Best Practices to Ensure Your Law Firm is a Top Competitor in 2022

Actionstep

2nd March 2022

Lawyer-client communications play a critical role in today’s competitive legal environment. Leading lawyers do more than reach out on occasion—instead, they empower clients to thrive with instant access to the most up-to-date information.

As client communication options continue to evolve, prospective clients need to feel confident that your firm possesses modern digital capabilities and prioritizes cybersecurity.

Read on to discover seven best practices to unlock your firm’s potential for superior lawyer-client communication at every touchpoint.

How Can Your Firm Improve Client Communications in 2022?

Lawyers and clients communicate through a growing variety of channels. Over the past decade, the time spent on email, instant messaging, phone, and video calls rose 50% or more to consume at least 85% of most people’s workweeks. Then, the pandemic struck, which researchers say vaulted digital adoption rates five years forward in a matter of around eight weeks in 2020. Now, it seems we send IMs while we Zoom, as voice and video call times have doubled and IM traffic increased by 65%.

The two most digitally accelerated processes were remote work systems (81%) and collaboration and team communication (79%). With these capabilities rising across the globe, your clients now expect fast responses and near-instant status updates. Here are seven ways to excel during every interaction with clients in 2022.

1. Use Channels that Balance Lawyer and Client Communication Needs.

The needs of your business clients versus those of private individuals may differ in emotional sensitivities. But law firms need highly secure, traceable communication channels in every matter.
Email remains popular for its convenience and ubiquity. It may surprise you to learn how far modern email has come! You can now establish a single, online communication center for each matter that allows team members to see each other’s messages. The system automatically logs emails and attachments to the matter file. As a result, everyone works with the most up-to-date information, and the entire team can deliver accurate answers quickly.

Other options include text and instant messaging apps for quick answers and minor conversations. If your practice management system doesn’t automatically log these discussions to a central matter file, and a discussion veers into more significant concerns, consider asking lawyers to send a summarized email to the file or to the client to log the details.
Phone, video, or in-person meetings remain best for significant or troubling developments. Some 81% of legal professionals regularly use Zoom. Many clients appreciate the ease of online scheduling, and 6 out of 10 executives say video communications help them develop a more agile organization that can pivot quickly.

2. Three Actions to Avoid on Social Media.

Lawyers should keep their private and professional social media accounts separate. They should apply the same ethical considerations to social media as they would to an in-person industry conference. Here are three guidelines for lawyers to adhere to:

• Never offer legal advice on social media.
• Don’t use language that could create expectations of a lawyer/client relationship.
• Never send legal documents over social media.

3. Set and Adhere to Expectations for Availability.

Manage client expectations early. Clearly explain 1) what developments will prompt a call from you and 2) what events in your clients’ lives should trigger a call to you. List the approved communication channels and set a reasonable response time to messages.
Remember, superior client service requires a team effort. Let clients know of assistants, paralegals, or associates they may speak with if you’re unavailable. Anxious clients frequently feel reassured just voicing their concerns to a human.

Legal practice management software makes team collaboration easier than ever. You can centralize all communications, related documents, calendars, notes, and invoices in one online location to fully support a unified approach to client service, especially among remote teams.

4. Automate Client Communications for Basic Transactions.

Forward-looking firms are automating client communications for basic client intake and matter management transactions. For example, you can schedule automated emails that:
• Welcome clients to the firm.
• Include a video explaining how to use client portals.
• Describe documentation that clients need to provide.
• Show how to fill out standard paperwork such as estate forms.
• Request feedback at the end of an engagement.

Don’t worry about seeming impersonal—you can now easily personalize automated emails so effectively that clients won’t notice. The convenience saves hours, and clients receive consistent levels of service from every member of your team.

5. Ensure Compliant Client Communications with Automation.

Bring calm to the chaos and compliance to your communications. Integrated and automated email functionalities enable you to automate workflows to ensure communications comply with firm policies, client preferences, and ethical and regulatory guidelines.
This involves automating steps to share information, assign tasks, and track completion. Schedule a specific event to trigger an email and create email templates that pull live matter data. For example, a settlement offer can prompt 1) an automatic email notifying the client and 2) an alert to the lawyer to call the client to discuss. Another option is to automate weekly or monthly client status updates.
Standardized templates and workflows ensure remote associates follow protocols to deliver consistently high-quality services across your firm. And systems automatically create digital audit trails that demonstrate compliance whenever needed.

6. Client Portals Offer Instant Access & Collaboration.

You don’t want your firm to hold clients back from capturing fast-moving opportunities. That’s why many firms now offer client portals (aka, data rooms) that give clients instant access to a matter’s emails, documents, invoices, calendars, and other communications. Portals also allow lawyers to chat and work with clients in real-time, ensuring lawyers don’t need to transfer client work to yet another app to collaborate effectively.

Clients feel a strong sense of control with portal access. Check out the whitepaper Improving Client Experience Through Technology to learn more about how you can empower clients through more effective communications without micromanaging every detail.

7. Prioritize Cybersecurity.

The right technology partner can help your law firm meet cybersecurity obligations to ensure communications are fully protected. Cloud technologies typically provide superior protection with multi-factor authentication and automatic backups that protect clients’ sensitive communications from ransomware and cyber-attacks. Look for platforms that offer customized permissions that allow you to control who can read, create, upload, or delete documents.
Communicating through client portals reduces the number of emails your firm sends, helping to avoid email spoofing and phishing attacks. Portals also allow end-to-end encrypted communication and document exchange to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of, or access to, sensitive client information.
Your Best Lawyer-Client Communication Practices

To win business in the future, firms must take advantage of technological advances today. Break down information silos. Use templates and automate tasks to speed consistent and reliable client service. Give clients the secure, instant access and real-time collaborative capabilities they need to succeed in a warp-speed business environment.

Are you ready to set a higher standard and bring more effective lawyer-client communication practices to your firm? Schedule your free, one-on-one Actionstep demo now to get started.

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