However, as our own recent research has shown, what most law firms really value is jam today.
When surveyed, at a recent seminar, one of the key areas where most said they wanted ‘IT to help’ was right at the beginning of the data quality chain. This meant getting initial client data on board accurately and quickly i.e. through efficient Client Matter Inception. Indeed nearly 79% of respondents confirmed that receiving completed forms more quickly (back from the client) was something that they were keen to find solutions for. The rationale is straightforward…. The consequences of inaccurate data costs a great deal more to put right later and could have a pretty negative impact on perceived practice quality. In addition slow data can mean lost case momentum and client frustration.
It’s easy to understand why this is still a problem for many law firms. The process of sending inception forms is typically still carried out by post or email. Anecdotally, paper forms take between three and five days to be completed and returned by the client. We also found that nearly 25% of paper forms were subsequently sent back to the clients because of missing, incorrect, or illegible information. And for those of you who are already think that the email ones would be better – think again! Bizarrely, the same amount of time seems to be taken when the forms are emailed to the client rather than posted. In theory, it should be quicker, but it might simply be that the technology that clients have at home is different to what they have in the office. It might also be that they only respond to a mass of emails every few days in batch mode. Certainly, by the time they print the forms out and post them back there is a delay – if only because fewer than ever have a printer at home these days.
It comes as no surprise therefore, that the more innovative and customer-centric firms are now moving away from paper based forms and opting for electronic signature versions. These can be sent from case management systems or accessed through online portals. They can also be completed instantly and accurately. High profile firms such as Linklaters have been very vocal about their adoption of this kind of software but it is worth highlighting that there are many other firms that have adopted the technology, some of which have achieved startling results.
From our own research we know that sending forms for completion electronically can reduce timescales for law firms by up to one week. This doesn’t include the additional benefits of information being automatically parsed from the form direct into the practice’s CMS (i.e. with no copy typing errors). Further, many clients have confirmed that using electronic signatures is not just about the speed of getting documents returned, but as a key differentiator from other firms who provide similar work.
Indeed one of our clients commented recently, at a webinar, that they had increased their conversion rate from quotation to client. This was based solely on moving from the process of emailing forms to the client to using our own electronic signature integration. They also confirmed that their client care survey results had positively increased too. Whilst it is unlikely this is solely as a result of e-Signatures, it certainly made a significant contribution.
Faster inception, less errors and improved customer perceptions are all available through simply just getting the basics right. So with all this in mind is 2017 going to be the year for electronic signatures? We believe so.
This technology is now firmly embedded within the industry, and there is more than one eSignature provider, which means that prices may become more competitive as they try to gain ground on their rivals. In terms of our own eSignature solutions we know that we have received far more enquiries than previously and are looking to help many more practices in 2017.
And when it comes to eating our own dog food… yes…. we use eSignatures ourselves. The majority of our own contracts are signed by IT Managers/IT Directors, so it makes sense to use a system, which can be completed on a mobile phone or tablet. It ensures that we can too can see the considerable benefits of getting the basics right and want to share this with others too.