As digital working becomes increasingly prevalent, even the most traditional of professional services businesses have to adapt. For the legal profession, there's a crucial balance to strike between introducing digital interactions while maintaining a high-touch relationship with clients. At Clifford Chance, a leading London-based international law firm specializing in corporate law, that's been a key consideration in its digital journey. Denese Edgar, Head of Marketing, explains:
Our organization is a very relationship-based one. We want to make sure that high-end relationship carries through into the digital experience that [clients] have as well.
One of the world's ten largest law firms, Clifford Chance is keen to be seen as a digital innovator. But like most of its peers, the technology it had relied on for internal collaboration and client interactions was based on a collection of disconnected legacy systems acquired from a variety of mostly specialist or niche suppliers. These systems weren't able to support the global reach, modern compliance and digital connectivity Clifford Chance needed. Edgar recalls:
We had a lot of legacy uncoupling that we needed to do ... It was mainly to do with the fact that they had been positioned as specific systems for the legal industry. Those systems were not collaborating or integrating very well with some of the other more modern systems that we needed in order to update our stack. We had to do a full review of what all those systems were, where they interlinked, where they didn't interlink, what dependencies things had, [and] which ones were going totally offline that we needed to replace.
Consistent, high-touch experience
The goal was to standardize on a globally scalable platform that would provide a consistent, high-touch experience for all its clients around the world. Edgar worked closely with IT expert Anthony Vigneron, Legal Technology Solutions Director at Clifford Chance, to select and roll out a system based on Adobe Experience Cloud — alongside Adobe Document Cloud internally — to deliver what was needed. He elaborates:
It's really paying attention to how we interact with our clients — all the touch points, how they log into our different digital products and services. We've got to spend a lot of time around all the branding, the visual identity, making sure that all of that is consistent across all the touch points. [It's] making sure we're getting telemetry and analytics around what people are doing, what we could be cross-promoting, cross-selling to them. All that stuff is not what you typically associate with a law firm, yet that's exactly what we're trying to do here.
Law firms are no different from any other professional services organization in this need to modernize to keep pace with the expectations of clients, who are themselves becoming more digitally driven. Edgar says:
One of the things that organizations, specifically in professional services, need to learn is that a client is not a static thing ... Our clients don't just want to be fed [what] we want them to hear. They actually want to find out interesting things and other things that we have to offer that might help them in their job and make them feel good about being associated 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 corporate and suddenly ESG is one of the major things on your agenda. How do you know that your law firm can really do anything around that, if you've only ever been dealing with them on M&A transactions, for example? You've got to find that somewhere, and it could be potentially a totally different part of the firm that you'd need to engage with. So we've got to be able to talk about our whole offering and make that easy for people to have access to. I think that's where these digital tools are really going to help us going forward.
Marketing and IT working together
This was a big transformation spread over several years. One of the crucial success factors was a very close relationship between Edgar on the marketing side and Vigneron from the IT function. Edgar says:
We've both got a really good understanding in terms of what kind of technologies are available to us. He's got a really intricate understanding in terms of what I need to do with that technology. And then we have a really great meeting of minds in terms of how we can make it actually work, whether that means getting different technologies to link together better, or changing the technology completely, or whatever the case may be.
It just makes the whole process, from getting funding to telling our story internally, we're always doing it together as a united front. We're able to tell the whole story, and it means that the organization is able to understand and process it so much better.
It was important to get buy-in from people across the business for the technology shift and the associated changes to how they would work. Vigneron explains:
We did spend a lot of time selling the vision ... We used some journey maps to help explain how things would look like — because it's quite difficult, especially for lawyers who are not necessarily digital marketing experts, to try to understand why we'd want to do those things and why we need to be building ahead ...
I think telling that story was probably the most important, so we [could] then go and get the funding and do all those things.
The project team brought together people from different locations across the business, along with representatives from external vendors. Edgar says:
You've got to have the right team in place that they can understand the organization, how it works, what are the different challenges that we face ...
I think the thing that really got us through the process extremely well was we made sure that we had an excellent project board that met on a regular basis, who had the right skill set across all the different areas that we could make agile decisions around.
A fully integrated marketing stack
The end result, says Edgar, is a fully integrated marketing stack. This means it's now possible to analyze the whole client journey, something that wasn't possible before. The website, client portal, document downloads and email communications are fully integrated into the firm's specialized legal CRM system, its event management system and the rest of the martech stack. She adds:
I think we've been able to create far more data-led decisions or opportunities because of that. And I think that's really important. Even though instinctively we knew that some things needed to change, we can now actually make the proof points in terms of why they should change. The structure and the way our website works is much better now, because of the components that we can build within Adobe. It's much more interactive and engaging, we have a much better logged-in area where our clients can interact with us.
We're able to see much better now, before people come onto our website, the full engagement through in terms of the experience that they're having. And we're able to give better feedback to the organization now in terms of what our digital tools are able to do, and how that can enable our business going forward.
Now that the technology is in place, the business can be much more responsive to changing needs. One example came early in the pandemic, when it quickly became obvious that the firm's lawyers were fielding a lot of the same questions in relation to the impact of COVID-19. So the team quickly created a hub which they then promoted in emails and social media, where clients could go to find information and help on their legal questions relating to the pandemic.
Analytics is also proving very helpful in tracking how people are using the digital assets and tracking trends. During the pandemic, as digital fatigue set in, it became evident that people were becoming more purposeful in their online activity. Edgar explains:
There was no time wasting on websites anymore. We noticed that we had a drop in [the] number of visitors, but our engagement, where we were creating the relevant content, was really increasing dramatically. So we used that analytics to go back to the organization to make sure that we were promoting the content that was really relevant at the time, and that was really beneficial for us.
More personalized client communication
Merging the previously separate client portal into the website and integrating with other systems, such as the CRM system, allowed email communications to be tailored to client interests. This furthers the goal of more personalized communication. Edgar says:
They don't have to read through a whole lot of things that is not relevant to them — they can make sure that they're up-to-date on all items or events that actually are relevant to them as a client. It's very easy for them to update those preferences as much as they want, which goes into ... that personal relationship and targeting that we're looking to create around the client experience.
The speed and agility with which the firm can now produce and disseminate new information and documents is much improved, and there's better data about how clients are engaging with it. Vigneron says:
Before, we would spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on stuff that gets published, and we would have no idea who's done what with that. Now we absolutely get all that marketing and data around how that's being used, what parts of it are being used, etc.
The only problem is that this ability to produce much better quality digital products more quickly has produced more demand. Vigneron observes:
That was a key capability we need to unlock. Now we're kind of suffering because we've got so much demand. We've got to deal with it. But the whole point is, we didn't have that capability before. It was very poor quality, very disconnected. We just couldn't do too many of those. And now we're able to crank those out.