Leena Iyar, chief brand officer at OneStop platform Moxtra, discusses how small legal firms are still struggling to adjust to the barriers of remote work environments and why the adoption of digital tools creates a more positive client experience.
For law firms, what are the new challenges due to the pandemic?
Remote work environments have become the new “norm,” and with that, many new challenges have risen due to the pandemic for small and large law firms alike. For one, COVID-19 upended business as usual and magnified the new challenge of a rapid transition to digital business operations. Most law firms were grappling with incorporating digital communications with their high touch clients even before the pandemic. In such a high touch industry, expectations for digital engagements were rising even before the pandemic. Remote work exposed the increasing need for an entirely digital office with secure and streamlined options for communication, like video chat, direct messaging and secure file sharing between clients and legal professionals in one controlled environment. Naturally, resilient businesses are the ones that are adjusting to the extinction of the standard business hours model and offering a way for clients to reach in when it’s convenient for them, and for their legal teams to have digital tools that allow for that and create a strong, supportive customer experience. However, many law firms are still stuck at the beginning of their digital transformation journeys without a plan in place to prepare their businesses for the next shift in digital needs.
What are common barriers legal professionals face as it relates to digital adoption?
The legal sector deals in high stakes interactions and has continued to rely on face-to-face interaction to provide clients with the level of personalized service they expect from the field. Legal professionals fell behind many industries when it came to the shift to digital, fearing not only the loss of personalization their clientele count on them to provide, but also the fear surrounding security issues. Due to the sensitive nature of legal engagements, it is critical that firms invest in a digital tool that values top-of-the-line security features in order to provide a sense of ease for clients and professionals. There is also the fear of lost productivity when trying to integrate digital tools into legal practices, though many digital solutions today can be leveraged with minimal to no loss of productivity and proper training of employees leading up to a launch. The pressure to provide high touch support to clientele under resource-constrained remote operations has been a challenge for many law firms. However, digital solutions complement the expectations clients have for legal professionals’ services by providing a means to maintain continuous interaction across space and time in a familiar and on-demand fashion. The challenges of remote operations have provided a silver lining for legal professionals who must now shift their focus toward the long-term evolution of changing client expectations and behavior.
What would you say to legal professionals that are hesitant to digitally transform their business?
Strong relationships with clients are crucial to a successful law firm, and nowadays, digital tools are an essential ingredient to that success. Digital tools have emerged as an extension of the in-person experiences that are not always possible in the current environment, but the on-demand value they provide clients will remain in the post-COVID work landscape. Along with this, one beneficial aspect of a digital office is the ease of taking on more accounts and clients at a time, allowing law firms to increase revenue due to the digital efficiency created. Digital solutions will only become more prevalent as consumers continue to prioritize solutions that enable them to engage anytime, anywhere. Without a digital means of translating these benefits, legal professionals will lose their edge.
How do you see the future of legal professionals changing as remote work becomes more common?
The legal industry is steadily adapting to provide more digital and engaging experiences for clients, which should continue on an upward trend for professionals as remote work becomes a more permanent work solution long term. Even those who do return to the office will see different internal and external communication styles than before the pandemic. The expectation for engaging digital experiences was born out of necessity and isn’t going anywhere. Post-pandemic, in order to maintain continuous conversations around pressing legal proceedings, it will become increasingly crucial for legal professionals to engage clients in their own app in a secure, dedicated channel. As industries shift towards heavier digital practices, increased flexibility will also result. That flexibility is for both the client and legal professional, as they will experience a greater quality of life when more options available allow them to check-in and work from anywhere, at any time.
What are the new business opportunities small firms can leverage moving forward?
While all generations are receptive to engaging with legal firms digitally, the three youngest generations — Gen Z, millennials and Gen Xers — are particularly keen on engaging with legal organizations exclusively digitally even after the pandemic has subsided. With that, a much wider demographic range is available to leverage with just the lift of a finger. As client behavior changes, so should your digital business strategy. Small firms that fail to adapt will continue to see the gap widen between them and their peers. It is crucial to stay on top of current business trends to tackle opportunities that come into play.
What are the keys to success when creating a satisfactory digital experience for legal professionals and their clientele?
According to our 2020 Small Business Digital Resilience Report, when asked how important digital tools were for improving customer engagement during the pandemic, 65% of legal personnel surveyed said “extremely important.” However, a digital experience needs to mirror the firm practice virtually in order to properly manage the personal, high touch, collaborative relationship and paperwork heavy workflow in order to have a cohesive strategy.