I get it. The whole world is going digital. Everyone is telling you you’ll get paid faster, save trees, conduct your work from everywhere if you just download this app, this QR code, agree to go paperless, pay online, print your own forms, your own ID cards, your (fill in the blank) from the ease of your computer or smart phone. It’s a very compelling message unless you are working with clients who are older, like paper, are technologically inept, can’t get their printer to work, need their kids to help with their smart phones and more. Or worse, they have no kids or their kids or spouses are equally inept.
It’s very exciting to embrace technology. It’s new, it’s shiny, it’s fast. Every law practice management consultant tells you you will fall behind if you don’t. Myself included. However, as I have written before, you must embrace the technology gap from the perspective of your client. Not every client wants this. Not every client is capable of embracing it. Not every client will feel comfortable. And just as some embrace the latest technology, the goal post for the ‘latest’ technology ‘must haves’ moves. And lest we forget, every consultant tells you to build a client-centric practice in order to succeed.
So, how do we build a client-centered practice which remains technologically progressive but understands not all clients are technologically progressive? How do we stay efficient and friendly and not alienate our clients, or worse, they fail to hire to us?
Today I went to renew my AAA membership for my Mom who is definitely not technologically savvy. When I did (via the telephone, mind you), the representative then read a legal statement telling me that going forward my Mom would no longer receive paper renewals in the mail or physical cards. They would be sent via email (along with 10,000 other emails received daily) and it was her responsibility to print out a hard copy or digitize her membership card on her smart phone to utilize as needed. Sounds great, right? Now tell that to a significant majority of people aged 50-90 who miss the email, don’t have a working printer, can’t find the image in the google photo gallery when frantically stuck on the road…just when they need AAA the most.
I proceeded to the tell the representative that their ‘going green’ approach was terribly flawed given their target audience and who could I talk to so I could suggest they rethink this approach? She told me the line was recorded and someone will hear it. Basically, she was telling me ‘I just work here, lady.’ And AAA is so big So what if a whole generation falls off, who cares?
You, as an attorney, are juggling multiple balls. How do you create a technologically savvy yet client-friendly environment, one which considers the varying levels of your clients’ technological competency? Not all clients are created equal and you are not AAA. You are service-driven client by client. I certainly don’t have all the answers. What I do know is no matter the system you put in place, have a transition plan and an education plan for your clients. Do not assume they will have the technological capabilities or savvy to work with you the way YOU choose to work exclusively. Do not make assumptions. Do not mistakenly decide your clients have all the technology needed on their end to be ‘good’ clients. Do a technology audit of YOUR clients to see if they can actually work with you. This means setting up a checklist as part of your ‘welcome to our practice’ protocol. If this means you or or your paralegal or admin staff has to sit down with each and every client to have this discussion, set them up or make an alternative strategy for effective communications, you better do it. Failure to do so will create incalculable frustrations and will be costly to you. The sad part is you will blame the client when the reality is it was your failure to understand the potential technology divide.
Yes, it’s one more thing on your never-ending ‘to do’ list. But it is probably one of the most important ones because without effective and efficient client communication as seen from the client’s perspective, going green will put you in the red.