Answers to the Case Questions
What features do you think are important for BDW’s Web site?
Blake Dawson Waldron deals primarily with high net worth consumers. BDW’s clients expect to see plush surrounds. BDW’s physical offices tend to reflect that wealth and success. Such visual cues are also expected on the Internet. A “top tier” firm should have consistency between its physical office and the virtual office that the Web site represents. Without it, the firm loses prestige.
A Web site needs to be clear and easy to use. In the case of BDW, which prides itself on its use of technology and expertise in that area, it should reflect the firm’s comfort with cutting-edge design and layout.
A Web site is not merely the “virtual office” for the firm but may also represent a competitive edge as the Web site of BDW will be compared to the Web sites of its major competitors and other major corporate entities. Clients who are in the “e-world” want to ensure that they have a relationship with a firm that has a similar vision and commitment to technology and is comfortable providing a service online.
BDW’s Improvement Areas
BDW’s current Web site needs improvement in a few areas. Law firms could increase efficiency by allowing online payments through their Web sites. Clients can arrange telegraphic transfers but that is a labor-intensive process. Paying by B-Pay or credit card over the Internet or transferring funds from their company account (if they are corporate clients) to the BDW office account over the Internet would streamline the payment process.
The online payment system could also be expanded to other areas. For example, in a litigation matter, the opposing lawyer from another firm often visits the office of the opponent to review at documents that will be relied on in Court (these documents are known as “discovered documents” as they have been “discovered” for the purposes of the litigation).
That lawyer will request copies of the documents and undertake to pay a fee for the copies made. The documents are then copied and sent to that lawyer with a request for payment of the fee for copying. That payment is then processed through the finance department.
It would be quicker if that payment could be made through the Internet by B-Pay, credit card or other transfer. BDW’s Web site is not very interactive and this works against the nature of service products.
What more could be done to generate publicity on BDW’s Web site?
The Internet environment provides platform to foster relationship building activities. It also creates a new medium to add value to existing clients who can refer further work to a law firm. Building online communities is the key strategy to generate publicity and expand a firm’s referral network.
Chat rooms and newsgroups on particular legal topics may contain references to an expert in a legal area. Lawyers can contribute to some virtual community forums. Through the active participation in those forums, a lawyer could add value through the imparting of legal knowledge and build up a relationship with the participants that may ultimately convert to new work.
In the same way, being acknowledged as an expert by having articles or publications published on special interest forums or in industry publications may have a similar effect. With a plethora of interest groups and online information seekers, being available online would assist in the dissemination of the capabilities of any law firm. This is an extension of traditional marketing activities for law firms.
What specific strategies were introduced to improve BDW’s service efficiency?
The key strategies are surrounded use of intranets, extranets and document management software. These technologies are crucial to a knowledge-based commercial law firm like BDW. Extranets are used to improve service delivery and enhance relationships with existing clients. The Intranet is used for both legal and non-legal purposes. The objective is to improve firm’s back-end capabilities.
Coupled with search engines and other software tools, lawyers can produce work for their clients not only at the BDW main offices but also remotely. Intranets could generate substantial cost savings through reduced use of paper and subsequently, less need for storage space.
Downfalls of service efficiency Strategies
It is useful to note that sometimes these strategies are not as time efficient as they may appear. With the use of the electronic calendar system (such as Microsoft Outlook), lawyers are not encouraged to keep paper-based calendars. This means that if a lawyer appears in Court or at any meeting where the lawyer needs to supply a commitment to a meeting time in the future, they can find it difficult.
The best way would be to issue all lawyers with palm pilots or other such devices so that their calendars can be downloaded and easily accessible.
What are the opportunities and threats caused by the Internet?
- The opportunities offered by the Internet are tremendous.
- It is obvious BDW has only scratched the surface of the Internet’s potential.
- As an up-market commercial service provider, BDW must meet clients’ expectations through the timely delivery of personalized information to its clients.
- The Internet will reduce the cost of information retrieval and research.
- Technologies like the Intranet enable BDW to significantly reduce administration costs.
- A willingness and ability to innovate and add value to existing client relationships using technology solutions and personalized service is one way to help retain clients and attract new ones.
- An appreciation of the new modes of communication and the capabilities of networks for greater referral of work may also assist the firm reach new clients.
- Retaining experienced staff can be a problem.
- In the US, there was a marked employee drift towards Internet start-ups, leading to increased salaries to maintain staff at large US law firms.
- Quality staff will be harder to get.
- In addition, inertia and lack of innovation may impede client retention and new client development.
- Finally, the emergence of online legal service providers is a phenomenon that even a big law firm cannot ignore.
How can BDW personalize service over its Web site?
High-end customers expected customized service. As a result, Web personalization should be an important part of BDW’s marketing strategy. BDW has different types of clients: individuals, private or publicly listed companies, non-profit organizations and others.
Each of these clients has a different level of knowledge about legal services.
Types of Potential Clients on a Website
- A first-time user of legal services
- An experienced and therefore more aware user
- A first-time user who has a legal background
(such as a person with legal qualifications who has not practiced law but would be a better informed or educated consumer).
Accordingly, BDW can provide different levels of information in different areas of law that could be made accessible from BDW’s Web site. For instance, BDW can develop a checklist of things a “handy hints” document that a client should be aware of in seeking legal assistance or assistance with a specific transaction (like a joint venture agreement).
As one can imagine, different types of clients may need a different checklist and with different levels of detail.
Time saving is important for any professional service provider, as it directly affects a firm’s revenue. How can BDW deal with time pressure now that the Internet has caused information overload?
A simple solution is to relieve lawyers from standardized information research. One way to assist this is to have an on-tap research section. A group could be set up with the task of researching issues that the fee earner cannot devote the time to. These resources would be charged at a much cheaper rate thereby justifying their existence.
For example, if a fee earner who charges $250 per hour needed to locate all relevant resources internationally on a particular theme, say, computer hacking incidence since 1985, this could be delegated to a research assistant who would be able to do the same task at $50 per hour. Such resources would be properly trained in searching methods on the Internet rather than paralegal resources.