Is the future of client acquisition for law firms to be found in technology?

Duncan Anderson
March 08, 2021

Legal client acquisition

Do you see law firms and solicitors as amongst the most traditional of businesses, laggards in their use of technology? Or, perhaps, do you see them emerging as leaders in their use of digital technology? My guess is that most of you are in the former, rather than latter, category. But let me challenge those assumptions...

If we first look at fields of law such as Immigration, Property Sales, Personal Injury and Wills/Probate, we find sectors that have become ferociously competitive in recent times. So much so that effective exploitation of digital lead sourcing — online ads, social media posting, etc — can often make a huge difference to the number of leads a firm acquires, and therefore its commercial success.

In our discussions with law firms, one regional UK firm revealed that their monthly Google Ad Word spend is multiples of £1,000. Another explained that they ramp Ad Word spending up/down, depending on how busy they are... and that a doubling of Ad Word spend leads to a comparable increase in leads. Yet another explained how immigration lawyers find business through Facebook posts, finding those looking for native speakers of particular languages.

"If you’d asked most judges and lawyers in January what they thought of video hearings, they’d have expressed an instinctive, visceral, negative view of their potential... Isn’t it fascinating in this time of great pressure, when judges and lawyers really needed to, how quickly they adapted?" — Richard Susskind, author of "Online Courts and the Future of Justice"

At its heart law is all about communication — how to encode concepts into words and how to argue a case. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that digital communication is becoming a key part of the industry. Whilst this might not yet be the case for all fields of law, for an increasing number it is — and especially so in the area of client acquisition.

Legal tech firms

One example of technology being used for legal client acquisition would be in "robo" legal advice. Foremost here might be DoNotPay, an automated legal service for a variety of consumer-facing challenges like parking ticket appeals, airline flight compensation, credit card refunds, etc. DoNotPay's success has been in standardising the response to such challenges, making it possible to completely automate both the acquisition and advice processes.

For DoNotPay, the client acquisition process is quite radically different from a traditional law firm. Instead of face-to-face discussions, it relies instead on a consumer brand and awareness, social media advertising and an app on the Apple and Google app stores. Whilst this model can't be used for all types of law, it does perhaps point to a future where simpler legal issues can increasingly be addressed through very standardised and automated services.

Next up would be the no-win-no-fee law firms that specialise in flight delay compensation, road traffic accident claims, miss-sold finance, etc. Such firms would be typified by those such as Bott+Co and FairPlane.

For such firms, the client acquisition challenge is how to sift through large numbers of speculative clients, in order to rapidly assess which ones to invest time with.

It is perhaps no surprise that initial client acquisition on the Bott+Co website entails filling in a detailed data capture form, uploading paperwork, agreement to privacy policies, etc — essentially gathering, in a zero-touch way, the information needed to make an assessment of a possible claim.

Lessons in how to use technology in client acquisition

From our discussions with law firms, a number of key issues came up again and again. It's clear that there are some industry-wide challenges we can learn from.

Chat can source a lot of leads

Adding a "Live Chat" facility to a law firm's website is a great way to add immediate feedback to customers looking for help. In competitive markets, the ability to immediately engage a potential client in a conversation and capture their attention before they go elsewhere, is highly attractive. Indeed, firms who've tried the technology report that it was highly effective in driving client engagement and lead volume.

But it's tough for law firms to meet expectations of immediacy

The challenge with Live Chat is the expectations that people have of immediate responses, with surveys showing that consumers will go elsewhere if they don't receive a fast reply.

Of course, law firms aren't setup to provide instant responses at any time of the day or night. It's just not how things work. That means there are only two possible routes to make Live Chat work in a law firm — outsourced services, or automation.

Outsourced providers struggle to qualify leads

An outsourced service appears an attractive solution — let someone else respond to customers, qualify leads and forward them on to the law firm.

However, this doesn't always work out well. Unfortunately, outsourced providers often struggle to understand legal issues and so lead qualification is not always what it ought to be. The danger of this is that they end up taking a large number of "junk" leads that just distract the law firm as they need to follow them up before realising they are, in fact, junk.

One firm we spoke to had tried the outsourced route, but concluded it was more trouble than it was worth and reversed course. They told, for example, of leads such as "my mate owes me £50" — not exactly the biggest legal opportunity!

The problem with outsourced services is that they often don't have the legal skills to quiz the potential client enough to discern the true nature of a lead.

Understanding the performance of digital leads is important, but often difficult

With monthly spend for even small law firms likely in the £100's to £1,000's a month, understanding the performance of digital ad compaigns and social media posts is critical. However, many law firms struggle to get this right.

Products like Google Analytics can help, but setting them up and understanding what they are reporting, is a non-trivial exercise.

Even with the right setup and investment in skills, Google Analytics on its own is incapable of knowing which website browsers actually turned into real leads by submitting their contact details.

But, really, this isn't stuff that should be taking the time of highly trained lawyers — the industry needs tools that provide an easier way of understanding the linkage between Ad Word spend and actual leads generated. Hint... at Humanise.AI we have an answer!

Finding answers

At Humanise.AI we think that technology-enabled law firms have a bright future. In fact, in our conversations with law firms, it's become obvious that in many fields of legal advice the use of technology to source leads is now a given.

However, many law firms are still in the foothills of climbing a technology mountain — which is where we at Humanise.AI can help.

Law firms aren't staffed to respond instantly, 24x7, to engage with prospective clients. Outsourced services too often compound the challenges by not sufficiently qualifying the leads they source. And everyone we spoke to finds measuring the effectiveness of digital marketing campaigns a complete black art.

That's why we started our "legal brain" initiative, a Live Chat with AI service that's able to respond instantly at any time of the day or night, qualifying and collecting leads. It collects the information you need to ensure the first client conversation is a productive one. And it tracks leads from their source, presenting simple reports on the effectiveness of ads and social media campaigns — measuring not just click-throughs, but the ratio of click-throughs to actual qualified leads where people have provided their information and requested help.

For those operating in areas where English isn't always the first language, our digital brain can automatically translate for you — chatting in Chinese, for example, to the prospective client and providing an English transcript to you. Or, even empowering your team by translating their messages to the lead's chosen language.

If you'd like to know more, checkout the demo on our legal solutions page

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