Technology has altered the very nature of the client-professional relationship. From online banking to keeping track of medical records, our interactions with professional service providers are becoming few and far between. But in a relationship-driven industry, lawyers have been slow to change, and consumers are taking notice.

At the “Empower Your Client Through Technology” session at ABA TECHSHOW 2016, Jeffrey Krause, partner with Solfecta, LLC, and R. Amani Smathers, associate Legal Solutions Architect with Seyfarth Lean Consulting, sought to enlighten practitioners on confronting the challenges of changing client relationships.

In today’s app-centric, mobile world, consumers crave convenience, transparency and engagement.

“We do more and more things on our own because we have the convenience of doing things on our phones,” Krause noted. “[Consumers] don’t see services as location dependent.”

As Smathers described, clients have traditionally felt that they are at the mercy of the attorney, from in-person meetings, document sharing, payments and more. And unfortunately, some lawyers have not kept pace. Clients often don’t go to a lawyer because they didn’t want to lose control over their situation, she added. Both panelists noted that this has given rise to an ever-growing number of online legal tools as more consumers feel they can mange much of this work by themselves.

Where lawyers have the edge, obviously, is their expertise. The challenge then becomes bridging the gap with the tools and technologically-driven solutions that consumers are now accustomed to.

And also, the trick is to go to appeal to a younger generation. Krause noted that the goal is to be relevant to a generation that believes they can “do it themselves.”

Client portals where clients can view case information, upload documents or pay their bill, are often a good place to start. But the challenge is to address the issue of client intake – a process, FindLaw has noted in a recent white paper and podcast, that lawyers need to improve upon. As Krause added, any instructions in a lawyer’s current intake process that include the word “fax” is a huge red flag.

While they noted that none of these issues are new, the time and technology means that it’s time for lawyers to embrace the change.

If not, lawyers could go the way of the travel agent.


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