3 important topics not discussed at conferences

The consumer law conference season has just ended, providing great insight on the state of the market and possibilities in 2022.  There are some important topics that aren’t making the headlines though, that nonetheless will help determine the winners from the also-rans in the sector in 2022.

What was talked about: Applications of Artificial Intelligence in consumer law

What wasn’t talked about: Capturing the right data in the right way

From process mining to document redaction there is an AI product to suit every practice and budget and legal services firms would be forgiven for thinking this should be the major component of their tech strategy.  Back in the office however, bigger improvements in profitability and customer service could be available by taking action on the answers to basic questions that the data in many legal services firms struggles to answer.  For example:

  • What time and cost do we incur recovering and dealing with customer complaints?
  • Why do they occur and what would we need to do to stop them happening?
  • Why do we not convert all our new customer enquiries and what needs to be done to increase conversion rates?
  • What is the change that would make the biggest difference in customer satisfaction?

These topics aren’t talked about at conference because they aren’t addressed by an out-the-box software package.  Instead, the firms who pull ahead are those who are clear on the areas of focus that will have the biggest impact on their success, gather the right data to understand their performance and structure that data in a way that makes it easy to turn it into actionable insight. 

What was talked about: The disruption from regulation and price transparency

What wasn’t talked about: Evolving customer expectations and staff roles

Improving price transparency will be welcomed by consumers though is unlikely to disrupt the market.  Each year the Legal Services Consumer Panel publishes their survey on How consumers are choosing legal services which continues to show that while price is a consideration when purchasing legal services it is the primary consideration only 23% of the time and that a firm’s reputation as conveyed by professionals and the buyers network remains the key consideration for purchase outside of Residential Conveyancing and Wills.

Less obvious than changes in regulation is the shift in expectations from consumers who expect to be able to interact with their legal services providers across different communication channels and outside of standard working hours.  The Law Firm Marketing Club recently published What do Law Firm Clients Want, Need and Expect? 2021 survey report which highlights this change.  This needs a more profound response that just offering a customer portal, it is about recognising the variety of ways that customers wish to interact with you and that one size doesn’t fit all.  From online discovery, signatures, payments and chatbots it is also about identifying the elements of the case that can be de-coupled from standard office hours to allow customers to interact at a time of their choosing.

We also note the rising number of Technology and Operations roles being created in the firms that understand the need to modernise their offer and match customer expectations.  We don’t yet see a conversation about how these functions are given an equal say in the business, which will be critical for those firms wishing to compete on customer service and price as well as delivering great legal practice. 

What was talked about: Legal tech

What wasn’t talked about: The lack of results from its use

Most discussions on legal tech we’ve heard this year review what you could do with tech rather than what tech should be doing for you.  Being wowed by the latest technology leads firms to deploy tech piecemeal which translates into spending often without significant tangible results.  We think a more useful debate might be had about how tech can help to deliver the key components of your business strategy, how to demonstrate its benefits and how to prevent difficult or unsuccessful implementation.