Emerging Legal Technologies Forum: Strengthening Client Relationships Requires Balance

A theme that emerged at the recent “Emerging Legal Technology Forum” was that there needs to be a balance between using data and providing a personal touch in dealing with clients.

TORONTO — Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a shift has occurred in the way clients and their law firms interact. What was once a regular set of in-person meetings has suddenly shifted to a schedule filled with Zoom calls, and while some in-person meetings have resumed, the mix between in-person and virtual has been irrevocably altered.

At the same time, a parade of collaboration technologies such as Microsoft Teams and Slack have begun to take on even greater prominence, creating new touchpoints that law firms can track and measure.

The result has seen an explosion of customer relationship data to help businesses make decisions and better connect with their customers. In order to make the most of this new paradigm, however, it’s still important to use both this new data as well as a more traditional personal touch, panelists at the recent Thomson Reuters Institute said. 5e Annual Emerging Legal Technologies Forum. The key, of course, is finding the right balance.

Data in hand

Joy Cruz, Director of Business Intelligence and Data Analytics at management consulting firm RSM US, said on the Forum panel: Ascendant Engineering: Emerging Techniques for Data Analysis and Strategic Account Managementthat some of the common metrics law firms should use to measure their relationships with their clients haven’t changed: profitability, productivity, client satisfaction, completion rates and related data “brings this whole story together in terms of understanding what you have, what you do, how you operate historically, [and] what you can do.”

But what’s different since the pandemic is that data sources have explodedwhich means that even knowledge where all the necessary data resides is an even more difficult challenge than ever. For a law firm trying to garner a response for an RFP, 85% of the time may be spent researching the relevant responses, Cruz estimated. And while many law firms talk about executing a data plan, many firms can’t even take the first step to gain insight into their data.

Joy Cruz of RSM US

“The goal is to flip that around so it becomes easily accessible to you.” Cruz explained. “One of the things we miss is that we are not able to do the analysis yet, because it is not available to you.” Indeed, without the data gathering step, “you make decisions based on the data provided to you, but that may not be all,” she added.

Panelist Olalekan (Wole) Akinremi, a partner at law firm Deeth Williams Wall, noted that since he’s been with the firm, clients have already started to take that step in evaluating their outside firms, by particularly with regard to cost monitoring. He said technology-based analytics can better examine outside attorney time and billing, contracts, and automation to free up time for more complex issues that are becoming more commonplace. Law firms can also take inspiration from their clients on how to use data to support their arguments, Akinremi noted.

For example, “you can also go to management and say, we have two paralegals dealing with 1,000 claims, we need more support,” he said. “The proof is in the results.”

However, with the rise of data-driven decision-making, a tantalizing faux pas can arise: an overreliance on data at the expense of other tools in the relationship-building toolkit. Panelist Philipp Thurner, CEO of relationship management software company Nexl, said while the raw data numbers certainly help, “it might not tell you the quality of the relationship.

“Data can tell a story,” Thurner added. “But you can have one set of data and tell a million different stories about it.”

Thurner gave the example of counting email interactions: a hundred two-way emails between a company and its customer could be interpreted as a strong relationship, especially if those emails increase with the time. But if those emails are surface-level interactions or relate to administrative tasks, the raw number may not reveal a relationship on rocky ground. “How do you judge a relationship?” He asked. “I think it depends on us as human beings.”

Where data and relationships collide

In a later panel, titled Journey’s End: Maximizing the Value of Customer Experience, the discussion developed on this general premise. Suzanne Donnels, director of business development and marketing at law firm Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg, said she’s noticed a difference between corporate clients that are actively involved in the business/client relationship and those that are purely data-focused. . “It’s harder for Davies to be competitive when dealing with procurement services, [because] they just look at a number next to a name,” she explained, adding that a closer relationship means differentiating with “understanding their customers and the business they are in, and really finding solutions” .

Olalekan (Wole) Akinremi, of Deeth Williams Wall

Panelist Janet Sullivan, eDiscovery Advisor and Global Practice Technology Director at White & Case, agreed with Donnels, noting that metrics of success will be inherently different for different clients. His company’s strategy is called LIFT (Local Information, Enterprise-Wide Transformation) and establishes a standardized corporate focus on how to drive success, but with the flexibility of tailored solutions for each client. .

To truly measure whether a business relationship is successful, Sullivan said customer retention is of course important, but that’s just the basic measure. What can set a business apart, she said, is measuring and collecting these metrics of success consistently throughout the life of a business. “Not waiting until the end to say, ‘How did I do it?’ and then having to do an autopsy and go over all the things that we could have done wrong.”

Sullivan admitted that the line between asking for this data and not placing an undue burden on the customer can be thin; However, there are several ways to solve the problem depending on the type of data needed.

However, panelist Fernando Garcia, who has served as general counsel for a number of smaller legal departments, noted that law firms should approach this process with caution due to the time and human resources involved, as well as the another hidden danger in soliciting customer feedback.

Companies then need to react to what they’ve learned, Garcia explained. “Be careful when you ask,” he says. “Because you are going to get answers, and you have to act on those answers when you get them.”

You can learn more about how to create the kind of partnerships which will guide the strategic, financial and operational priorities of your corporate law department here.

Jennifer C. Burleigh