Banks, Insurers ... and Accountants are coming? Solicitors need to sharpen up.

  • By Allan Carton
  • 30 Mar, 2017
It is time for solicitors to work harder to differentiate their services from competitors such as banks, insurers, accountants. Give clients a good understanding (and experience) of how a strong working relationship with you - local solicitors they can rely on - will benefit them and their family; then make it as easy as possible for get clients to talk about it and share that with their friends and work colleagues. It just takes some time out to rethink how you make this happen (or not) now and what you can do better. It doesn't cost a lot of money, but it does take time - more about attitudes and client focus.

Overview of 2017 YouGov research from the Law Society here >>

Law Firm Management Insights

By Allan Carton 31 Oct, 2017

If you want to implement technology to support your approach to managing and developing client relationships, it helps if you can pre-empt and quickly address the inevitable obstacles that you are likely to meet along the way.

Given that the project’s scope is likely to be quite broad, it takes a clear strategy – tested in pilots – to build the confidence and persistence needed to see initiatives through. It’s not easy, but being able to be pro-active with client data to develop stronger relationships, introduce new service propositions and open up new opportunities is the way forwards for most legal firms today.

Although not many are yet doing it effectively yet, it’s the firms that have started down this track – which takes commitment and drive – that will shine in the future.

Get focused on what really matters

What are your main reasons for investing in a Client Relationship Management (CRM) system? Are you looking to productivity? Cut customer service costs? Or increase sales?

Then decide where to get started with projects in bite-sized chunks – getting data cleansed, so people can share a reliable single view of the client. Create the right structure for information you need to gather; agree what is the easiest way to do this and keep data up to date – make it really easy. Don’t ask people to do too much too soon. There is a circular challenge – people need to have reliable data to feel the benefits; but they have to help put the right data in before it can be reliable … How do you address that?

More can be less

As you’ve probably already discovered, suppliers of CRM systems are eager to differentiate their products with different features, such as social media connectors or linked apps for smartphones and tablets.

However, more is often less. The extra complexity and blitz of features can just serve to distract you and your employees from your core aims. It might be great that you’ve got a feature that lets you tweet customers from within your CRM, but will that really make much difference to generating more business? Maybe at some stage … but not at the outset.

Don’t forget the end user… from the outset

Input from your lawyers and support staff is crucial at every stage as they are the people who have to use whatever tools they are given. It’s essential you get end users involved in the buying decision – not just when you get to implementation. By that stage, their hands are tied by the system you have already paid for.  Engaging them earlier will help point out barriers presented by certain systems and will likely save you a lot of time and money.

Realise the value of integration (Microsoft Office etc.)

The biggest challenges you’ll face with any new CRM system is user adoption. Anything that you can do to reduce the friction of using the system, will make this upcoming problem easier to handle. That’s where an integration with your existing systems become really useful.

Don’t be overly ambitious (sprint – in small chunks)

When you start out with a CRM system, you might want it to do a lot of things with it. If you pile all these requests up, you can build something that adds a lot of extra cost and time. Then you might discover that some of these features aren’t necessary later down the line.

At Inpractice UK, we use our experience of working with lawyers over many years on business development alongside the SPRINT methodology with our technical implementation partners (Crimson, when working with Microsoft Dynamics CRM) to build your CRM system. This means we focus on keeping the build process as lean as possible. We first build the elements and features which will get you the majority of results. You then test and pilot them, we modify based on your feedback from the pilot group – then we move on. This ensures that you don’t waste money and that we build something that genuinely benefits your business the way you want to develop it.

Plan for change management and training

It takes time for people to figure out how they can best use a CRM system. They need clear guidance, but also time to play with it, see how it works and to understand how it will benefit them. Change management and training is often more work than you expect it to be but we have the capacity and the patience to deliver all the training and ongoing support you need to guarantee you get the best experience for your users, so they adopt the system.

We can help you set out your objectives, strategy and plan of action to steer you through the potential pitfalls in implementing (and continuing to develop) your CRM system, so please …

TAKE YOUR FIRST STEP to introduce or relaunch your CRM initiative with us.

Contact:  Allan Carton  on 0161 929 8355, complete this contact form , or schedule a free telephone consultation here .

By Allan Carton 31 Oct, 2017

Claiming Embedded Capital Allowances is simple, straightforward and stress-free when you use specialist advisors with experience of building and presenting your claim effectively, so that you receive the tax relief you are entitled to in a way that requires very little input from you.

Owners with a potential claim are often put off by the idea of working through the claiming process but specialists who can quickly interpret the rules relevant to your particular circumstances can do the difficult bit for you.  They only need an hour of your time to gather information and talk you through the process; then they can do the rest, talking first to your Accountant to get information from the past few years, then obtaining a Land Registry for the property. This doesn’t take long and only relates to information that is needed for a sucessful claim. 

Complete an online assessment here to decide whether or not you may have a claim >>

Once a potential claim has been confirmed, a surveyor with experience of dealing with these claims will look around your property to identify unclaimed items which qualify for tax relief.  Based upon the findings from the surveyor, a specialist Tax Accountant will complete a detailed report for approval by HMRC to quantify the level of allowances your property will qualify for.

On average, it takes only 8 weeks from our initial meeting to you receiving your relief from HMRC. This relief often adds up to tens of thousands of pounds, making a positive impact on any businesses’ cash flow. 

FIRST STEPS:  Contact Allan Carton on 0161 929 8355, complete this form or schedule a free telephone conference here to arrange a meeting with a specialist in this area, so they can begin the straightforward process of identifying your unclaimed tax refunds.

By Allan Carton 03 Oct, 2017

If you are paying monthly for Microsoft cloud services, such as Office 365, Azure or Microsoft Dynamics 365, you can now switch to Crimson and earn cashback on your monthly licence fees.

The cashback varies depending on the software you’re consuming and the volume of consumption, but for some ‘services’ savings could mean double digit percentage points, possibly worth tens of thousands of pounds a year.

Work out how much you can save using this calculator.  https://goo.gl/Lk1N59

For more information, contact Frank Manning or Allan Carton at Inpractice UK.  

You can schedule a free telephone conference to explore further here >>


By Allan Carton 04 Sep, 2017

Frank Manning, legal tech specialist at Inpractice highlights just a few of the options, but get in touch to find out how to put these and much more to work for your practice.  Here is a quick look at just some of the  tools built into Office 365  that can help you get up and running quickly with some aspects of GDPR compliance.

The Content Search feature lets a firm scan all sources of data held within the Office 365 environment although there are options to import data from other systems to manage within O365 too. It’s quite powerful in any event as it allows you, for example, to scan emails, documents and even Skype messages.

With content search, you specify keywords for it to search against. You can also use Boolean to combine keywords (i.e. instead of searching for client, account, number as separate keywords combine these into client AND account AND number if you wanted all keywords to be present to return a result). In addition to keywords, you can specify message sent/received dates, modification dates, sensitive information and labels. See more on this function below.

Here is a really good resource detailing everything that is searchable. Once the search has been completed and any matches identified, Office 365 then provides you with the ability to preview the search results in a preview pane. For example, you can preview the contents of emails, Word, Excel files and more …

Depending on what you want to do with files that present a breach of GDPR you have several options. You can, for example, delete the files or export them.

The Labels feature allows you to apply a label to a data item that will identify it as a particular type. For example, if I’m holding data on an individual that needs to be retained until they reach the age of 18 I could create a label called “Retain until 18”, but note that items can only have one label applied at a time.

The label can then have automatic actions applied to it. For example, it can automatically delete the data or just trigger a review. There is much more functionality to help law firms comply with GDPR, but as ever, technology is just an enabler even if it has the potential to radically automate and ease many of the steps that have to be taken; just part of a bigger project that requires leadership, strategy, policies, engagement, training and stringent management to produce the right results for your practice .

To discuss how we can help you meet the 25th May 2018 compliance deadline, book a free telephone conference to find out more in confidence and with no obligation. 

By Allan Carton 13 Jul, 2017

Only 39% of RFPs received by KCOM during an 18 month period allowed or encouraged suppliers to be innovative. But more than half of these prevented the development of a strategic partnership – a relationship that is critical to creativity – leaving just 18% of enterprise IT RFPs that truly sought innovation.

This review covers RFP's mostly from outside the legal sector, but our experience shows the same happening in law firms, in spite of new initiatives and developments on AI and process improvement.

In this insightful report on research by KCOM, they explore why the IT RFP process is failing to deliver on the key challenge of our time – innovating the customer experience.

The best IT projects are highly creative, innovative and collaborative. IT professionals everywhere are highly motivated to deliver on all these goals. But the IT RFP process is stifling these positive impulses with outdated and inflexible practices:

  • Only 39% of RFPs encouraged innovation and creativity from vendors – so how can enterprises leap forward in terms of customer experience?
  • 76% of customer-focused IT projects have no measures in place to assess impact on the customer experience or overall service.
  • Half of legacy IT replacement projects fail to take an innovative approach - what a missed opportunity.

This report from KCOM analyses real examples of RFPs - admittedly outside the legal sector - and share their ideas on how to fix the problems that are holding businesses back.

Make sure your IT projects deliver on the innovation and creativity needed to meet customer expectations by heeding the guidance in this report.

DOWNLOAD the report here - check out the section at pages 12 and 13 in particular on " Things to consider procuring enterprise technology projects" and talk to us at Inpractice UK  if you want to find out more about how we help law firms deal with this in the legal sector.

By Allan Carton 14 Jun, 2017

“Growing evidence reveals that firms define ‘giving value’ very differently from the way clients assess whether they receive it. There are three simple things a firm can do to get – and stay – on the same page as the executives paying their bills.” from the article below by James Bliwas.

Why does this matter?

As an example: Helping lawyers become more effective at “ Pricing” to agree and recover higher fees is high on the agenda for most firms at the minute  and quite rightly too.

However, most lawyers still bypass the first critical step – listening to the client – which throws this and just about every other initiative that impacts on client experience, out of kilter. Not listening properly is likely to at least substantially dilute the results of many of the new initiatives in which progressive law firms are currently investing.

Listen to clients (and introducers too) at the beginning to make sure you are aiming to implement a solution that gives them what they value most; not what you think they do.  The understanding that will develop at this point will establish a sound base for new initiatives, including management of client relationships themselves.

On our pricing example – Lawyers can only agree the “best” price that a client is willing to pay (whatever pricing model they use) if the client feels that a lawyer’s involvement helps or enables them to meet the challenges that matter most to them, in a way that works best for them. Business owners and execs are interested in how it impacts on them personally, on their role in the business and on the business itself – so you need to hear all of this whenever possible.

We say –  talk to the owners or execs at the client business first to understand what they value (including what is currently missing), make time to explore new options; how the service could change to deliver more value for the client.  Then base your pricing (process or relationship management as discussed below) on the components and value to the client of the new service and relationship; not the old – and the sooner the better if you want to retain good clients.

Lawyers can’t get the relationship or the service right for the client until they know what clients really “value”.  Most think they do, but make too many assumptions when options and expectations are changing quickly; and where every client is different and developing at a different speed.

Many firms are introducing big and expensive changes on  Process Improvement , CRM , Artificial Intelligence and wider Technology  at the minute (again quite rightly), with the aim of reducing costs and improving service … but are these initiatives being developed with a real understanding of what different clients want from them – apart from a reduction in price?

How do you find out?

All 3 solutions proposed in this  informative article (well worth reading) – from James Bliwas  – involve 1 key step; “listening to clients”.   I would take that further to say …  listen to clients talking about their business, what is expected of them and their challenges, with an open mind and a clean sheet on what the “legal” service could look like. Be prepared to start again … and price the service that flows from this discussion – not the one you provide today.

Find out more about client listening here >>  

Why do it?  

Most firms miss the mark because they don’t dig deep enough, so don’t discover what could be done differently that might, for example, involve more or different collaboration, integration or communication … and more.  Often “less is more” so there can be opportunities to cut out wasted time and steps on both sides; for the lawyer and the client.  New options in these areas have been developing quickly; perhaps even faster and further with some clients than with many law firms.

There is also a tendency in reviewing relationships to look backwards, rather than forwards.

Talk about other aspects of the business that matters to clients … as well as price.  There are usually missed opportunities to make the relationship stronger beyond the handling of individual legal transactions.  What are they … for each client?  Find them.  Things that will keep the client coming back and justify a better return for everyone from the relationship.  To find out what those opportunities are, take time out to discuss and explore options.

Then find ways to share this with your people to develop their understanding so that you can put meaningful new initiatives into practice. Modify current services, develop new, introduce better communication, collaboration and integration and whatever else it takes to help clients want to keep coming back.

Our Client Listening  is NOT about “client satisfaction”.  We focus on looking forwards in every relationship to new options and opportunities to do better and do more of what the client wants, willing to challenge established ways of working together; but few firms do this effectively.

MAKING IT HAPPEN FOR YOU

We can help you put together the plan and to make this happen for your practice.  

To discuss how we can help   you, please  complete this contact request form    or  schedule a free telephone conference  (confidential and with no obligation) with  Allan Carton  via the link a the top of this website.

By Allan Carton 31 May, 2017

DO THIS EVERY TIME

1.   When you make a will for a client, ALWAYS ask ... this question.

2.    Make sure you have a good quality leaflet available  to send by post and/or email that provides useful insights into the role of an executor; well presented, with readable FAQ's - and an outline of who you are and what you do.  

3.  Send it  and  invite them to drop  in for a chat to discuss.  Ensure compliance with GDPR to get the executor's consent to you keeping in touch.  

4.  Add their names to your database  and  keep in touch  with information about your practice and your services.


FOLLOW THROUGH BECAUSE ...

A]   This is an easy opportunity to grow your client base quickly  from people who can become clients for life.  

B]  This can produce n ew work for your private client team tomorrow ; maybe conveyancing, PI, their own wills etc.

C]  Knowing about executors' responsibilities would be helpful to the client and the executor.

D]   These executors are amongst your best prospects for new business because your client should speak well of you.

E]   They probably fit with the profile of people that you are likely to appeal to .

F]  They may know your practice already, but that doesn't mean they will always use you.  It's a useful prompt.

G]  If they don't know you, this gets your name in front of them - in a good way.

H]  It creates an opportunity to meet face to face - although most are more likely to come along when they need you.

I]  It's more likely these executors will use you for their wills and probate work in the future - so do the same again!


WHY YOUR COMPETITORS DON'T ASK EITHER

It takes preparation, planning, coordination and commitment from everyone in your practice.  Very few firms invest the time and effort because they don't recognise the potential and the lost opportunity, so it's worth some effort to get organised; others are reluctant to ask the question and few put enough effort into gathering, cleansing and using their client data effectively.  So there are some key steps to take to be able to get the full return on this.

For example:

1.   Make sure all your staff know that what matters most is making the clients comfortable, taking time to build a rapport with them, as well as doing the legal job well.

2.  If you don’t have a reliable and user-friendly marketing/prospecting database , get one organised now. You’ll have to set aside chargeable time to sort out a good system, but it’s an investment worth making. If you don’t have searchable records of executors, trustees and beneficiaries, as well as testators, set these up now, before your campaign begins. Otherwise, you will lose out on one of the best sources of new clients available to high street practices.

3.   Sell your service as a joint executor. Don’t just tell your clients what you will do – tell them how it will make things much easier for the people they leave behind. Find out what matters to your clients, by exploring their ideas and fears on what will happen after their death and respond with practical advice.

4.   Get your clients’ agreement for you to keep in touch and keep them informed. Add them to your mailing list and do actually keep in touch. To do this, you need to get your client and contact database in order. This should be an absolute priority for every law firm right now.  Don't let the GDPR requirements inhibit your plans.  Deal with them.

6. Invest some time in business development with your clients’ consent. Invite every executor and trustee into your office when the will has been made to discuss their role and responsibilities, and your role in helping them. Give executors and trustees information to take away and get their agreement for you to keep in touch.  Add them to your mailing list and do keep in touch.  Again, you need that database.


MAKING IT HAPPEN FOR YOU

We can help you put together the plan and to make this happen for your practice.  

To discuss how we can help  you, please complete this contact request form  or schedule a free telephone conversation (confidential and with no obligation) with Allan Carton via the link a the top of this website.


O ther related topics that might be of interest:

By Allan Carton 30 May, 2017

"What struck me most about the event (GC Summit Switzerland with an  audience of about 80 Swiss GCs) was the fact that much of what Hamish spoke about centered on talking to and ultimately knowing what your client really wants and needs. This approach means going away from looking at the ‘what’ and much more at the ‘why’. Not how can we make our widget better but but why and how are our customers using it in the first place."

Valuable insights and conclusions in this interesting article  from Catherine McGregor , Editor in Chief of GC Magazine and Publishing Director at the Legal 500.  

By Allan Carton 11 May, 2017

Part 2 of a 3-part series of short articles.  We explain how law firms are using "independent client listening" to generate new business, strengthen ties with clients (referrers and business partners too); to develop new service propositions valued more by clients, innovate on service delivery and develop a client-focused culture across the business. It helps lawyers to find tangible new ways to differentiate from competitors and future-proof relationships with clients.

“For the smartest firms the opportunities are waiting to be seized, but it will take a dynamic and questioning mindset and an ability to look at the business from the client’s point of view, to be consistently successful.”   (The Age of the Client – LexisNexis Bellwether Report)

Focus Initiatives on whatever clients value – make it tangible.

Law firms should combine independent “client listening” with other relationship, account and business development activities as all have a part to play.

We use independent client listening at the front end of most projects, to get a perspective for our clients - from theirs - about what they would value as tangible outcomes for them of the initiative we are about to work on. It helps dramatically to inform the project and the results our clients want to see from it.

Bear in mind that all our key areas of work have a direct impact on clients, so this is very pertinent. All are aimed directly at adding value to our legal clients’ services – revolve primarily around technology, client relationships (from CRM strategies and systems, through research and systems), process improvement (including “lean”) and development of the skills needed to make the most of these enhancements to the capability of the practice.

Client listening can be used in many different contexts, some of which we outlined in the first article, but overall it:

  • Is not rocket science
  • Explores the personal and business objectives and priorities of the client; their world.
  • Is personal, to actively engage with clients, meaningfully about their views and plans.
  • Recognises that people run your client’s business and that they don’t all think the same
  • Makes clients feel valued and involved
  • Identifies some trends for groups of clients and sectors
  • Enables your practice to make decisions based on client preferences and strategic needs
  • Takes the guesswork and navel-gazing out of how to deliver legal services
  • Brings people closer, creates creative thinking time and positive debate.
  • Results in action
  • Generates new business.
  • Enables lawyers to innovate with confidence

 The best results are produced from one-to-one, face-to-face interviews and we are reluctant to carry out any relatively small scale initiative in any other way. As the numbers rise, it makes more sense to incorporate some other forms of listening; perhaps telephone calls or Skype for one-to-ones at a distance, but interaction is essential. Focus groups can be very productive too in the right situation, but can be expensive and challenging to coordinate for the right mix of people.

Listening Looks Forwards – Not Backwards

Client Listening is not about “client satisfaction” related initiatives, which have a big part to play too and are much more prevalent in the legal sector. They tend to look backwards at what service has been like, asking “how are we doing, what could we do better?”.

Client listening looks forwards to what the relationship and services should look like in the future asking “What can we do differently … to give you more value from our relationship and the services we deliver for you?”. Everything should be up for discussion - no holds barred. The past has got you this far, to establish the relationship, but expectations and possibilities have changed radically.

Independent Listening Produces Better Results

Independent Client Listening involves the introduction of an experienced, objective view to add a new dynamic and a different perspective. Our experience has shown that this involvement very often opens up new, totally unexpected, opportunities that would not otherwise have been identified.

Why this works so well, so often?

The business people we talk to have generally never experienced this kind of investment and interest in a relationship with them from a law firm before. They recognise it as exceptional now. Perhaps it wouldn’t have the same impact if all firms did it.

Being independent, we can talk candidly and very directly about their personal and business objectives . We can explore the concerns that could generally keep them awake at night to find out about them and their business world, setting specific legal services aside for good parts of the discussion. Experience tells us where to draw the line.

We assure them of confidentiality in any areas they don’t want attributed to them. In practice, it is rare for clients to exercise this right to anonymity, but it lets them talk without any inhibition or reservations.

We explore options; what might be possible – we don’t agree any actions, making that clear to the person we interview. It is agreed that we take their comments “back to base” for the law firm to chew over and come up with any proposals from there, with a clearer understanding of what the client wants to achieve.

We make it clear that we really don’t know anything about the detail of past transactions, which means we don’t get bogged down in that detail . We are only interested in looking at how the relationship and services should develop going forwards.

In that context, we can use our wide experience of the market for legal services and our research into their sector to identify (alongside our client’s views on untapped opportunities) to open discussion on their view of the legal service they want in the future. What could that look like for them?

    We explore options from all angles, with our experience of technology, process, relationships, skills etc; asking any questions we want because there are no boundaries to this discussion on either side. Anything could be possible

    Talk about what other firms do and DON’T do – for real
      Allow them to explore freely, without the restraints of the current relationship ;

        You will find that Independent Client Listening can be used very effectively in a wide variety of situations to help develop your business. It should be a resource that every firm should use one way or another as a matter of routine.

        Also see -   PART 1: Why Smart Law Firms Listen to Clients

        Coming soon - PART 3: Getting Started: How Independent Client Listening works Inpractice.

        Find out more about how we help lawyers introduce effective Client Relationship Management below:

          For more information or to discuss how this could work for your practice - in confidence and with no obligation - contact Allan Carton on 07779 653105 or at acarton@inpractice.co.uk

        By Allan Carton 10 May, 2017
        Although a lot of knowledge and skills were lost in this sector during the recession - because many experienced conveyancers moved to other areas of work when the property market collapsed - there is an opportunity now for new recruits to learn new and better ways of working.

        The findings from this (estate agency focused) research should help you refocus on the key initiatives you ought to be implementing now to develop a successful conveyancing practice fit for today:

        Just 18% of homebuyers based their choice on getting the lowest price . 82% were more concerned about other aspects of service. Not a surprise; our research since 2000 has always shown this to be the case.

        78% would recommend the conveyancer they used to a friend – but only 14% did. (i.e. choose based on a recommendation from a friend!) Conveyancers are still missing out badly here!

        38% particularly valued a conveyancer who keeps in touch once a week.

        Just 31% chose a conveyancer they had used before (4% less than the previous year, so conveyancers are not improving). This is very poor for the solicitors that 69% used previously! From these results, conveyancers can to a lot better by being more proactive in developing and maintaining relationships; and it doesn’t take much to make a big difference.

        68% of home buyers would consider using a conveyancer recommended by their estate agent – not a surprise as estate agents make it easy to ask the question.

        46% did chose the conveyancer recommended by their estate agent – a 5% increase on last year. If conveyancers were proactive, this could be a much lower figure.

        These are the results from credible, extensive research carried out by the Property Academy in association with the TM Group with more than 4700 consumers across England and Wales took part.

        Action Points:

        Prioritise getting to know your client AND their situation from the outset – don’t just focus on the legal transaction; a huge failing before the recession and it hasn’t changed much. Ensure that how you are set up and how people work prompts discussion outside what is just essential to get the job done.

        Get technology and systems in place to streamline your work and leave time for communication with clients (and other parties e.g. estate agents who want to promote your services)

        Work on your database and relationships with clients AFTER the legal work has been completed, to make sure they don’t forget you.

        Help to let the personality of your people stand out so that their clients recommend them (and the practice) to friends for conveyancing work – and in other areas.  Help your conveyancers understand how to sell your services.

        Two Key elements here:

        Help your people respond to enquiries in a way that enables them to talk about other aspects of the service – not just price; something you can change overnight using the approach we recommend here.

        Review your systems for handling enquiries to make sure you are following up as effectively as you can on every one of them – via the telephone, from the web, recommendations to make sure you don’t lose opportunities; most firms do.

        Find out more about our services to help build a more profitable conveyancing business.
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