Clock ticking on law firms that fail to focus on customer service, new research warns

There is a “disturbing level of tunnel vision” among law firms when it comes to adopting modern customer service standards, which could ultimately make the difference between success and failure, according to a report published today by Peppermint Technology.

In an ever competitive market, law firms that are not thriving may only have a brief chance to turn things around before it is too late, the research suggests.

The research shows that law firms are falling behind other sectors when it comes to client satisfaction and customer support. Worryingly, the gap between legal and comparative sectors is getting wider with many firms failing to cover the basics including following up enquiries and keeping in contact with former clients.

As well as taking a broad look at the professional services market, the How Law Firms Measure Up Against Other Sectors research conducted empirical research to compare lawyers to accountants and consultants. Among the findings:The research reveals that firms lack the willingness to change, remain sceptical about the benefits of automation and are reluctant to take a long-term view and invest sufficiently in their business. Law firms invest only 4.1% of turnover in IT, compared to consultancy (4.9%), accountancy (5.1%) and financial services (7%).

  • A third of law firms have not been involved in any business innovations in the last two years, a much higher figure than the other two sectors. Consultants have been the most innovative, in particular in sales and marketing, and pricing – two areas largely ignored by many law firms to date;
  • A third of law firms do not maintain a regular relationship with their clients once a particular matter has been completed, compared to 26% of accountants and 13% of consultants;
  • Law firms are behind in offering clients online access to enable case tracking, or to check and download documents – 8.7% of law firms have this, half that of accountants;
  • 39% of law firms carry out regular client feedback surveys, behind consultants (52%) but ahead of accountants (28%). A smaller percentage in each sector incorporates the results into their client records and an even smaller percentage use the information to benchmark their performance over time; and
  • Almost half of law firms (46%) expect to invest in IT over the next 18 months, while 32% anticipate investing in sales and marketing, and 22% will look again at their pricing and customer delivery.

Arlene Adams, the founder and CEO of Peppermint, says: “Other sectors consistently perform better than lawyers in client satisfaction surveys.

“It is time for law firms to look outside the legal market for inspiration and to benchmark their performance against other sectors. Technology will increasingly blur the lines between legal and other professional service sectors and law firms need to have the tools to compete. If they are not looking after their clients, others will.

“This report indicates that firms thrive in the status quo and have less appetite for risk than other sectors. This needs to change. Any successful business needs to be brave enough to make decisions, embrace change and invest in technology for the longer term. Law firms are no different from other business sectors and if firms only looked outside of legal they would soon realise that.”