Getting clients on board with technology and digital processes is just as important as internal training. Here's how to get started in six key steps.
Many of your legal clients expect your firm to be using the latest digital processes — virtual depositions, scheduling apps and electronic documents. They may even consider bringing their business to a different firm if they have to spend hours managing hard copies of documents or traveling to meetings. Many legal practitioners are beginning to realize that digital tools and processes are now table-stakes for competitive, client-centric law firms because of the ultimate benefits for them and their clients.
Firms are also concerned about clients who are resistant to using these technologies, and they are right to be. However, these concerns are often overcome by simply taking the time to walk clients through the processes and address the issues they raise. Law firms can start the conversation about digital tools by explaining that digital legal interactions carry the same legal weight as traditional methods — such as being under oath, carrying binding decisions and being bound by courtroom rules in a virtual setting. Additionally, legal documents submitted digitally must be completed accurately, and they must follow the same procedures as paper documents to correct mistakes.
Chris DiBella, attorney and partner at DiBella Law Offices, says he is seeing first-hand how clients are enjoying using technology, even those who were initially apprehensive. His firm uses digital processes for almost all interactions, including offering a digital case evaluator on their website to help potential clients know if they have a case, and to allow clients to schedule appointments with their attorney. Also, the firm recently created an app that helps clients document and track information regarding their case – including expenses, videos and notes – that can be directly transmitted to their attorney.
“Sometimes we find that people are simply not familiar with a technology or are concerned that it will be too difficult to use,” says DiBella. “We make sure they understand that our staff is available to walk them through the process. Nine times out of 10, once they use the technology, they never want to stray from it.”
Here are six key steps to encouraging your legal clients to use digital tools:
- Test out the technology yourself. DiBella always makes sure he’s familiar with technology before introducing it to a client. That way, he can assure them that it’s easy to use and even pass on tips that he’s learned. If you’ve never used a tool from the client's perspective, it’s hard to answer questions and explain how they can harness its benefits. Using the processes from the law firm perspective is helpful, but it doesn’t give a full sense of what the client experiences. Consider creating a client account of all tools so all attorneys and staff can try them to complete tasks that clients will have to perform. This may include going through the process of signing and notarizing a document digitally.
- Have a practice run, especially for virtual depositions and proceedings. Attorney Justin Wolfe, who owns the Atlanta-based law firm Wolfe Law Group, LLC, helps his clients gain confidence in using new technologies by scheduling a preparation session before the actual event. He conducts the preparation session in the same way that the deposition or proceeding would take place. Through this process, the client becomes comfortable with the technology and also realizes that Wolfe will be present with them the whole time. During your own practice run, have the client use the technology just as they would during the actual event and keep as many variables the same as possible, such as location and devices.
- Start with a single digital process. Clients may feel overwhelmed if they’re asked to use several new digital processes at the same time. Legal firms often find that starting with a process that is less intimidating – or one that the client may already have some experience with, such as video calls, scheduling appointments or signing digital documents – is a great first step. You can then build on their positive experience and add more complex or unfamiliar processes.
- Focus on the convenience to the client. For example, when explaining to clients how to use the Notarize platform, DiBella focuses on how much time the tool saves. Because most of his clients live in the Atlanta Metro Area, which experiences high levels of traffic, he talks about how much time and money they can save by using an online notarization platform. Law firms can use the same approach when talking about video conferencing tools to encourage clients to use those tools instead of attending in-person meetings, when appropriate. In addition, many clients respond positively to learning about how digital processes help the environment, such as reducing waste and carbon footprints.
- Provide technical support. Clients may have questions when using digital tools, but may not be sure who to ask. Create a "Frequently Asked Questions" document as a well as a quick guide for using a tool, depending on complexity. You can give clients a phone number or email to use to get assistance if they experience issues with a tool or have questions. Rather than having clients call the firm’s general phone number, a dedicated support person for specific tools or a single person to contact for all tech issues can get them answers more quickly. You should also regularly talk to your tech support person or team to learn about common questions and update your documents to make your clients’ experience better.
- Proactively address security concerns. Juan Dominguez, CEO of The Dominguez Firm in Los Angeles, says the most common questions he gets from clients about digital processes are about security, especially about the safety of their data in the cloud amid recent cybersecurity concerns. He recommends reassuring clients by explaining the measures your firm takes to secure their data, as well as talking about cybersecurity training provided to your legal staff. Consider also sharing specific security features of the products your firm uses to keep data safe during digital processes, such as encryption or multi-factor authentication.
Digitization is the future for how work gets done at legal firms. By starting to work with clients to help encourage the adoption of digital tools, firms set the stage for adding more convenient digital processes in the future.