How legal services are delivered is changing. The adoption of technology—accelerated by the pandemic—affects how clients prefer to conduct business, and law firms need to keep pace. The legal market is a competitive one driven by user demand. Meeting and even anticipating those demands is essential to the success of your business. Conversely, failing to meet those demands could spell trouble for your practice.
This doesn’t mean you should abandon traditional means of conducting business but rather provide a range of options. For example, 67% of respondents in a recent survey say they’d prefer a lawyer with options for both in-person and remote sessions. In fact, it’s looking that a hybrid model will quickly become the norm. The way in which clients prefer to conduct business changes based on where they are in their client journey. Let’s break it down further.
When making initial contact, prospective clients still prefer traditional means of communication, with an even amount preferring in-person or telephone (71%). Digital means of communication fall behind, with email at 59% and text messaging at 57%.
When it comes time for the first consultation, however, things are starting to shift. In-person and telephone communication still remain the top options (76% and 70% respectively), but video conferencing is not far behind (58%). This preference was much lower a mere three years ago. If this trend continues, video conferencing could quickly overtake traditional means of communication during consultations in the coming years. If your law practice isn’t set up for video conferencing, now is the time to get on it. Video provides the same quick, back and forth conversational-style communication that in-person meetings do but with the added benefit of being conducted anywhere on the planet. This kind of flexibility that clients are looking for—both during consultations and during the legal process.
While in the process of a legal case, client communication preferences remain roughly the same as during their first consultation. However, clients prefer updates via phone, in-person meetings, or emails—with video conferencing falling to fourth place. This makes sense, given that updates don’t typically require a real-time response.
When an important decision has to be made, however, things change. Video conferencing climbs back to the third spot, with 61% saying they’d prefer it—higher than a first consultation. This is yet another indicator that video conferencing will be a prevalent option in the coming years.
Sharing documents and making payments are, of course, part and parcel of the legal process. While traditional means of communication remain popular, online options are quickly catching up. 63% of clients would prefer to sign a document over email. At the same time, the most popular choice for payments is online (66%)—with mobile apps even being preferred over in-person payments.
All of this adds up to convenience being a major factor for clients. Being prepared to process online payments, send documents to be signed digitally, and even develop mobile solutions should be on any law practice’s radar—if not already in practice.
The future of communicating with clients won’t strictly live online—there will always be a need to meet and consult in person. However, law firms must embrace the shift to a hybrid model. As stated previously, clients dictate the market, not the other way around. If you fail to keep up, clients will find someone who does.
The most important takeaway from all this data is that law firms need to offer the client what they want—if they want to meet in person, great. However, if they’d prefer to have a video conference, you better be prepared. While it may sound simple enough, online conferencing can come with a host of issues. It’s in your best interest to test out different video conferencing software to see what suits you best. The last thing you want is to be fumbling with your microphone or camera while a client waits. You can’t simply offer different options for communication—you must be proficient with them.
And if your law practice is set up for video conferencing, online payments, web portals, or anything else that may make a client’s life easier, advertise it. Showcasing your flexibility and digital acumen will draw in prospective clients looking for just that. It shows you care about your clients’ needs and are at the forefront of using technology to make working with you easier.