In the commercial world, relationships exist that determine whether a business reaches lofty heights or plunges into dark troughs. One immediately thinks of supplier and buyer, ie the Board and the Executive Leadership Team or the customer and the Chief of Marketing. Chances are you’ve probably overlooked the relationship of in-house counsel and the external legal service providers.
Commercial law firms are at the mercy of large corporations due to the fact they make up a significant proportion of a firm’s annual income. No business relationship is a sure thing, we see that with in-house teams turning over their legal panel. It’s largely recognized that businesses are choosing to grow their legal departments, retain more high-value work and outsource high-frequency, low-value tasks to private practice punters. This change has birthed a new dynamic of desperation where the competitive edge to win commercial legal work is becoming sharper.
Things need not be too dire, however. Tim Boyne, Co-Founder at LawVu, views the relationship between firms and corporations to be of crucial importance and says technology is a means to foster a healthy one. He terms it, “fortifying relationships with your best customers that generate the vast majority of your revenue.”
Law firms are not strangers to legal technology, they embraced practice management software years ago which has seen them move a step ahead of their in-house friends. What they have not harnessed with the same vigor, however, is client portals - tech that enables a client to see in real-time the status of a matter and billing information. In essence, client portals offer reassurance. They provide the client with knowledge and transparency over their matter which results in them having greater trust in the firm’s work.
Transparency and communication are the foundations of any fruitful relationship, and with relationships between corporations and legal firms becoming less plentiful it seems sensible to take every measure possible to ensure those interactions create the best business outcomes for both parties.
What we’re really discussing is tech-enabled communication, in this instance between a client and a firm. By automating manual processes, a lawyer gets more time back in their day and the client gets more accurate timely updates and often more data. For instance, in a private practice environment, a lawyer bills by the hour or six-minute increment, which means the task of writing an update email to a client (the organization) is a costly procedure and something they may do only once a week. Tech solves this by automating these updates: every time a matter is progressed the client portal sends them a notification. This keeps the client happy by keeping them in the loop and gives the lawyer their valuable time back.
Boyne calls it “using technology to speed up feedback loops as opposed to a lawyer having to manually do so.”