7 Key Takeaways from the 2018 Clio Legal Trends Report

The 2018 Clio Legal Trends Report provides valuable metrics, analyses and insights into the modern legal consumer’s expectations and needs. It incorporates the data of more than 70,000 legal customers to help lawyers achieve greater success in their practices.

By leveraging the report‘s findings, you can gain a more comprehensive understanding of your potential and existing clients. This understanding will enable you to implement new strategies and solutions to improve your firm’s organization, efficiency and growth.

Read on to discover 7 Key Takeaways from the 2018 Clio Legal Trends Report, and what they mean for your firm.

1. Lawyers Need to Understand the Customers of Today—and Tomorrow

This is the third annual version of the report, and it differs from the previous years’ versions by focusing chiefly on legal clients. (The 2016 and 2017 Legal Trends Reports concentrated more on firms’ internal operations.)

The report challenges attorneys to consider their clients more deeply than ever before: What do they think about before and after hiring a lawyer? What do they expect?

The report’s findings indicate that lawyers, by and large, don’t know as much about their clients as they think they do.

“There’s a significant disparity between how lawyers believe clients want to work with law firms and how clients actually prefer to work with law firms,” the report states. “These client expectations should be the baseline for how lawyers structure the delivery of legal services at their firms.”

By understanding your customers and instituting a client-centered approach, you’ll be able to maximize the impact and profitability of your services.

2. Potential Legal Clients are Falling Through the Cracks

Source: Clio Legal Trends Report 2018

“In surveying consumers,” the Clio Legal Trends Report says, “we were surprised by how many people choose not to hire a lawyer when solving a legal problem.”

According to the report, 54% of people have never hired an attorney. And, of people who faced a legal problem in the past two years, only 65% hired lawyers. Even more striking than those statistics is this one: Of people who faced a legal problem in the past two years, more than half sought consultations or communicated with lawyers … but didn’t end up hiring them!

The report shows that firms are missing out on a huge percentage of potential legal clients. One key reason for this, the report finds, is that clients don’t think acquiring legal services is easy or convenient enough to make it worth their while.

“Ease can significantly impact preference,” the report states—39% of consumers say that hiring a lawyer is overwhelming, and 32% say it’s too much trouble.

Imagine how much attorneys could grow their firms simply by changing the perceptions of this demographic.

3. Lawyers Aren’t Prioritizing Growth and Efficiency—But They Should Be

Sure, lawyers know that increasing revenue is a good thing—84% say it’s important—but it turns out that an overwhelmingly large percentage of legal professionals are ignoring the two most important drivers of revenue: new clients, and increased billable hours.

Shockingly, a mere 34% of attorneys cite “growing a client base” as important, and only 23% say it’s important to bill more hours. “Not only are these metrics critical to revenue,” the report says, “they are two of the most important for measuring and tracking over time.”

If firms want to increase revenue, they need to prioritize these two markers of growth. (We’ll discuss how to do that later in this post.)

4. Law Firms Struggle to Bill Enough Hours

Source: Clio Legal Trends Report 2018

According to the Clio Legal Trends Report, most attorneys only compile about 2.4 hours of billable work during each 8-hour day—an average utilization rate of only 30%.

The primary driver of this gap in billable time is inefficiency. From daily administrative tasks to marketing, new client onboarding and client relationship management, lawyers are spending the majority of their time on non-billable tasks.

“The fact that lawyers miss out on nearly 5.6 hours of billable work each day should be a wake-up call for why efficiency is so important to law firms,” the report concludes. “If ignored, inefficiency can have a devastating effect on profitability, which is a problem that will only compound day to day, year to year.”

And one proven way to improve your firm’s efficiency is to utilize software like Lexicata so you can automate tedious, non-billable activities. With more time on your hands, you’ll have more hours to bill.

5. Law Firms Aren’t Taking Advantage of Reporting and Data Analytics

“Data” shouldn’t be a scary word—it should be a powerful ally.

Yet, according to the Clio report, “only 43% of law firms agree that improving data insights and reporting is an important priority.” At the same time, most lawyers say that they don’t have confidence in their current abilities to measure firm performance.

What this means, essentially, is that most lawyers simply aren’t tracking their goals in any measurable way—nor are they particularly concerned with doing so. This is an oversight.

With reporting and data analysis, you’re able to set better goals, track your progress more effectively and, when necessary, adjust what you’re doing to achieve more beneficial results.

To learn more about why law firm data is so important, read our previous post on this topic.

6. Client Referrals Matter, Big Time—and Ease and Responsiveness Boost Referrals

We all know that referrals are a significant source of business for lawyers. According to last year’s Clio Legal Trends Report, 62% of consumers asked for recommendations from friends and family before seeking legal representation.

This year’s Legal Trends Report describes the importance of a client’s “likelihood to recommend” your firm as a key statistic to monitor. The name for this statistic is Net Promoter Score (NPS), and it serves as a strong indicator of customer loyalty and perception of your firm.

The report states that “almost every factor related to ease and responsiveness impacts NPS,” which means that the more client-centered your firm is, the more likely your customers will be to refer you to others.

Your goals, then, are straight-forward: Make it easier for people to find you and acquire your services, and make sure that your lines of communication are open, fast and consumer-centric.

7. Technology (like CRM and Client Intake Software) Can Transform Law Firms

As mentioned before, 84% of firms say they want to increase their revenues … but only 23% say that billing more hours is a priority.

The Clio Legal Trends Report indicates that this discrepancy “may be because (attorneys) don’t have more hours in a day.” And while 77% of firms say they’d like to hire additional staff, 58% also say they want to cut spending.

Source: Clio Legal Trends Report 2018

So, how do law firms free up lawyers’ time and reduce spending without hiring more employees? By using technology, such as Contact Relationship Management and client intake software (like Lexicata).

But don’t take our word for it—it’s right there in the Legal Trends Report:

  • “Finding ways to streamline and automate non-billable administrative tasks will help make every member of a firm more productive.”
  • “To meet growing expectations from clients, lawyers need to find creative solutions to meet demand. In many cases, technology—through the benefits of remote access and task automation—can help lawyers be more available without sacrificing attention that could be focused elsewhere.”

CRM and client intake software pose a tremendous opportunity for lawyers, specifically, because lawyers have not previously possessed tools like these to help with their firms’ organization, efficiency and profitability.

CRM and client intake software like Lexicata helps you grow your client base and bill more hours, and it improves your firm’s interactions with potential and existing clients. This generates increased referrals and, combined with advanced reporting and data analytics, gives you the edge you need to take your firm to the next level.

Summary

Overall, the 2018 Clio Legal Trends Report offers extremely valuable data and insight which lawyers can and should harness to optimize their firms in 2019. The 7 biggest takeaways from the report are:

  1. Lawyers need to deeply understand modern customers.
  2. Law firms are letting too many legal customers fall through the cracks.
  3. Attorneys should be doing a much better job of prioritizing growth and efficiency.
  4. Law firms aren’t able to bill enough hours because too much of their lawyers’ time is devoted to non-billable tasks.
  5. Law firms should take better advantage of reporting and data analytics to inform their decision-making.
  6. Attorney referrals are a huge difference-maker for firms, and the more client-centered a firm is, the more referrals it receives.
  7. Technology, especially CRM and client intake software, transforms legal practices by freeing up billable hours and growing client bases.

Want more resources?

Lexicata’s software and in-house experts can help you organize and automate your practice and streamline your client communications. And as always, feel free to contact us for a consultation or product demo.

Run a better law practice. Get free updates every Friday.

* indicates required