Learn What Value Means to Today’s Legal Consumers at The Future Is Now

Jessica Bednarz

The Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism’s The Future Is Now: Legal Services conference returns virtually on Thursday, April 21 (Register here). The annual event attracts legal thought leaders from across the nation to discuss the trajectory of the legal profession and what attorneys need to know to keep up.

This year, the conference will explore legal innovation and professionalism through the lens of delivering value to today’s consumers.

Topics will include:

  • How lawyers define and measure value.
  • Why pandemic-related market shifts are impacting how consumers view the value of legal services.
  • The diversity value proposition.
  • Case studies on novel ways lawyers are delivering value in their practices and organizations.

The Chicago Bar Foundation’s Jessica Bednarz, Associate Director of Innovation & the JEP, will be featured in a panel discussion on how attorneys can build healthy, sustainable, and value-driven practices.

Laura Bagby, Communications Director at the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, spoke with Jessica about the conference and how she’s helping attorneys deliver value to today’s clients.

Q.  This year, the conference will focus on “Delivering Value for Today’s Consumer.” What is value from the legal consumers’ perspective?

A.  While value comes in many forms, it’s ultimately defined by the client and what’s important to them. For the vast majority of clients, value comes from solving their legal problem, managing a risk, making a deal, righting a wrong, or finding peace of mind. [Notice how time (i.e., billable hour) is not on this list.] The value of the service to the client will vary based on the degree of the problem they are trying to solve. Additional ways lawyers can provide value beyond solving a legal problem is by empowering clients through choice, enlightening clients through price transparency and certainty, and offering exceptional customer service. See the CBF’s Pricing Toolkit for a more in-depth discussion of value.

Q.  How do lawyers meet consumers on their terms?

A.  Lawyers meet consumers on their terms when they start from a place of empathy and try to fully understand the problems their target clients are experiencing and what they value. Then the next step is to develop a business model and suite of solutions that solve the clients’ problems while at the same time provide as much additional value as possible through good customer service. Lawyers likely won’t be able to give their target clients everything they want and that’s okay. But they should focus on delivering solutions to their clients’ most pressing legal problems and accompanying those solutions with a good client experience.

Q.  How have pandemic legal market shifts impacted how legal consumers seek and measure value differently?

A.  The short answer is that I don’t think they have. I think legal consumers, especially anyone below the age of say 40, have always wanted and expected to be able to use video conferencing and other tech to communicate with their lawyer, to have payment plans as a payment option, and to just have more than one option with respect to the delivery of the legal solution generally. These expectations have only increased due to the pandemic and the successful lawyers will be those who focus on meeting client expectations. Learn more about client expectations in the 2021 Clio Trends Report.

Q.  How do attorneys have time to do all this?! (Collect, analyze, and act on data, for example.)

A.  It’s really tough, especially if you are a solopreneur, but it can be done! A great place to start is recognizing that you wear two hats as a law firm owner – a lawyer hat and a business owner hat. You need to develop a schedule that carves out adequate time for both hats, and then you need to stick to it. Then leverage tech and other resources (oftentimes human!) to develop processes that maximize efficiency but also deliver value to your clients. It’s a balancing act for sure.

Q.  What else do you hope attorneys will take away from your panel at The Future Is Now?

A.  I hope that lawyers leave the conference with a better understanding of the myriad of ways they can deliver value to clients and with the tools and inspiration needed to do so. Once one has adopted an innovation and client-centric mindset and understands the range of options and tools available to them, designing how to deliver as much value as possible to clients becomes a lot of fun and leads to a more successful practice.

To register for The Future Is Now, visit: https://thefutureisnow.2civility.org/registration-2022/.