With the increasing prevalence of digital work, professional services companies are having to adapt to it. For the legal profession, there is a critical balance to be struck between introducing digital interactions while maintaining a strong relationship with clients. At Clifford Chance, a leading London-based international law firm that specializes in corporate law, this has been a key consideration in its digital journey. Dennis Edgar, Head of Marketing explains:
Our organization is a relationship-based organization. We want to make sure that the high-end relationship moves to the digital experience [clients] You have as well.
One of the top ten law firms in the world, Clifford Chance is keen to be seen as a digital innovator. But like most of its peers, the technology it relied on for internal collaboration and customer interactions was built on a collection of legacy, disconnected systems sourced from a variety of niche or often specialist suppliers. These systems were not able to support the global reach, modern compliance, and digital connectivity required by Clifford Chance. Edgar remembers:
We had a lot of disengaging the legacy that we had to do… It was mainly about the fact that they were positioned as specific systems for the legal industry. These systems did not cooperate or integrate well with some of the other, more modern systems that we need to modernize our stack. We had to do a full review of what all of these systems were, where they were interconnected, where they weren’t related to each other, and what dependencies things had, [and] None of them were working completely offline and we had to replace them.
A consistent high-touch experience
The goal was to standardize on a globally scalable platform that would provide a consistent high-touch experience to all of its customers around the world. Edgar worked closely with IT expert Anthony Vigneron, director of legal technology solutions at Clifford Chance, to select a system based on Adobe Experience Cloud—along with Adobe Document Cloud internally—to deliver what was needed. Explain:
It really cares about how we interact with our customers – all the touch points, how we log into our various digital products and services. We have to spend a lot of time around all the branding, the visual identity, and making sure it’s all consistent across all the touch points. [It’s] We make sure we get tracking and analytics on what people are doing, what we can cross-promote, and cross-sell to. All of these things aren’t what you normally associate with a law firm, but that’s exactly what we’re trying to do here.
Law firms are no different than any other professional services firm in this need to modernize to keep pace with the expectations of clients, who themselves are becoming more digitally mobile. Edgar says:
One of the things organizations, especially in professional services, need to learn is that the customer is not a fixed thing…Our customers don’t just want to be fed [what] We want them to hear. They actually want to discover interesting things and other things we have to offer that might help them in their work and make them feel good about their connection with us. So we need to find that right balance.
We get examples of this all the time. You might be the general counsel of a company and suddenly an ESG is one of the main things on your agenda. How do you know your law firm can really do anything about it, if you only deal with them in merger and acquisition transactions, for example? You have to find that somewhere, and it’s likely to be a completely different part of the company that you may need to deal with. So we have to be able to talk about our entire offer and make that easy for people to access. I think this is where these digital tools will really help us move forward.
Marketing and IT work together
This was a major shift that spanned over several years. A critical success factor was the very close relationship between Edgar on the marketing side and Vigneron on the IT job. Edgar says:
We have a really good understanding of what kind of technologies are available to us. He has a really complicated understanding of what I should do with this technology. And then we have a great meeting of minds as to how to actually make it work, whether that means getting different technologies to link together better, or changing the technology entirely, or whatever the case may be.
It just makes the whole process, from getting funding to telling our story internally, we always do it together as a united front. We are able to tell the whole story, and that means the organization is able to better understand and process it.
It was important to get support from people across the company for the technology transformation and changes associated with how they operate. Vigneron explains:
We spent a lot of time selling the vision…we used some trip maps to help explain what things would look like – because it’s very difficult, especially for lawyers who aren’t necessarily digital marketing experts, trying to understand why we’d want to do these things and why we need To build forward…
I think telling that story was probably the most important, so we [could] Then go get the funding and do all these things.
The project team brought together people from different locations across the company, along with representatives from external vendors. Edgar says:
You have to have the right team in the right place so they can understand the organization, how it works, and what are the different challenges we face…
I think the thing that really drove us through the process very well was that we made sure that we had an excellent project panel that came together on a regular basis, who had the right skill set in all the different areas that we could make agile decisions about.
Fully integrated marketing stack
The end result, says Edgar, is a fully integrated marketing package. This means that it is now possible to analyze the entire customer journey, something that was not possible before. The website, client portal, document downloads and email communications are fully integrated into the company’s specialized legal CRM system, its event management system and the rest of the martech suite. And she adds:
I think we’ve been able to create more data-driven decisions or opportunities because of that. And I think this is really important. Although we instinctively knew that some things needed to be changed, we can now actually make proof points in terms of why they changed. The structure and the way our website works is much better now, because of the components that we can build within Adobe. It’s more interactive and engaging, and we have a much better login area where our customers can interact with us.
We are able to see much better now, before people enter our site, fully participating in terms of the experience they are having. We are able to provide better feedback to the organization now regarding what our digital tools can do, and how that can enable our business to move forward.
Now that technology is in place, businesses can be more responsive to changing needs. One example emerged early in the pandemic, when it quickly became apparent that the firm’s attorneys were asking many of the same questions regarding the impact of COVID-19. So the team quickly set up a hub that they then promoted in emails and social media, where customers can go to find information and help with their legal questions about the pandemic.
Analytics has also proven to be very useful in tracking how people use digital assets and tracking trends. During the pandemic, with the emergence of digital fatigue, it has become clear that people are becoming more determined in their online activity. Edgar explains:
There is no time wasted on websites anymore. We noticed that we have a drop in [the] The number of visitors, but our interaction, as we were creating relevant content, was actually increasing exponentially. So we used those analytics back into the organization to make sure we were promoting content that was really relevant at the time, and that was really helpful for us.
More personal communication with the client
The integration of a separate client portal previously into the website and integration with other systems, such as the CRM system, allowed email communications to be customized according to the interests of the client. This promotes a more personalized communication goal. Edgar says:
They don’t have to read a lot of things that are not relevant to them – they can make sure they are up to date on all the items or events that are already relevant to them as a customer. It’s very easy for them to update those preferences as often as they want, which goes into… that personal relationship and targeting that we’re looking to create around the customer experience.
The speed and agility with which a company can now produce and publish new information and documents has been greatly improved, and there is better data on how customers interact with it. Vigneron says:
Previously, we would spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on material being posted, and we would have no idea who did what with that. Now we totally get all of this marketing and data on how that is used, parts of it being used, etc.
The only problem is that this ability to produce digital products of much better quality and at a faster speed has led to increased demand. Vigneron notes:
That was a basic ability that we needed to unlock. Now we’re kind of struggling because we have a huge demand. We have to deal with it. But the bottom line is that we didn’t have that ability before. It was very poor quality, and very unconnected. We couldn’t do much of those. And now we are able to kick those out.