Monday, July 23, 2012

Consumerism: A Demon for old-fashioned Law Firms

“It has become expensive to practice law as cost of operating a law practice is becoming prohibitive.” “People or consumers have to learn that lawyers are not in law for the fun of it but are in it to make money.” “Clients can have all of the access for which they are willing to pay.”

The above are some examples of the comments which have been made by lawyers over the internet. Not only on the internet but you will find similar responses whenever lawyers are being asked about consumerism which is becoming incipient, slowly but gradually in legal profession as well.

The demon called consumerism has already started tormenting lawyers worldwide as it is quietly squeezing their profits and leaving them with no other option but to look for innovative ways in order to survive. The profession which was once termed as golden goose is experiencing a backward inertia which is refusing to accept this brutal reality. The rise in their expenses or an alteration in the value of money has only made things worse for them. It was actually the economic pressures which led to the industrial revolution in manufacturing industry and this time it is bound to take the legal profession by storm.

But as they say “With Challenge Comes Opportunity” and therefore the imprints of the transformation can already been seen as some of the law firms have realized it beforehand. They have by now started analyzing various models that can lead to the increase in the efficiency and productivity of their firm.

Though the process of transformation is still in progress, there are some solutions that are available for the legal fraternity at present. Outsourcing is one of them, which is not new to law firms as well. Whilst it is quite common for law firms to outsource their IT, accounts, administration departments to increase their efficiency, they are still to come to terms with legal outsourcing which is just an extension and nothing else. It’s just the division of the work carried out by the lawyers and paralegals in the legal department, analyzing the monotonous and repetitive work and then allocating it to the right vendor in order to increase the efficiency and the productivity of the firm.

And this is exactly why I think that outsourcing could be a viable option if implemented properly. I’m saying this not because of the hoopla which usually surrounds outsourcing, not because of some extraordinary facts that support this industry but just because of the principle it is based upon.  Apparently, it is based on the same principle which was adopted in the times of industrial revolution which is “work specialization”. 

Having said that, if someone needs to be on even terms with this change it has to be small law firms or sole practitioners but unfortunately they are the ones who are repulsing it. Such is the struggle that the number of sole practitioner firms fell from 4,056 in March 2010 to just 3,692 by March 2011. With ABS and other legal reform coming in, I do not see the situation getting any better from here. In the end, I just want to say that the time has come for law firms to embrace the change in order to survive. 

I hope law practitioners realize the need to transform before getting engulfed in the quick sand which is spreading in the industry.

ABS - Alternative Business Structures or Additional Business Stress

Introduction of ABS in the market has added stress and competition to the already recession affected legal industry.  After the long long wait for the ground breaking change in to the legal industry, ABS finally made it through at the beginning of this year.  Although the complete effects of ABS are yet to be seen and evaluated we cannot deny that a drastic change in the ways law firms operate on a structural and financial basis is undergoing turmoil.  Some for the better and some for the worse.  We need to accept this and make our way through this storm.

Whilst understanding the effects of ABS on law firms, we see that it undoubtedly affects the law firms dealing with high volume commoditisable private client work.  That is to say that firms dealing with areas like personal injury, conveyancing, family law, wills etc. will be most affected. 

The three key things which will immediately need attention would be price paid for a service, value added services and delivery of services.  It becomes pertinent for law firms to look in to their business planning, study the market and add value to the services they are rendering. At the same time reducing the costs is significant or solicitors can sit back to see the clients drifting away and adding this service in to their shopping basket at a supermarket.
As the great Albert Einstein once said “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”, firms need to find the doors to a new path to sustain the winds of change faced by the UK legal industry.  While many firms are either running to find a suitable partner to merge with or an external investor to pump in finances in to their firms or hire a non-lawyer to manage the show, one door which seems to be less used is the door to legal outsourcing.

Legal Outsourcing has been in this market for years now with only few key players realising the benefits of it and making use of it.  Of course if we see the graph of the last twenty years, we observe the changes and bend towards outsourcing increasing but the growth has been slow in the UK as compared to the United States.  Today a considerable number of law firms are outsourcing to offshore vendors to save time and costs.  And these law firms range from solo practitioners to the big players in the industry. 
Services of high volume, tedious in nature and to a big extent repetitive in terms of a set format, as we see majorly in the case of conveyancing is an apt service to outsource in order to save time and incur big savings in costs.  Solicitors can use that extra time in hand to give value added services to their clients and concentrate more on business planning and retaining clients.

The demand of hour is to make optimum utilisation of resources in order to reduce this additional business stress. It is time to accept the changes and move on towards finding the best way to deal with it.  The decision to move from the conventional ways of practice will open new doors which will bring in a plethora of opportunities.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Importance of Deposition Summary

We all know that in today's cutthroat environment in order to remain competitive in market, focus is to concentrate on core specialization areas. A service like Deposition Summary requires experience in litigation and strong hold on English writing skills. Also it necessitates good understanding of the facts of the case, issues involved.

Be it a personal injury matter or a medical malpractice case, deposition is an essential tool for discovery because it brings out many hidden facts on the front and helps attorneys to reach out to the basic issues of the case. It is a stage which brings an opportunity to both parties to see the case from something more than mere typewritten papers. A properly recorded deposition will go a long way in bringing the case to the winning decision on behalf of your client.

When depositions run into 100s of pages and a case requires many witnesses to be deposed, it becomes little difficult to keep track of all of them. Instead of getting yourself involved in number of pages and preparing your notes out of that, much preferred choice would be to summarize the deposition.  Deposition Summary  is also an important tool to win your case. It’s a written synopsis of a deposition that condenses the question and answers to a succinctly written, explicable format.

Summarizing deposition in different formats can help attorneys in reaching to the desired key information of the case. Though there is no set rule or law as to the formats of  Deposition Summary  but the standard industry formats are three column, two column formats, and topical summary. Attorneys can put forward their willingness of a customized desired format of the  Deposition Summary  and the same can be produced in a couple of hours. If an attorney is willing to extract information along with the headline of particular paragraph, two columns or three columns would be the preferred choice. As in formats, page and line wise summarization along with the headline of paragraphs is done. But if an attorney is more interested to dig out information of some designated topic straightway related to the case and wishes to summarize only specific information; topical summary is what one can go for.

Realizing the importance of a service like  Deposition Summary  and the number of hours spent in summarizing the long depositions, one of the options chosen is to outsource such a service. Many law firms have gained the benefit of saving their time and remaining competitive in market. Onshore and offshore vendors do offer free sample or free trial work which may help as a deciding factor for those who are still on the edge of leaving the traditional ways of practice and adopting a new path.  It would not only help attorneys to be more focused towards their case and preparing for trial, but also it will diminish their cost to a larger extent.

Draft n Craft offers high quality and cost effective  Deposition Summary services to our clients. Deposition summaries by ‘Draft n Craft’ are known for their accuracy, reliability and comprehensiveness. We offer you an excellent, efficient and reliable team that is a less costly alternative to preparing the summaries in-house. We summarize depositions in all types of civil cases, ranging from medical malpractice, personal injury and construction to employment, insurance, and intellectual property. Our attorneys, along with expertise in litigation have a good command over English writing skills so as to produce well analyzed and well-articulated summarized deposition transcripts. Team is trained to provide the  Deposition Summary  services in various formats suiting the requirements of our clients.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Role of social media in the transformation of the legal industry

Social media has transformed the way people communicate and network. It has become a part of the daily routine for most of the individuals today. The number of individuals using social media is increasing by leaps and bounds and so is the case with businesses as well. However, the degree to which legal professionals have embraced social media remains unclear.  It is noticed that the industry has changed its mindset and is using these new networking tools.  A recent survey about the use of social media marketing in the legal industry by LexisNexis reveals that 81 % of the respondents have already used social media marketing while another 10.1% of respondents say they plan on utilizing social media for marketing within the next six months.

It is not only marketing which is being influenced by social media but it is used in litigation also to get hold of evidences which may be important in deciding the facts of a case. In recent past, social media evidences have been a key part in hundreds of cases. It has helped in determining the mental state of a person, evidence of place and location etc. The civil procedure rules, the litigation rules in England and Wales outline that electronic documents which can be demanded can include instant messages and material from social networking sites. 

Lawyers are using social networking platforms to strengthen their professional network, get latest industry updates and to keep a vigil on what can affect their clients’ interest. Professional networking site LinkedIn has hundreds of groups where lawyers join and network with like minded people. There are groups exclusively for in house lawyers, general counsels and other legal professionals where non lawyers are not allowed to join. Mobile applications on smartphones are also playing an important role. Lawyers find themselves more comfortable using their thumbs instead using all their fingers on keyboards.

Increasing competition always gives an edge to the consumers. With the introduction of Legal Services Act the competition is set to rise. Those who are not using social media must think about changing their mindsets and be open for networking through different channels of communication as change is the need of the hour for survival. Be it any legislative change or any major happening in the legal industry it spreads like fire in the forest and all because of the impact of social media in our day to day life. No doubt it has become an inseparable part of the marketing strategies of not only law firms but for all the businesses.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Is Client Retention a Real Dilemma?

I recently got an opportunity to present a webinar on “Client Retention – A Dilemma” and it was amazing to see the feedback of the attendees. I got good feedbacks and bundle of questions in my inbox the next day. Few of them stated that they know about the good client retention strategies. However, most of them were not sure about the outcome of their strategies and were confused whether they go with the ‘X’ or ‘Y’ or may be look for the ‘Z’.

Before presenting the webinar I too got lost for sometime, it was tough to pick a good strategy and tag it as “best” keeping in mind the business need. Client retention strategies sometimes are like choosing the best option at random and praying that it works for you. And if that doesn’t work, you end up seeing yourself in profound regret. However, with a planned and right approach an organization/firm can implement a good strategy and gain trust of their clients. Though, it would be difficult to give an assurance that the chosen approach would let that organization/firm retain their client in the long run. So, I choose to keep apart the topic of ‘Client Retention – A Dilemma’ and look for questions which many professionals and organizations ask to themselves:

a) How do I increase my profit margin in the present economical break down?
b) When is the right time to look for options and dive in with a full proof plan?
c) Which strategy to choose and implement to sustain my business interest?

After, working on these few points I realize one can very well face these questions if he/she is thinking as per the client retention strategies. Since globalization everyone has one question in their mind, how to gain clients’ trust and earn good profit margin at the same time. This is one vision which in spite of the size of the organization or firm (big, medium or small) everyone has. This has also given a right and simple answer to such organizations that they can grow and make profit if they are able to retain their client for long. Though, client retention is not a one time process and requires a continuous approach with analytical and research skills, a big challenge is to study the ever changing economical conditions and understanding the complex behaviors of clients at the same time.

Provider’s Approach + Quality + Ethics + Satisfactory Service = Client Retention

We can divide ‘Client Retention’ into two parts:

First, in which service provider’s course of action and image gets reflected through their overall skill sets, ethical practices, quality services and most importantly proactive approaches towards getting the work and providing best services to their clients.

Secondly, it depends upon the Clients’ satisfaction and their willingness to come back again and give work to the existing provider.

Undoubtedly, every provider wants to experience the second scenario in each and every case. But, the real problem arises when they fail to execute the planning and end up loosing their client with loss of business and more over an existing business lead. We all know that clients are served by processes and it is important to look for right process for the right client. Every now and then we see experts’ researches, which focus on client retention’s problems. However, the problems which come in my mind are the implemented procedures and its poor executions by the providers. It is important to estimate and evaluate every single step and act accordingly to build a strong bridge between providers and clients for the mutual benefits. Providers should know about their vision and goal to attract clients and retain them for long.

Here is a small process which can help them in taking the first step towards ‘Client Retention’:

Know Yourself:
Each provider should know about their work culture, environment and the nature of their working. This gives an edge when they approach any client and ask for work or recommendations. A thorough knowledge of your company and work helps in building trust and strong relationship with your present and future clients.

Add Expertise: When you know about yourself you always look for additional expertise which you can add to your skills. So, adding expertise in your company helps in competing with the emerging market competitors. Use of innovative ideas and updated technology gives your company an extra edge and helps you to walk hand in hand with the new emerging global market.

Remove Weakness: It is always advisable to add skills and delete or remove your weakness, if you want to grow in life. Likewise, if providers want to reach the higher level, than they have to Shift + Delete (permanent deletion) their weaknesses and have to add strength to growth and achieve success.

Act Quick & Smart: Providers should keep in their minds that it is easy to know and add expertise but the real test is their instant reaction to a LIVE scenario. So, with the above points, one should have the right approach and understanding towards the execution and working in day-to-day world.

Keep Improving: The above listed points are not a one time strategy. It is a continuous process and requires continuous improvement to achieve the goal of creating a favorable environment for a client friendly approach and a step towards retaining a client.

Few points on Client Retention:

“A single idea, if right, saves us the labor of an infinity of experiences”
- Jacques Maritain

Studies have shown that approximately every organization/firm uses client retention strategy to run their business interest. However, only few are confident about their approaches and know what they are doing will benefit their clients and in return help them adding revenue and building clients’ trust. Few of the points which I thought to share with you:

Maintaining the Existing Database – ‘Know Your Clients’: Every provider has their own database for their existing clients and they work accordingly to provide satisfactory services and maintain the account well. However, provider should focus on segmenting that database to know everything related to their clients (organisations or individuals). This includes the details like: 

i. How long is the relationship with the client?
ii. In the beginning, which specific services client was looking for? 
iii. What additional services I am able to offer? 
iv. How much interest client has shown in the additional offers? 
v. How frequently I interact with the clients?
vi. How sound is the relationship?
vii. Is the client confident enough to recommend me to others? 
viii. Tracking the clients’ feedback, complaints, important days and/or events (personal/ professional) related to them

b.) Adding value to the strategies for each client:
After segmenting the data, provider should work on the ‘Specific Approach Strategy’ (Giving importance, as per the business needs and feedbacks) for each client. 

c.) Building Trust: To gain the trust and confident of the existing clients it is important for providers to implement ethical practices and honest approach in the operations. Implementing best IT infrastructure in place to ensure confidentiality and security of the data or any small information provided by the client will help the providers to build a strong relation. Clients may need to be convinced that the providers they have selected are true experts with the confidentiality and security system in place and are not over promising about their services.

d.) Proper use of communication channel: Using a right communication channel to address clients is a key to success. Providers should use a proper channel for a smooth and error free communication with their existing clients. Every client should be informed about the updated expertise and unique offers provider has for them. With emergence of social media and other marketing channel it is easy to target your segmented market. However, as this strategy is being used by everyone else in the market now days, chances are your competitor is using it rigorously and can attract your existing client with their lucrative offers. You have to make sure that you planned it right and do not leave any margin for even a small error. Service provider can use social media platform like: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Blogging, etc with other good strategies like e-mail marketing, newsletters, organizing or attending an event/seminar, promoting knowledge through Education-Based Marketing, etc. All these will allow provider to be touch with the clients and increase referrals, strengthen client loyalty and build good image in market.

e.) Handling Existing Clients’ Account: It is believed that good customer service is the most important aspect of running a business. A polite, friendly and helpful approach to maintain a single or variety of existing clients’ account helps providers to do well in the market and build credentials. Providers should hear their client and carry a fair, honest and reliable approach while communicating and providing best possible solutions to their clients. Regular communication with your existing clients will go a long way in helping you to understand their needs, tasks and requirements at hand. Drawing attention of the clients on the key areas that requires improvement will give your client an idea that you are thinking for their betterment and would not mind taking your advice or your services.

f.) Loyalty Programs: These days, providers use loyalty programs like: discounts, special offers, etc to keep their existing clients busy and attracting them with discounts and other exciting offers. So, to keep clients within the reach, provider can implement this strategy to gain advantage. This also helps the providers in staying in touch with client and helps building a personal relationship.

g.) Always Welcome Complaints: Though, it is always difficult to interact and maintain a good relationship with an irate and complaining client. It is advisable to proactively hear the complaints and take quick action. Through this approach providers can think of building a long relationship and looking for improvement areas which needs to be fixed for better customer service. It is just a matter of proactive approach with a right solution. As a human everyone is allowed to do mistakes but by taking the responsibility and assuring for quick positive action on the same will help building credentials in a long run.

Welcoming complaints help providers to know the:
I. Do’s & Don’ts they should look for while providing services to the existing clients
II. Current procedure of working
III. Right approach for specific problem

h.) Tracking the results and monitor responses: It is very important for a provider to look for feedback and monitor the responses accordingly. This helps them in improving the work process and gain the confidence of their existing clients. By better feedback response (positive or negative) provider can build a personal and trustworthy relationship with the client.

i.) Mark Your Excellence: For any business and its strategies if the end result is not up to the mark, nothing is going to work and provider would end up loosing their existing clients and business. I am sure the best quality work helps provider in connecting more with clients and getting additional work with satisfied clients’ recommendations. So, without even thinking of result, provider should keep in their mind that giving best quality is most important aspect in any kind of business. Any of the provider’s best or innovative idea will fail if they will fail to perform at their best.

I am a great supporter of continuous improvement and believe that we can retain our clients by measuring and studying the end results and keep improving until we reach our objectives and improve as much as we desire. I am sure with all these small changes we can increase our client satisfaction goal and can face any challenges even in the economical slow down. In the fast changing global market, providers need to work towards comprehending and implementing these kinds of strategy in their current businesses to ensure that their existing clients are turning up again and adding more services. The more number of clients’ association and fewer dropouts in a business help in improving the bottom line and can make the work of provider more rewarding.

Draft n Craft specializes in outsourcing of legal and paralegal services. We have provided more than a handful of advanced solutions to various clients in the U.K. and the U.S.A.; we take immense pleasure in serving all business needs, from the very basic legal undertakings to the most complex and farthest orientations. Contact us