Millennials (Americans aged 18–36) have surpassed the baby boomers as the generation with the largest purchasing power in today’s economy. They are also much more discerning than previous generations about what products and services they buy. This should be worrisome to most traditional law firms.
The modern world has raised an entire generation of consumers who believe that businesses should provide both a quality product and a quality customer experience. Businesses that ignore the importance of the customer experience will fail. Companies that make it a priority will have a tremendous competitive advantage. This goes for law firms, too.
Uber is an excellent example of a company that capitalized on the value of the customer experience. Uber provides the same service that taxis do: move a person from point A to point B. But people choose Uber over taxis because the experience with Uber is superior. Uber identified pain points in the customer experience—calling a taxi, waiting for it to arrive, directing the driver turn by turn, and exchanging cash as the ride finishes. Uber designed a product that eliminated the moments of friction, and the result was sensational.
This is what design-thinking does for businesses. When law firm owners invest in design-thinking, they will outperform the competition by a landslide.
Bringing design-thinking to law firms was the theme at this year’s Clio Cloud Conference in New Orleans. The first step to design-thinking is to understand what your client wants. Nicole Abboud, the owner of Abboud Media, told us what millennials want from lawyers in her talk “Millennials: Understanding Your New Clients and Colleagues for Law Firm Growth.”
She gave a tour of today’s law firm through the eyes of a user experience designer and identified four key elements that millennials want when they purchase legal services:
- A modern web presence with various channels of communication with the firm.
- Fixed fees.
- Collaboration and inclusion in the process.
- Excellent customer service.
So how do we use design-thinking to provide millennials with the experience they are looking for? As it turns out, the answers may be more straightforward than you might think.
A Modern Web Presence
Let’s start with the law firm’s web presence. It is not enough anymore to have a static website that functions more or less like an electronic brochure. Your website should be interactive and engaging. An easy place to start is by adding contact forms, chatbots or online scheduling to the website. Millennials want the option to communicate with your firm using a keyboard. They want to schedule appointments, pay invoices and get updates, all from the comfort of their own home.
Nicole Abboud mused that lawyers often ask how millennials want to communicate—through text, phone or email. She explained that the best way to know how to communicate with a millennial effectively is to ask them, because each may desire something different. The point she makes is that millennials expect firms to have flexible channels of communication. Here’s a hint: if you still refuse to share your mobile number with clients, then you probably do not have flexible channels of communication.
Lawyers who are still using the billable hour, it is time to get creative, and fast! That being said, this is understandably difficult advice to take. The billable hour is how most legal services have always been priced, and as we all know, change is hard. Despite this, lawyers should be looking for opportunities to switch to flat-fee pricing models and innovating around new fixed-fee legal offerings.
Christina Scalera, the owner of The Contract Shop, does this exceptionally well. She serves a niche audience of creatives who need legal templates. She meets her customers at the easiest location, such as their home or office or a local coffee shop. They don’t need to get across town to physically meet with a lawyer about a standard services contract.
Erin Levine is another terrific innovator and owner of Hello Divorce, which is an evolved version of the traditional family law practice. Hello Divorce offers on-demand flat-fee legal services and an online library packed full of valuable forms and resources for divorce clients. Her website offers flexible channels of communication and allows clients to access information from anywhere.
Lawyers should also be thinking about how to make the legal process more collaborative. Millennials want to hire an attorney who will join their team. Lawyers can be team players by using a client portal to share important legal documents or reaching out to the client well in advance of deadlines to discuss strategy and options. What matters to millennials is that the lawyer is willing the engage the client about the case.
Preet Bharara’s keynote address at Clio Cloud Conference reinforced these points. He told us that lawyers need to spend more time “speaking simply and listening intently.” Millennials don’t want to be lectured on what to do. They want to understand the process and have a voice.
Excellent Customer Service
Finally, law firms will want to start prioritizing client service. Millennials are quick to identify firms that are succeeding in client service by relying on online reviews. The best way to cultivate positive reviews is to provide great customer service.
This requires letting go of lawyer-centric thinking that inevitably overlooks what is important to the client experience. Mark Britton, CEO of Avvo, couldn’t have been more clear than when he told a room full of hundreds of lawyers “I don’t care what you think, I care about what the consumer thinks.”
Fortunately, it is easy to start moving towards a client-centric model. Josh Kubicki, who spoke on “The Importance of the Client Journey” advised that we don’t need expensive consultants. We just need to start looking at the experience through our client’s eyes and collecting feedback and data from today’s processes. A simple email to clients will elicit insights that are invaluable: Was there anything that annoyed you about our process? What did you like or dislike about the process? If you had a magic wand, what would you fix?
Even the most basic client feedback will help a law firm identify easy ways to design a better client experience.
Clio led by example when it designed a conference around helping lawyers succeed in a rapidly changing industry. And the answer, as it turns out, boils down to something surprisingly simple: we will thrive when we bring design-thinking to our firms and focus on the needs of our clients.
Originally published 2017-10-10. Last updated 2018-07-20.