The answer is yes - see how this technology can upgrade your legal services.
|Communication is key to a satisfied client|
|AI is the next step forward|
||The communication revolution|
A vital piece of the lawyer-client relationship is how the two parties interact. If communication is still time-consuming and duplicative for your client, at some point, they’re not going to want to keep working with you.
Consider it from your client’s perspective. They have an ongoing lawsuit and they need to keep track of where things stand, but they find doing so to be overly difficult. Their calls to their lawyer go to voicemail, and their emails go unanswered. Their lawyer takes a day or more to get back to them. Status updates are infrequent and often incomplete. The client may feel compelled to schedule in-person meetings just to get a grasp on their case.
Or, say that a client is working on a new employment agreement with their lawyer, but the editing process is convoluted—the client is never quite sure of what draft they’re seeing at a given time, and sometimes an associate will do a fresh round of edits before the client has gotten started on an earlier draft. It’s a recipe for frustration.
This is why law firm technology upgrades are essential for lawyer/client communication. There’s the great promise of artificial intelligence-guided systems to make communication between lawyers and clients even faster, more accurate, and more rewarding.
Communication is key to a satisfied client
It’s a different world from even a decade ago, in terms of the increasing technological sophistication of law firm/client communications. Conversations are becoming less structured and more freewheeling. There are a number of different means that lawyers and clients can use to stay in near-constant touch.
Client portals, for example, provide a secure online location for lawyers and clients to exchange documents and emails. Lawyers and clients can maintain a running chat via internal Slack channels. If a lawyer needs to clarify a point with a client, they can jump on Zoom or Microsoft Teams and potentially get their answer within minutes.
The advent of near-instantaneous communication also heightens the quality of conversations between lawyers and clients. A talk between lawyer and client no longer starts with a client asking “Okay, where are we now?” Everyone is already on the same page. With so many means of communication available, the client is far more engaged with the progress of their case.
AI is the next step forward
In the recent Future of Professionals report, survey respondents listed client communication and internal client service as being among the top areas in which AI offers attractive gains for both firms and in-house professionals.
The potential of AI to further upgrade lawyer/client communications is vast. There are a number of ways through which AI could improve upon the cutting-edge technologies of today, becoming the standard means of legal communication tomorrow. Among these are:
Automated drafting/editing of client communications
Here’s where AI comes in. Imagine sitting down to draft a case progress report to a client, and having your system immediately present you with the basic template for such a report.
“Most people find it easier to revise than draft anew.”
– Survey respondent, Future of Professionals Report
This way, you start out with a solid structure already in place: introduction, summary, breakdown, conclusion. Writing the report is now greatly a matter of filling in details, tweaking language, adding any relevant data, and hitting send. The groundwork’s been done, and the report gets finished much faster.
“AI can help significantly by doing a lot of legwork upfront with professional fine-tuning and adding the experienced advice a client needs,” the respondent also said. “It can all be done faster so the client expectations of communication are met.”
One challenge that law firms face in communicating with clients is making sure that lawyers convey key points in a language clear enough for a client to understand and process.
After all, you don’t want to be the stereotypical lawyer who buries their client in a pile of esoteric language, obscure references, and other “legalese.” Yet it can be difficult for lawyers to switch their voice from that of a legal professional speaking to other legal professionals to that of someone talking to a client with potentially scant knowledge of the legal system. It’s akin to having to shift between two different languages.
Now imagine asking your AI system to render your ideas in a language that’s clear enough for a client to understand. Or having a movable scale in which you can write your communications at various experience levels, whether it’s a mom-and-pop business owner who’s unfamiliar with specific legal terms, or the chief financial officer at a major corporation who has a solid grasp of legal language.
As another survey respondent said, AI can put “complex ideas into layman’s terms” and “assist with rewriting and clarification, minimizing the time spent on communication with clients.”
|Future of Professionals Report
1,200 professionals were surveyed across North America, South America, and the UK. Read what they predict will be the biggest impacts on their businesses in the next five years.
More up-to-date communications
One thing legal clients typically say they want from their law firms is to be more “in the know.” It’s frustrating for a client to only get sporadic summaries of where their case is in the court system, or where things stand with a due diligence examination of a potential acquisition target.
“AI can assist with identifying client needs and impacts of changing regulations and legislation much faster than we have been able to identify these needs and impacts through manual practices.”
– Survey respondent, Future of Professionals Report
For example, say that a client intends to make a property purchase, but is vaguely aware that environmental legislation could affect its plans to build a factory on the property. Rather than having multiple conversations with their lawyer to assess this, an AI system could constantly monitor local, state, and federal environmental regulation and automatically inform the client of any changes that could impact its plans.
Swifter document review
Nothing can be more frustrating for both lawyers and clients than a traditional document review, which entails multiple parties editing and approving multiple drafts, often at different times. All it takes is one slight delay in signing off on documents or any confusion as to the status of one vendor agreement, and the review could hit a week-long snag.
“Document analysis tasks that are currently done manually can be largely automated, and made much quicker, leading to quicker response times,” says another professional in the Future of Professionals report.
The communication revolution
Good communication between lawyers and clients forms the basis of a strong, long-term relationship. That’s why it’s essential for law firms to make sure their client communications are clear, constant, reliable, and swift.
AI systems are a good way to ensure this. Using AI can help lawyers respond to clients more swiftly, at the right level of sophistication, and with an impressive level of detail. Once a client gets comfortable with this new level of communication, there’ll be no turning back.
Client collaboration: The evolution in law firms
Chris O’Leary is a freelance writer and editor based in western Massachusetts. He is the managing editor of Thomson Reuters “The M&A Lawyer” and “Wall Street Lawyer,” and
is also the author of two books on popular music.