of communicating that are open to them, whether it’s instant messaging services, whether it’s video conferencing, and so on. I think they now expect that the solicitor will adopt their chosen method rather than perhaps the other way around.”

Sue Murphy, Head of Business Development and Digital Marketing at Hampshire Firm Paris Smith, has noticed that clients expect processes and communication to happen more quickly than in the past. Her firm responded by adding a live-chat function to its website. 

Actionstep’s Regional UK Director Oliver Tromp has noticed this trend as well. “We’ve seen that is a priority among clients, and therefore it’s a priority among firms, that they need technology that allows them to be quick and that allows them to respond quickly to enquiries; that allows them to send documents quickly, get documents signed quickly,” he says. “Automation obviously can help with that. [But] how do you maintain consistency among the entire firm? When people are working remotely, how do you make sure that junior associates are providing that same quality service? How do you ensure that the entire team is happy and then are able to provide good service?”

Flexible technology also facilitates a more consistent end-to-end experience for clients. Tromp notes, “Technology shouldn’t make your life more complicated; it should make your life more streamlined, or more simple, and that’s what we’ve seen among a lot of our clients. They’ve been able to leverage their practice management system by building in some workflows, or some automation, or some kind of intuitive elements. They’ve been able to speed things up, they’ve been able to keep people happy, because they’re spending less time on administrative tasks. And then they’ve been able to maintain that consistency firm-wide."

3. A More Collaborative Culture

For many firms, the pandemic has also resulted in more collaboration across teams, which often means clients are interacting with a wider variety of contacts. According to Chris Maulkin, from Sussex- and London-based Family Law Partners: “Quite a lot of the ownership of a client experience actually comes down to the culture in the organization. I suppose what I mean by that is a shift away from lawyers who typically act in silos, and view themselves as working in a vacuum, to actually viewing yourself as being a member of a team.”

“One of the things that my support staff, my secretaries, have said, is that they’ve really enjoyed having more client contact, because at the beginning, they are actually meeting the client online, opening files, doing anti-money laundering checks,” Devine adds. “They would never have done that in the office. I also think junior lawyers have much more client contact, they’re much more likely to have a meeting with the client on Zoom. With their corporate clients, some of our lawyers have said they felt much more part of the HR teams, and they’re much more likely to be invited to join meetings.”

Richard Forrest, Legal Director at North-West Firm Hayes Connor Solicitors, says: “There is a collective responsibility throughout the firm to ensure that there’s ownership of that client experience, from start to finish. It’s important that there’s a shared belief and principle collective among the firm, to ensure that that experience is uniform throughout, and everyone’s singing from the same hymn sheet. I think it is important as a collective, as a firm, to ensure that that experience starts at the very outset and continues throughout.”

“Collaboration is the absolute lifeblood of a modern law firm,” Spencer observes. “It is partly about the culture, and it’s about people acting in such a way as to be supportive, to look at their fellow person, their colleague, and think, ‘How can I give to the collective, and not just take from it?’"

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