Collaboration platforms should be tablestakes for law firms.

I’ve had a draft post sat around for a couple of months and I thought I’d have a stab at finishing it tonight. It was prompted by a statement I saw in a tweet from July (I think). It stated “Collaboration platforms that allow client access will become table stakes within a few years among leading law firms”.

It’s an interesting statement and got me thinking. What sort of things are needed to enable this to become a key pillar in client engagement? Obviously there’s things like the technology platform, the adoption and integration of social media, willingness from the business to put in the effort, a willingness from the client to engage and obviously make sure that it’s secure enough to make sure your firms GC or risk officer doesn’t have a heart attack.

Technology platform – Most firms IT teams would love to build this or be involved at least but these days it always going to be easier to bring in something in off the shelf. What may fulfill these basic requirements? Well off the top of my head there are things like Yammer, Sitepoint from High Q Solutions and perhaps even Open Text Social Workplace (OTSW).

All of these products integrate or contain main stream elements of social media. They can help internal and external parties foster a sense of community and each are able to manage external collaboration, whilst being mindful of the security aspects.

The willingness from the business is a little trickier. The main problem being that lawyers don’t tend to like business development. Anything more than a client lunch is a step too far in many cases. These days clients require access to information 24/7 and having the ability to feel connected and informed is part (or will be) of what the client expects now – not in 6 – 12 months. The main problem with this becomes the effort to make the platform current and integration with other legal platforms such as the PMS.

How accessible and useful will always be the two things that drive client engagement, and this is where each law firm has the ability to create a unique selling point (USP). Clunky access to documents and billing information that looks like it was built in the first generation sharepoint platform won’t win many people round. If you really work a design, a brand and push the right content in the right context then you have a real chance.

Security will always be a tricky little beggar.. It’s always there causing headaches and issues. It’s interesting that the BCS has just completed a poll of their members and the top attribute expected in the future is ‘information security’. Obviously all of these platforms need to be secure in their access and the way they store and handle the information contained within. It not really that much different to the extranets and data rooms firms have been running for years – it’s just current data for collaboration rather than a collection of old data for analysis.

Will firms see this chance? I think there is massive opportunity to provide more than just a value add service but to go one step further and make it a USP, whether in the type of platform or the quality of the information they are providing.

What do you think?

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