As we look ahead to a summer with a well-vaccinated population, it almost feels like things could be returning to normal. But even though the second half of 2021 will, hopefully, put more of the pandemic behind us, many of the structural and behavioral changes that resulted from it are likely to stick—including consumer expectations for flexibility. For your law practice, that means prospective and current clients have become accustomed to 24/7 communication and on-demand everything, from online scheduling to shopping from home.
Work-from-Home Habits Are Here to Stay
Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, prospective clients expected quick responses. Research has shown that a law practice has approximately five minutes to respond to a call or email before the odds of losing a lead to the competition increase by 400 percent. Compounding these expectations are the pandemic habits that we have all acquired, blurring the lines between work and home life. For consumers who are filling out grocery orders or prepping dinner during work hours, it’s hard to know where the work day ends and home life begins. That 24-hour cycle extends beyond work and home and often means we expect to be able to do everything at all times.
Of course, many of us will return to offices once our communities feel safer, but it’s unlikely that in-person work will return to pre-pandemic rates anytime soon. Roughly 42 percent of the workforce was still working from home at the end of 2020 and nearly 1-in-4 workers is expected to work remotely throughout 2021. With so many prospective clients working from home at least part of the week, many pandemic-related lifestyle changes are becoming long-term trends.
Demands for 24/7 Service-on-Demand Extends to the Law Office
Expectations around legal services can’t be isolated from the attitudes clients have about interacting with all businesses. One finding from a recent study in Europe found that online chat has become even more popular than it was pre-pandemic and that digital demands will continue to increase throughout 2021. For accountants, doctors, lawyers and other traditionally conservative professional services, the pandemic has intensified the demand for instant communication on multiple platforms.
What Your Practice Can Do to Keep Up
Whether your practice should invest in a tech upgrade or more resources to respond to prospective clients quickly depends on your current needs. Here are a few to consider:
Live Chat on Your Website
If your website is getting good traffic, but you can’t respond immediately to queries, adding a live chat feature could make a world of difference. A live chat service adds an online staff of highly trained operators to your practice. Visitors to your site who choose to chat can ask a question about your practice, explain their legal matter and get answers immediately. Operators are trained to gather the visitor’s contact information. You receive it, along with a transcript of the conversation, so you have the key information to help you follow up accordingly.
Another way to provide clients with 24/7 accessibility is online scheduling, particularly helpful if you are trying to ease the scheduling demands on your staff. Offering your clients an online scheduling tool lets prospective clients book an appointment immediately, without having to wait for you or your staff to reply. Online scheduling saves you and your clients time and signals to prospects that your office is modern, organized, and professional.
The pandemic accelerated the move towards electronic signatures. As lawyers and clients stayed home and courts closed their doors, hard copy signatures were waived by many courts. Now it looks like eSign is here to stay. It makes sense: eSign is easy for clients, allows you to process documents more quickly rather than waiting on the mail, and avoids unnecessary travel for your clients. Need some tips on how to get started and best practices? Watch this Captorra webinar for a helpful tutorial on eSign.
Other Digital Tools
Electronic billing is another way to streamline one of your office processes (and the one directly linked to your practice revenue!) It also eliminates paper for you and your clients and lets clients pay online–yet another convenience that consumers of many types of products and services have come to expect. Digital files are something you probably (hopefully) have already been using throughout your practice, but are you fully leveraging document sharing between your practice and clients and you and your opposing counsels? If you worry about security, plenty of secure options abound, including Sharepoint, which you probably already have. Guess what? We have a webinar for that, too.
Your prospective clients will likely discover that other lawyers have outdated websites and slow response times. Your convenient, cutting-edge (or, at least, 21st-century) processes will leave them with a positive impression and solidify your practice as the one they can trust to be on top of things.