Client – Facing Digital Transformation


Not all of us truly enjoy change, technological or other. Weary members of the will writing community and private client legal world who have been around for a while might say that having adjusted to the fax machine, e mail, the Blackberry and more recently the smartphone they now deserve a break. But full scale digital transformation now looms large . In particular, whilst some firms have carried out a certain amount of digital transformation of the back office, front office processes and experiences in the private client legal sector seem to lag behind. So with a few firms now planning to deploy client facing platforms many commentators  think the sector stands on the brink of more widespread digital transformation of the client experience.

Drawing upon our recent survey in the private client sector[1], this article will start by looking at some factors prevalent today which suggest the likelihood of coming widespread transformation. Then we’ll look into the post-transformation world where the firm has launched its  client facing portal. And finally, we’ll consider how the journey to and beyond that launch need not be as traumatic as the weary and apprehensive practitioner may fear.

Today’s reality

Its clear from our recent survey most practitioners seem to acknowledge the sector offers opportunities for innovation and transformation. 90% of solicitors responding confirmed they feel their clients want an intuitive digital experience. (Meanwhile a similar per centage of clients responding indicated a secure digital portal would enhance their experience with their solicitor.) Numerous other factors emerging from the survey point in the same direction. Just a few examples:-

  • Inefficiencies/scope for automation: 100% of solicitor respondents felt the opportunity exists to automate more client processes
  • Non secure Communication channels: the most common communication channel a consumer of private client services experienced is e mail, with 9 out of 10 respondents stating that they had received communications via email (a notoriously non secure channel). In second, 35% (or 3 in 10) state they have received communications or documents via post. Less than 2 in 10 have experienced a Portal or an App (channels offering greater security).
  • Low ongoing engagement: the survey finding that only 30% of clients return to their solicitor to purchase other services (after an initial engagement) suggests a need for strategies to foster longer-term relationships over transactional interactions. The missed cross sell opportunities are potentially significant.

The post-transformation picture …..

Now let’s  look at  the post-transformation scenario  in which the private client practice offers its client base a digital platform for all interactions …..

  • a personalized, highly secure digital vault is available to each individual client
  • the client can accesses his/her vault 24/7 to see all documents relevant to the relationship with their solicitor
  • for example, engagement documentation generated/signed in the client onboarding process drops automatically into the client’s vault; docs generated by the firm in the context of the ongoing client relationship– say for example the client’s will – are also available in the vault
  • the client may choose to allow trusted third parties (eg a financial adviser) to access and upload documents to his/her vault. For example, that third party adviser might upload a periodic report detailing investments held by the client which the solicitor requires for estate planning purposes
  • solicitor requests for documents or actions by the client can be made via the platform. In the probate process, for example, the solicitor will invariably require various documents from the client for the purposes of the application for probate
  • no more need for an Inbox cluttered with e mail traffic toing and froing on draft docs, as the collaboration with the client on the draft will or other document can be done digitally  via the platform (with full audit trail + version control)
  • the platform will offer the client the ability to e sign appropriate documents
  • automated messages to clients can prompt periodic processes like a will review
  • a dashboard for the executor provides a dynamic update on progress through the probate process, enabling the executor to obtain an update without the need to speak to the solicitor

…….with the platform of course branded in the firm’s style so the client is consistently experiencing the firm’s ‘look and feel’; and with frequent nudges and notifications designed to bring the client back to his/her vault regularly to promote engagement, cross sell of services etc. Meanwhile the Director of Finance looks on approvingly as the efficiencies and consequent cost savings start to multiply; the Marketing team starts using the platform to push out bulk and personalized communications to the client base; and the firm can point to a platform which offers the clients a communication channel free from the increasing tide of information security concerns surrounding e mail.

Gently does it ….

Coming back to today’s reality the transformation journey ahead  can look long and daunting; and some practitioners may shudder at the impersonal look of that future state. But there are plenty of factors and available techniques to encourage and provide reassurance:-

  • firms are unlikely to want to require clients to use the platform: rather, it can be deployed as just one possible channel for communication and interaction, with other traditional channels like the phone and face to face meetings still important options in the right circumstances. The personal touch is very unlikely to fade away;
  • the firm will likely want to run a pilot programme first, perhaps with a selected group of clients, to trial the use of the platform and assess the features and functionality it wants to deploy at first. No need to launch without a careful ‘test and learn’ programme as a preliminary step;
  • when the firm does eventually launch the platform it can make it available to the client base in stages, perhaps starting with a particular category or demographic. A managed roll out will likely feel more comfortable than a big bang;
  • the firm can plan the introduction of new features on a phased, managed basis. Consultation with and feedback from the client base will be a great way to steer the enhancement and development of the platform.


Only time will tell whether the sector is headed for more widespread digital transformation of the client experience. Certainly the typical private client practitioner seems to be anticipating it; and there does look to be real benefits to the practice which gets ahead of the curve and embraces the opportunity. Perhaps the real driver however will be the rising expectations of clients increasingly used to the digital experiences offered by their banks and other financial institutions.

This article was written by Colin McKay, Chief Commercial Officer, Legado

1  Legado Technologies Ltd: The Private Client Experience Legal Report 2024


This article was submitted to be published by Legado as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Wills and Probate. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Wills and Probate.

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