Clients beg to join law firm's Rapport club

Janet_day_1Hello from across the pond.  I'm here in London at the PM Forum 10th annual global conference in London. Janet Day, IT director at Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) discussed a teriffic way to use technology to attract and hold clients.

They've created a "Rapport Club" for clients.  Clients pay to belong to the Club and may log onto BLP's extranet to ask questions about legal issues they're facing.  They are guaranteed a 24 hour response. Janet says it's so good, two companies called her this month to ask if they could become clients just so they could be members of the Rapport Club!

The questions get routed to a specialist who can answer the question, or are forward if the lawyer is busy.  The client gets an email notification that their question has been answered and they can log onto the extranet with a password to see their answer, as well as a searchable collection of other questions that have been answered.

BLP is a top 15 London law firm with 1000 staff, additional offices in Brussels, New York, Milan and Paris, and revenues of 120 million. Their marketing is working because the firm's profits are up 35%. BLP's extranets offer auction sites, deal rooms and data rooms. They represent real estate clients and have online instructions on how to complete real estate documents. The extranet also features links, newsletters, bulletins and e-briefs.

The most popular feature is "Ask BLP," which is available to Rapport Club members only. "It is very effective and efficient," she said, "and clients like it. Indeed -- it keeps them." Lawyers like it because it's easy for them to write responses, and it provides an added value from the firm. Did I mention clients pay to belong and also pay for the answers they get?

The Rapport login screen features a search box, plus a list of previous questions and answers. By clicking "Ask BLP" they can get answers to questions like "how do I deal with stamp duty in the Channel islands" or "what clauses should I include in my particular real estate document."

BLP also creates extranets for sellers of portfolios of real estate. The seller may typically offer 2,000 properties it wants to sell. In the old days, the firm photocopied 2,000 sheets of paper describing the properties over and over for each bidder. Now they scan the documents once and give qualified bidders a username and password. The sellers love the extranet because it exposes them to more bidders and gets them better sales prices. The bidders like it because they can see and print out the information instantly, as opposed to waiting two weeks for several pounds of paper to arrive.

The extranets also show when a lawyer is away from the office -- because a major client may have 100 lawyers working for it. For fun, it includes fantasy football pools. "Essentially, clients get anything they want," Day said.

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