The Knock-On Effects to Digitizing Firm Processes
One of the undeniable facts of the past two years is that the world has embraced a new level of technology adoption. The implications of this are that the market for legal services has changed, to the point that lawyers need to fundamentally reconsider the mechanisms in which they deliver legal services to clients.
In just a few years, clients have come to see the immense benefits to using remote forms of communications. According to the 2021 Legal Trends Report, in 2018, less than a quarter of consumers were open to working virtually with a lawyer. Now, 79% look for remote options when hiring a lawyer. The time saved commuting is alone a major advantage for those looking for remote solutions. These benefits provide great advantages to law firms as well, opening new opportunities for added efficiency and improved client service.
In many cases, the technologies that enable remote work—video conferencing, e-signatures, and online intake forms, to name a few—have been around for quite some time. The difference now is that they’ve reached a level of adoption that has made them commonplace within client expectations. The challenge for businesses is to find solutions that allow them to deliver on what clients want, and in a way that works with the many systems and processes already in place.
Many law firms have struggled with billing and collecting payments from clients, which is a common point of friction that bears a heavy burden on firm operations, time, and revenue. At the same time, many of the systems that lawyers have in place are at odds with the fact that consumers have been using debit and credit cards to pay for goods and services electronically and online for years, if not decades. 66% of consumers want the option to pay their legal bills online—yet countless law firms haven’t found the means to incorporate these systems into their businesses, giving clients the benefit of these conveniences.
Traditional payment systems, in particular, draw attention to how modern, cloud-based technologies have the potential to help improve individual interactions while also having compounding benefits to firm efficiency. By adopting an online payment system, firms not only create convenience for their clients, but also open the door to more automated processes that free up time for firm members.
For example, online payments enable passive bill collection. The benefit here is that clients can pay their bills online from anywhere, at any time, without the need for anyone at the firm to collect or process that payment. Another benefit is the automated back-end processes; once a payment has been made, a payment system updates the appropriate billing records at the firm, indicating exactly how much was paid, when it was paid, and if there are any amounts outstanding.
Finally, with digital payment solutions, firms can set up automated payment plans that allow clients to pay installments toward their bill on a regular basis. This last point in particular has the potential to make legal services much more accessible to those who need them most by giving consumers the flexibility to pay over a longer period of time. This can be a competitive advantage for firms acquiring clients in the first place, but also a valuable tool for improving collection rates in the long run.
At Clio, we’ve recently brought online payments into our practice management software, Clio Manage. This means that law firms can now collect credit, debit, and eCheck payments as part of a seamless, end-to-end billing and collections process within Clio, taking advantage of the many organizational and time-saving benefits for law firms. It’s a way for law firms to easily bring advanced payment solutions into the legal technologies that they already use.
As we prepare to kick off the start of 2022, it will be these types of tools and efficiencies that will help bring law firms into the 21st century, enabling them to operate more effectively—and more successfully—for years to come.
Jack Newton is the CEO and Co-founder of Clio and a pioneer of cloud-based legal technology. Jack has spearheaded efforts to educate the legal community on the security, ethics, and privacy issues surrounding cloud computing, and is a nationally recognized writer and speaker on the state of the legal industry. Jack is the author of The Client-Centered Law Firm, the essential book for law firms looking to succeed in the experience-driven age, now available at clientcenteredlawfirm.com.