Business of Law

A Powerful Little Tool You Must Use


Illustration by Christoph Niemann

How about a simple and inexpensive idea that will give you a reality check on your current technology, help you set strategy, and improve relationships with your clients? And you won’t have to learn a new technology to use it.

Got your attention, didn’t I?

It’s a great time to focus on client technology surveys. They are simple, surprisingly effective, can fit on a single page and can be used as a script on a phone call.

We lawyers spend a lot of time wondering what clients want and trying to set a technology strategy without having much solid information on which to base our decisions. The breakthrough idea: Let’s just ask our clients.

I’ve written extensively on something I call client-driven technology. You can’t do much better than look for technology choices that make it easier for your clients to work with you and stay with you. And there’s no better way to do that than to just ask them.

First and foremost, the survey is another “touch” you can offer to a cli­ent that shows you have an interest in them other than billing more hours. Surveys can also help you identify technological pain points for clients (such as format and conversion issues), get feedback on recent technology changes and anticipated technology initiatives, and help you focus your technology strategy and set priorities for new technology processes.

I advocate the short and simple approach: a one- or two-page survey. I wouldn’t do much more than that unless I was looking for specific, detailed information from a limited number of clients. In the book on collaboration tools Dallas lawyer Tom Mighell and I wrote, we have a sample survey that focuses on that aspect of technology.

WHAT TO ASK

As a starting point, you will want to consider some or all of the following five areas in your survey:

1. What standard programs and versions do you use?
Include word processing, e-mail, etc. Identify the basic tool set. It’s also useful here to ask for the name of the person to contact in the event of a technology problem.

2. What do you prefer?
Clients often have a preference on e-mail attachments and other techno­logical ways to work with you. Today, I hear a lot of concern about sending large files and redlining (the blocked trans­mission of such files).

3. How are we doing?
Identify pain points. Even if you’ve gotten some hints, it’s good to bring them to the surface. For example, the change in formats between Office 2007 and earlier versions is definitely causing issues in exchanging documents.

4. What specific challenges or initiatives exist?
Solicit feedback on areas such as security, collaboration, new initiatives and changing forms of communication (instant messaging or webconferencing, for example).

5. What are your suggestions?
End with an open-ended question or two and ask for comments on other technology issues that might uncover a potential problem or a new initiative you might try.

Sending out your survey with the engagement letter for each new cli­ent is a great idea. The beginning of the year is also an excellent time. If you are working on a technology stra­­tegic plan or setting priorities, you will want to send out a survey in advance of meetings on those topics.


Dennis Kennedy is a St. Louis-based computer lawyer and legal technology writer. His website, DennisKennedy.com, is the home of his blog. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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