With the news that a vaccine for Coronavirus is on the horizon, many businesses breathed a sigh of relief (or, at least, uttered a prayer of hope).
The UK is now in various states of lockdown, with the short to medium term prognosis uncertain. This article examines what we can learn from our original period of lockdown to protect our legal practices against future disruption.
March 2020 was a seismic shock but we adapted - overnight. The most immediate lessons were simple.
First, almost all legal work can be done remotely. Internal meetings, client meetings, and most day-to-day work can be handled away from the office.
Second, most of the paraphernalia of office life - printers, photocopiers, stationery and even business attire – have become unnecessary.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the scepticism and stigma around homeworking have fallen away. Most of us would admit to preferring the work-life balance. No commute, no traffic, opportunities to exercise and much easier childcare arrangements are all things no one will want to lose.
The effect on productivity has also been positive. In a survey of 2,000 global businesses and 5,000 professionals, a third reported productivity had gone up. Indeed, for Twitter (a largely tech business) homeworking has been so successful they will retain it permanently.
In the legal industry, Slater & Gordon have now said homeworking will be the norm.
Linklaters have announced a new global agile working policy that allows staff to work from home from 20-50 per cent of the time.
The issue for many firms in the early days of lockdown was how to continue to service the work and meet clients. In the rapid scramble to make homeworking possible, most of us fell into the frictionless embrace of Zoom. This helped in the workplace, but not always with clients.
Short term shock
Across most of our clients, the number of web-generated enquiries fell in April and May but bounced back into the summer. In many cases, they bounced back to higher levels than before.
The short-term shock and awe was natural as people hunkered down. The same thing is likely to happen again. In the event of another lockdown, we should brace for an immediate dip in revenue before another rally - hopefully quicker than last time.
Our piece - Covid-19 and the legal sector - which areas are most resilient? Real-time data & insight - examined search trends in the legal sector during the first nationwide Lockdown.
Most areas performed predictably. Property took a hit, bounced back swiftly, then tailed off as rumours of a second lockdown swirled. Searches for divorce continued their upward trend.
The key lesson is that work is still out there - but how can we capture it?
In March, we quickly put together our 2020 toolkit. This was a portfolio of our own and 3rd party technologies to help law firms rapidly adapt to the new circumstances.
The toolkit included:
- A rapidly built and launched website
- Boilerplate content for key practice areas
- Appointment Setting Software
- Video Conferencing Software
- Online Payment Plugins
- Email newsletters and marketing
- Client Intake Software
Support, assistance advice and consultancy from a trusted partner who knows the business of law.
So what have we learned?
As lawyers, customers now inhabit a different world. All but the most tech-sceptical will use tablets, smartphones and laptops and their various apps and features. Their expectations and behaviours will have been shaped accordingly.
Do we as customers expect to meet service-providers face to face unless absolutely necessary? The answer now is "probably not".
If you don't have a website, then now is the time to invest. Less footfall and fewer human interactions will mean existing sources of business may dry up again.
If you lack a website then how do you support the technology that worked for others first time round? Without a website, the only means of video-calling and instant messaging clients is by mobile phone - and who wants to do that?
Homeworking is here to stay
Obviously clients are important, but so are your staff. Every law firm will have adapted to lockdown in much the same way. Homeworking, cloud computing and video calling have become the default arrangement.
In the future, it's likely that offices will become places to meet and socialise, to collaborate on certain pieces of work or bring projects to completion.
"Zoom fatigue" is a new phenomenon brought about by lockdown. While the platform is excellent and widely praised for its frictionless experience, there are inherent limitations to such technology that the human brain has not quite adapted to. The natural rhythms of human interaction - pauses, lulls, body language, conversational tangents and so on don't translate well to video calls.
For most, the number and frequency of video calls will have dropped, returning the medium to its true place in modern business life. While Zoom links can be shared between colleagues fairly easily, an online platform that facilitates client-solicitor interaction makes things smoother and more professional.
Your clients are out there
Winning new business can be a case of right place - right time. To that end, we installed a live chat plugin on many client’s sites to enable them to converse with leads when they are at their hottest - on the website.
One client recently used Livechat to converse with 39 customers in a week, with 203 total chats across the month.
Many of our clients installed appointment setting software in the early days of lockdown, some to great effect.
Below is a screenshot of the number of new business appointments web users entered into one client's diary in a single day during lockdown. There would certainly be a bit of 'Zoom fatigue' after a day like this...
It goes without saying that implementing the right culture to make these tools work is key. But, at a time when every lead is a prisoner, then these changes are more important than ever.
We've always preached that "online is your best shop window" and that's more true now than ever. If you don't have a website (or your website doesn't pass muster) then you are missing out on work. It might be possible for clients to find you using listings on 3rd party websites, but these outlets won't promote you or sell your services in the way you would like.
As mentioned above, the work is out there. People are searching for legal advice. Modern business strategy requires a "digital first approach" to take changing consumer demands into account - and to guard against future crises.
Quick, modern websites at a fraction of the cost will work
Technology has advanced to the point where there are 'no-code' solutions for most things - including websites (see our recent article on how to choose the right website builder for your firm).
There are options to suit every budget. We've recently invested in our own technology and processes to enable us to launch websites quicker than ever before.
Recently we built and launched a website within 66 days - and, almost half of that time was spent waiting on client approval!
The new site is outperforming their old one with enquiries at record highs - even during lockdown.
This graph shows their traffic over the last three years, with the website launching in late April:
No one wants to spend months on a project in 'development hell' at the best of times - far less during lockdown. Choosing a solution that gets your website online faster is key to capturing business quickly.
Technology advances rapidly... so should we
It's said that the phrase "may you live in interesting times" is a curse. Well, these times are certainly interesting! Technology, the economy and the market for legal services are all changing rapidly.
The technology is out there to help law firms become futureproof against even unforeseeable disruptions like Covid-19.
Dedicated to Your Law Firm’s Success
If you would like to discuss your law firm’s growth ambitions and how we can help you achieve your goals with our new Your Law Firm Success™ product, we’d be delighted to speak with you. Please contact Chris on 03333 442 722 or email (click here).