11/10/10

Technology is not your friend – your client is.

We (IT) are getting more and more pressure to develop systems that enable the client to interact with the Firm in what is being coined as a “real time” or near real time basis.  The technology to communicate in real time has been around for many years, we call that technology a telephone.  You have a phone, pick it up and talk to the client. 
Clearly there is value in extranets that allow a client to track budgets or share documents, but they are allowing lawyers to stray away from one of the most important aspects of their relationship with their client - personal interaction.  
Using technology to stay in touch with your client is like trying to teach your child to drive a car via twitter.  
Parent to child:  Here Johnny, follow this link to understand your blind spots.  
Attorney to client:  Hey client, I just posted a link on your extranet that relates to your case.  Read it at your leisure.  
Talk about a warm fuzzy!  Why not pick up the phone and demonstrate to the client not only your understanding of the law, but your understanding of the client’s business?
Clients want lawyers who understand the client’s business.  I don’t mean understand in the basic sense; I mean know their business like you know the law.  How does a busy lawyer keep current on their client’s business?  You do not want to bug the client to educate you.  You want to impress the client with your understanding.  This is where technology can really help.
You want to impress your clients?  Figure out what technology they use to keep current and use that technology.  Find out if the GC (CEO, CFO, decision makers) for your client uses twitter, reads RSS feeds, subscribes to newspapers, etc. and do the same.  Become an active contributor to areas that the client will read.  Twitter is a great way to do this.  By leveraging twitter, I’m able to keep current with many areas where I would otherwise have no exposure.  And within the twitter world, I’m able to interact with people I would otherwise not know.  These interactions help build stronger business relationships.  It’s important to contribute to the dialog no matter where that dialog is taking place.  If you aren’t part of the conversation, someone else is.  And trust me, your client is listening.
I interact with many people on twitter.  None of those people are going to hire me based solely on my interaction with them on twitter.  The people that would consider hiring me are the people that know me from some other interaction.  However, what I contribute does help shape the way I am known and perceived.  If it comes down to a couple of candidates, one who participates in such a dialog and one who does not, you can bet the participator will get the advantage.  Why?  Because he or she was part of the conversation. 
Does technology help build a bond between client and law firm?  No.  Technology helps deliver information in a timely manner.  You build bonds through personal interaction.
Technology is not your friend, your client is, but technology can be a tipping point.

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