Despite our quest for some sense of certainty during this unsettling time, there is no way to truly know how far the COVID-19 ripple effect will extend into the legal industry. But this does not mean we cannot try to grow—or regain—our business until an answer appears.
While the global pandemic resulted in a significant slowdown in legal business, there are numbers and analytics that indicate business will rebound and legal analysts have stated that the legal industry will transform into a more customer-centric model.
A recent report by Clio assessing the impacts of the coronavirus on the legal industry and consumers found that the virus has created a 40 percent drop in the number of new legal matters opened per week. Almost half of the polled consumers said that if they had a legal issue, they would delay seeking legal help until after the virus subsided. Further, 22 percent of consumers indicated they were under the impression that attorneys stopped working altogether because of COVID-19.
Jack Newton, CEO and cofounder of Clio, said in a press release, “We’ve seen no indication that the need for legal services has subsided during the pandemic, but for many people, dealing with them right now isn’t top of mind.”
Dealing with them will, however, become a priority when counties and states start to open back up. Further, many will likely face new legal issues due to the coronavirus, so business will resume and likely even grow.
A shared belief among legal commentators and analysts is that, moving forward, firms and attorneys will be expected to cater more directly to the unique post-coronavirus needs of their clients.
Clients will expect technology platforms to help avoid in-person consultations, and they will want electronic documents. With the ongoing economic hardships, potential clients may wish to pay for services via a flat fee rather than by the hour. They may also wish to handle matters mostly on their own with just a little guidance from their attorney. To answer these needs, lawyers and law firms will have to put the client and customer first. This is customer-centric business and there is really no way to get around it.
This means embracing more effective communication. Attorneys and firms will have to communicate the following to show potential clients how their specific operations cater to clients’ needs:
- They are open for business and taking on new customers;
- They offer alternatives to in-person meetings;
- They use technological platforms such as video conferencing tools like Zoom;
- The provide “How-to” guides on handling common legal issues;
- They have emerged from the coronavirus with a better understanding of how to meet client needs more effectively and more efficiently.
Even smaller to mid-size practices that don’t have the good fortune of a marketing department likely already have the resources to make this marketing work. (Make sure to include in the marketing, though, that it does not represent legal advice so the firm is not exposed to liability.)
A website is a law firm’s virtual front office. If it is cluttered or out-of-date, the firm has to clean it up and modernize it. A firm website should prominently include a COVID-19 statement that the firm is open and serving its clients. The website should include details about safety precautions it may employ and the technological tools it will use to provide services. Lawyers should also include any details that serve to empower potential clients.
A whitepaper is simply a brief report—three to five pages—on a particular topic available on the firm website. The topic will depend on the firm’s particular practice area and clients (both current and potential). The goal is to connect with clients in a way that fosters loyalty by instructing them on topics they may want to learn about. An estate planning attorney, for example, may use a white paper to explain if a person even needs a will. Granted, this particular communication may result in losing some business, but it is honest information that people will value and respect.
Blogging takes time but it is an effective way to aim a steady stream of information in a client’s direction. Like whitepapers, blog posts should focus on areas of importance to the firm’s clients; however, they should not be entirely legal in nature. Incorporate firm news, such as how the firm is responding to COVID-19 or any charitable work the law firm has performed.
4. Social Media
Social media can be used as an indirect marketing tool that it is not so much about “selling” to the client. Social media can put the firm name in front of potential clients and, as with the other methods, give the customer an experience.
It is a profoundly serious time right now—hope should not get lost though. People still trust and value the work of attorneys. It is time now for attorneys to take the effort to assure clients that they, in turn, value and respect them. Your business will thank you for it.