How have consumer expectations of legal services changed in the 21st century

Expectations have changed massively over the last few years and continue to do so. It has almost become a cliché to say that the modern day consumer of legal services has come to expect the same level of on-line interaction as they would when consuming any other type of product or service. This ‘truth’ is now widely acknowledged and taken as a ‘given’. The majority of Law firms now realise how important this aspect of service delivery is to their future success and perhaps even survival.

The ongoing challenge is to determine the detail of what facilities and features need to be provided and to ensure they are made available in a secure and intuitive format. Customers are no longer satisfied with a simple ‘on line enquiry’ or ‘SMS text update’, they want true pro-active involvement by electronic means. There are also huge pressures being brought to bear by data protection legislation and the rise in cybercrime.

Software providers such as Linetime are putting a great deal of energy into the creation of ‘client facing’ components. These applications take the headache of production away from law firms whilst allowing them to compete for business and satisfy the internet generation. Linetime has, for example, created a Liberate Self-Serve module that allows clients, of any type and from any walk of life, to access information relating to their legal matters. Clients can access documents and status reports, receive timely notifications and interact directly with the firm.

The other huge advantage offered by such systems is that they provide more secure communication than traditional email. Emails are ‘out there’ and can be hacked or intercepted. With a product like Liberate Self- Serve the communication occurs securely within the firm’s own firewall. Nothing leaves the building.

Another contemporary expectation is that people want to be able to enter information on-line. The ability to fill in forms over the internet gives clients the freedom to choose when they want to provide the information and also (with the right technology in place) avoids the law firms having to re-key any data into their central system. Worthy of particular mention is the ability to allow the payment of bills on-line. Customers will pay for pretty much everything else in this way. Why should legal services be any different?

The legal market remains very competitive and any investment or outlay needs to be considered and managed carefully. For this reason many firms have perhaps been relatively cautious when embracing some of the more advanced facilities that are now available. However, in our experience, firms are generally aware of the changing requirements and if they haven’t already put the appropriate technology in place, they are at least thinking about doing so.