A theme that emerged from the recent “Emerging Legal Technology Forum” was the need to strike a balance between using data and providing a touch to client relationships.
TORONTO – Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a change in the way consumers work with their law firms. What used to be an in-person meeting suddenly turned into a calendar full of Zoom calls, and while some in-person meetings have resumed, the mix between in-person and virtual has changed.
At the same time, collaboration technologies like Microsoft Teams and Slack began to take off, creating new touchpoints for law firms to track and measure.
The result was an explosion of customer relationship data to help businesses make better decisions and better establish relationships with their customers. In order to make better use of this new model, however, it is still important to use this new data and apply it to oneself, say the panelists of the Thomson Reuters Institute’s 5 recently.th Legal Technology Forum Annual Issue. The key is finding the right balance.
The data is at hand
Joy Cruz, Director of Business Intelligence and Data Analytics at management consulting firm RSM US, said during the Conference panel, Ascendant Engineering: Emerging Trends in Data Science and Strategic Accounting Managementsome of the common metrics that law firms should use to measure their client relationships have not changed: effectiveness, productivity, client satisfaction, fulfillment rates, and related data” putting all that information together based on an understanding of what you have, what you’re doing, and how you’re handling the past, [and] what can you do.”
But what makes them different from epidemiology is the data sources they have explosionbasically though knowing where all the relevant data is a more difficult challenge than ever before. For a law firm trying to collect responses to an RFP, 85% of the time may be spent capturing the right responses, Cruz says. And while many law firms talk about managing data plans, many firms fail to take the first step toward gaining insight into their data.
“The goal is to make it more accessible to you.” Cruz explained. “One of the things that’s missing is that we can’t do the analysis part, because it’s not available to you.” Yes, without the data collection step by step, “you’re making a decision based on the data you’ve been given, but it may not be the whole story,” he added.
Acting Olalekan (Wole) Akinremi, a partner in the law firm Deeth Williams Wall, said that since his days on the corporate side, clients have already started doing that exercise to review their foreign firms – especially when it comes to payroll. He said technology-enabled analytics can better look at external consulting and billing times, contracts, and automation to free up time for complex issues that are commonplace. Law firms can also take cues from their clients on how to use the data to enhance their arguments, Akinremi said.
For example, “you can also go to the organization and say, we have two landfills that are handling 1,000 applications, we need more support,” he said. “The proof is in the results.”
However, with the rise of data-driven decision-making, comes a paradox: Over-reliance on data and the cost of other tools in the relationship-building toolbox. Philipp Thurner, CEO of relationship management software company Nexl, said that while raw data figures can help, “they may not tell you quality of the relationship.
“Data can tell a story,” Thurner added. “But you can have one set of data and you can tell a million different things from it.”
Thurner gave the example of how to count email interactions: one hundred emails between a business and their customers is considered a strong relationship, especially if those emails increase over time. But if those emails are surface-level interactions or administrative tasks, the surface number may not show a relationship on solid ground. “How do you define a relationship?” he asked. “I think we have the man.”
Where data and relationships meet
In the next panel, it is named The End of the Journey: Adding Value in the Customer Experience, elaborated on that general theme. Suzanne Donnels, Head of Business Development and Marketing at law firm Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg, said she has seen a disparity between corporate clients who actively participate in the agency/client relationship, and those who are interested in data. “It’s harder for Davies to compete when you work in sales departments, [because] they’re just looking at a number next to a name,” he explained, adding that a close relationship means diversity and “understanding their customers and the industry they’re in, and really thinking to solutions.”
Janet Sullivan, eDiscovery Consultant and Global Practice Technology Director at White & Case, agreed with Donnels, noting that success metrics differ for different clients. His firm’s strategy is called LIFT — Local Information, Smart Change — which establishes a firm goal for the path to success, but with flexible solutions for each client.
To measure the success of a lasting relationship, Sullivan said repeat performance is important, but it’s the baseline measurement. What can set a business apart, he says, is measuring and collecting success stories throughout the life of a cause. “We don’t wait until the end to say, ‘How did I do?’, then do an autopsy and go back to all the things we might have done wrong.”
Sullivan agreed that he could walk a fine line between asking for this data and not placing a burden on the customer; however, there is more than one way to fix the issue depending on the type of data required.
However, negotiator Fernando Garcia, who has worked as General Counsel for several small law firms, said law firms should be careful with this practice because of the time and staff resources required, and another hidden danger to soliciting customer feedback.
Businesses need to respond to what they learn, Garcia explained. “Be careful you ask,” he said. “Because you get the answers, you have to act on those answers when you get them.”
You can learn more about building the kinds of relationships that drive the strategic, financial and operational goals of your corporate law office here.