Customer change in an industry is inevitable, and the field of law is no exception. As the makeup of today’s legal customer base continues to change and evolve, so does its needs and service expectations.
Today’s attorney needs to pay close attention not only to those making up their current group of clients, but the people who will make up their future clients as well. When attorneys fail to do so, they risk having their firm fall behind, and turning off clients with out of date methods and practices. In this blog post we’ll break down who exactly the future law client is, what future clients expect from their law office, and what attorneys can do to meet those expectations.
Why You Need To Worry About Millennial Customers
The millennial generation, most typically defined as those who were born between 1980 and 2000, has reached a count of 92 million people. This makes them the largest generation in the United States today, even bigger than baby boomers. Many of these millennials are now of adult age, which means they are not just the legal clients of the future, but the legal clients of the present as well. There is no avoiding millennials, so if you want your practice to continue to grow, you will need to learn to work with them.
So what can you do to make your firm more appealing to millenials? To best answer this question, you first need to better understand the millennial customer.
According to new legal marketing research, there are a few things law offices should be aware of when it comes to millennial customers:
- Millennials Will Do Their Homework: This new generation of consumers can be quite the discerning one. Before a millennial reaches out to a law office, it’s a pretty safe bet that they have already done a fair amount of research on the firm.
- Millennials Desire Immediate Gratification: All millennials have ever really known is a world that strives for instant answers and instant results, and when a business is unable to provide that for them, they will quickly grow frustrated.
- Millennials Can Be Reluctant To Pay For Legal Help: Whether it be because of their cautious nature or a tight budget, millennial consumers usually like to see if they can solve a legal situation on their own first, before deciding to pay for the services of a law professional.
So to recap, millennials are a tough group to impress. Fair or not, today’s law office is expected to provide customers with a high level of legal expertise, while at the same time providing clients with a highly convenient experience. And if a firm fails to do so, it is likely to develop a damaging online reputation, that will keep it from attracting new clients.
What Millennials Expect From Their Attorney
For attorneys, staying on top of the latest legal trends can be challenging. Fortunately, there is always new research being performed regarding the law client experience. A legal trends report, released just a few months ago, provided an in-depth look into what millenials law clients care most about, and how their lawyer expectations differed from the rest of Americans.
Clio’s study revealed that millennials dealing with legal issues have more of a desire to do the following things than older Americans:
- Communicate with their lawyer through text or email rather than over the phone or face-to-face
- Share legal documents through online methods
- Use online payment methods, like PayPal, or similar platforms
- Make payments by credit card
While the fact that millennials prefer using technology is far from a shocking revelation, the amount of millennials that carry an expectation for their attorney to be tech savvy is definitely noteworthy. For communicating by text and email, 19 percent of millennials indicated they expected to be able to do so with their attorney. Meanwhile, 30 percent of millennials said they preferred online legal document sharing, 18 percent said they preferred to pay their legal bills online, and 24 percent said they would rather pay with a credit card. These statistics represent real legal trends, that attorneys need to incorporate into the way they do business.
This new data tells us that law clients today expect their attorney to be tech savvy in just about every communication or exchange situation. Millennial clients want interacting with their attorney to be as fast and convenient as possible, and for them that means using their phone and computer as much as possible.
Robbie Friedman, a former corporate attorney who is now CEO for the company ViewaBill, gave his opinion in a recent article on why law professionals may often be slow to adopt new technology.
Friedman stated that, “generally, law firms don’t want to lead change; they want to be exactly in line with their peers. It’s the reason innovation happens so slowly and that any innovation has had to be client-driven.”
When it comes to embracing new technology, attorneys can no longer afford to be stubborn or resistant to change. Remember, just because you won’t meet millennial technology expectations, doesn’t mean other attorneys will take the same stance. In fact, an increasing number of today’s attorneys are millennials themselves, who likely share similar views to new age law customers on how attorneys should engage with their clients.
No one is expecting their attorney to be a tech-wiz, but attorneys do need to at least meet their millennial clients halfway on their technology expectations, or risk becoming a legal dinosaur.
What Can Non-Tech Savvy Attorneys Do?
Hearing these millennial clients expectations may leave some long-time attorneys feeling uneasy, but there is no need for them to panic. Here are a few tips our technology challenged attorney friends can take in meeting millennial expectations.
Tip #1: Communicating through email can be a nice middle ground for attorneys that do not feel comfortable giving clients out there direct cell phone number or do not check their text messages regularly. It allows millennial clients to still have a line of contact to their attorney through their preferred message form, while allowing attorneys to still maintain a professional boundary between them and their clients. In order for this to work, however, attorneys must be diligent at checking and responding to their emails.
Tip #2: Online document sharing may raise some red flags for cautious attorneys, but the good news is that there are many legal softwares in existent today that not only make document sharing fast and easy, but also extremely secure. The Clio company provides software which allows for easy creation and sharing of documents on the fly. Practice Panther is another popular legal software choice, as it features a client portal for sharing files and secure messages. According to a 2016 ABA Journal survey report, 33 percent of lawyers now share documents with their clients online, so non-tech savvy attorneys should not be afraid to join in on this trend.
Tip #3: For processing online payments, there are plenty of helpful software programs available to choose from, which are specifically designed for law firms. In a recent legal software survey conducted by our company, we found that the software LawPay was one of the most popularly used payment software programs by lawyers today. The program allows for easy digital handling of client payment information, and is also a great tool for credit card processing. We also found in our survey that many lawyers are using systems like Square and PayPal for running credit card payments.
While learning to work with new technology could present some short-term frustration for attorneys, it will be well worth it for them in the long run. Getting work done through digital methods will not only make your firm more attractive to millennial clients and increase your opportunities for new business, but over time allow you to work more efficiently.
Of course doing the above mentioned things is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to connecting with millennial clients. Being active on social media is also a must for law offices, as a recent survey found that 72 percent of consumers aged 18 to 34 say they would be likely to hire an attorney who has an active presence on social media.