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Practice Management

Legal self-help: Self-service for clients

It may seem like a paradox, but the less work that a legal firm does for a client is sometimes for the better. 

By employing legal self-help technology, clients reduce their expenses while law firms put their lawyers to better use. Self-service enables clients to get most of the way there, in terms of their queries, before they need to talk to a lawyer at billable hours. 

This is an ideal way for a law firm to move up the value chain. When clients can address their basic needs before requiring advice, this makes the conversations between clients and lawyers more precise, more valuable, and more productive. Further, changes in work culture, post-pandemic, have established remote technology as a preferred option for many clients. There’s never been a better time for a law firm to offer more and more thorough, legal self-service options. 

Moving preliminaries out of the office

A client is considering a sale of their small business. They want to see if they can reduce their tax obligations; they need to be up to date on all applicable local, state, and/or federal regulations, and they need to learn how to draft the acquisition document to better protect them from, for example, a buyer pulling out of the purchase at the last minute. In the past, this could entail multiple consultations with a lawyer, who would start out by taking the client through the basics of the sale process. 

This no longer needs to be the case. By moving documents such as FAQs on self-owned business sales, state-by-state tax and legal requirements, and sample/interactive M&A agreement documents into an easy-to-explore, online archive, a client can delve into all of this information at home. Rather than being led through introductory steps, the client gets the answers they need, and at their own speed. Only when they hit a complex or company-specific question will they need to talk to their lawyer. 

Ideally, the division of labor between self-service and in-person legal advice will weigh heavily on the self-service side. As Lucy Dillon, of Lucy Dillon Consulting, said on a recent Thomson Reuters podcast, “clients will have all the information at their fingertips. They can take their query and get 70% of the way there. The remaining 30% is really valuable, as that’s when they’ll need an expert.” 

Making legal self-help technology intuitive

Pandemic lockdowns led law firms to close their offices for multiple months, which meant that clients and lawyers quickly learned how to function remotely. Post-lockdowns, there’s no going back for many clients. They now expect to be able to fulfill at home rather than having to drive to a law firm’s office. 

The use of client portal software is a way for law firms to meet their clients’ expectations of remotely accessing legal services and related information. With a client engagement and collaboration platform like HighQ, your law firm can provide a full range of legal self-help options. 

Successful client portal software features quality and intuitive questioning. A client will log into their portal and answer a few broad introductory questions designed to quickly shuttle the client down to their area of interest, where they can watch videos, search databases, and receive any related material in downloadable/accessible formats.  

Client portal software enables the automation of many standard legal obligations. Say that a client has a question about which execution clause they need to use in a transaction. By answering a series of questions and previewing sample clauses, the client can confidently determine the correct execution clause and automatically insert it into their document. 

How to add value to legal self-help options

When freed from having to guide clients through the basics, lawyers become far more valuable resources. With more of their interactions on a high-level and client-specific basis, this allows lawyers to shine and will add prestige to their firm. Lawyers have more time and a greater ability to propose custom-made, unique solutions to client problems. 

Lawyers also become a knowledge resource once much of a firm’s routine client interactions are done via self-service portals. For example, a firm may have its lawyers responsible for regular revisions of online information, with the goal of having client queries receive rich, up-to-date responses. Some law firms may send clients, upon request, daily summaries of court decisions, labor rules, or market regulations, depending on the client’s interest. 

There’s also a greater potential for interactive collaboration, which enables a client to access the opinions of a variety of a firm’s lawyers, rather than being confined to the perspective of their specific one. For example, a query about risk analysis in a contract negotiation will draw upon the knowledge of lawyers with expertise in contract drafting as well as those with substantial experience in risk management. 

Keeping the hub spinning

A firm’s knowledge management (KM) team is essential to establish and maintain legal self-service solutions. Consider the KM team as the hub of the wheel, keeping in regular contact with lawyers as well as technology teams. At all points, lawyers should feed information into the systems available for knowledge capture, with the KM team as liaisons to the firm’s IT and development departments to ensure that this knowledge is available to clients in an easy-to-access manner.  

A law firm should be both flexible in creating its self-help options and reliable in executing them. The aim is to know what your clients expect, then fulfilling these requirements beyond their expectations. Remember, even self-service is still a service. These aren’t free web resources; they are an extension of your law firm and your overall client experience. 

Learn more about legal self-help tools available within HighQ. 

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