Video: Designing your Law Firm to Work for You [Lawyernomics 2018]
As a criminal defense lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, Erin Gerstenzang knows that lawyers don’t always have control over the facts of the case, or even the results. But what every lawyer can control is the experience every client has with their firm. By shifting the focus to the client experience and embracing technology to streamline day-to-day office functions, lawyers can still deliver for their clients and bring in new business without necessarily winning every single case.
Watch Erin's full presentation, Designing your Law Firm to Work For You, here:
Gerstenzang discovered this when she decided to leave a large, established law firm and venture out on her own. She knew she didn’t have time for the standard practices of old. She had to embrace new technology, and make every part of the client-lawyer relationship as simple and stress-free as possible for everyone involved.
“What I can control is the experience you have with my firm,” Gerstenzang says. “Consumers have changed, they know what a good experience is and are willing to pay for it.”
For lawyers in all practice areas, lacking established client experience processes is no longer an option. From the receptionist’s greeting, to whether a client was on hold for an extended period, every interaction between an individual and the law firm contributes to the client experience whether it was designed or not. Failing to make the most of these interactions can lead to lost business, unsatisfied clients, and harmful negative reviews online.
The first step in improving the client experience is developing mobile device-friendly practices that let clients interact with the firm at every step with their smartphone. In many cases, it’s not the best doctor or the best dentist or the best lawyer who books the most clients, but the one who lets individuals schedule appointments and fill out paperwork from their mobile device.
Gerstenzang has developed a system of interconnected applications that allow clients to receive electronic fee agreements by merely texting her their name and email address. From there, they can fill out and sign the form on their phone and send it back.
“I run a paperless office,” she says.
Embracing technology and designing your law firm around the client experience also lets lawyers better collaborate with clients. By allowing clients to fill out forms and attach paperwork through email, lawyers not only make clients feel part of the process but also ensure that correct name spelling and other small but vital information is always correct.
Simple changes, like implementing new technology, can be a substantial competitive advantage for lawyers—especially as consumers begin to expect these practices.
Ultimately, lawyers should design their firms to reduce friction for the client and make it as easy as possible for all parties to communicate. People don’t want to talk with a live person any longer to accomplish small, simple tasks.
Nowhere is this more important than scheduling. To succeed, lawyers need to let clients schedule appointments online. Gerstenzang also allowed clients to schedule calls with her online during a two-hour window every day. Along with online scheduling, lawyers can also use Stripe or other technology to accept online credit card payments that make it easy for clients and easier for attorneys to get paid.
Like Uber, Netflix, and Amazon, lawyers who want to be successful have to embrace disruption and address common pain points that other firms may ignore.
“Practicing law is a business,” Gerstenzang says. “Make working with your firm easy, and don’t introduce those friction points where they don’t have to exist.”