19/5/2017 by Katherine Memery
Gradually, law firms are starting to incorporate technology in their business model to reduce costs, improve efficiency and, most importantly, meet the growing client expectations.
This month, we spoke with Sucheet Amin, managing partner of Manchester-based Aequitas Legal and a trailblazer in embracing legal technology. Talking points included inCase, Sucheet’s legal app, his career highlights and Martin Luther King Jr.
You set up Aequitas Legal in 2009, why did you decide to take the plunge and set up your own firm?
Just before I set up Aequitas I was working for a great practice in North Manchester. Although things were going well, in the previous years I had an urge to set up and ‘do it my way’. I wanted to be responsible for a legal practice that worked hard at excelling in client service not just meeting the usual standards. I also wanted to take control of developing and investing in people, my future employees, and knew that if I recruited and trained the best, the firm would have two distinct advantages. Firstly we would be able to deliver the best service possible and secondly, we would be representing our clients to the highest standards. The freedom of owning my own firm allowed me to put into practice these two objectives.
What motivated you to develop your mobile app, inCase?
This was one of those genuine ‘light-bulb’ moments. It was late 2011 when we were in our old office, an open-plan room where I sat with everyone. One day, everyone was on the phone speaking to clients who had called for an update about their matters. It seemed odd so when everyone was finished, I gathered the team around and asked if we were behind with our work. The answer was no but some felt clients wanted to know more about their matters than ever before. We did some research into what our clients wanted and needed from us, not just physically but emotionally too.
We found 4 key areas which were Speed, Information, Education and Technology.
- Speed – clients wanted their cases moving as fast as possible. This was nothing new.
- Information – clients wanted information to communicated to them in clearer language than ever before, almost as if we were texting them.
- Education – clients wanted to know details about the legal process. They wanted to be more involved than ever before.
- Technology – clients were telling us we weren’t using enough technology. In truth, we’d invested heavily in technology with our internal systems but none of that was client-facing.
As this research was completed, I came across a report called Service 2020 from BDO Accountants that talked about what customer service would look like in 2020. As I read it, it was clear to me that ‘technology would be the enabler’…not the people in the business, not the results, but the technology used to drive everything. Today, ‘technology is an enabler’ is quite a comment phrase but back in 2011 it was new to me.
I decided to build an app that would sit between us and the clients and called it ‘inCase’. It would be integrated into our case management system and would allow us to send automatic updates at certain milestones in a client matter. Clients could communicate with us 24/7 and rate us on every message. We would take advantage of PUSH notifications to deliver updates within seconds. Clients could see a diagram of the legal process and track where they were and find out more information without needing to speak to us. In short, it tackled all 4 key areas.
The results were incredible overnight and set me on a path to use mobile apps to communicate with our clients. Today, inCase is available for any law firm and can do so much more than the original version.
Why do you think the legal profession has been so slow to embrace technology?
Law firms are traditionally cautious. The majority are owned but, more importantly, run by solicitors, who are typically risk averse. That means that when something new comes along, there is a great deal of scepticism about it. As a result, the urge to be 110% sure slows down decisions. Those ‘early adopter’ firms take massive advantage in the marketplace because technology isn’t something you can just deploy. You have to understand the results you get, refine and go again. Those embracing technology faster, learn faster and reap rewards faster.
What’s the best part about your job?
It sounds a bit cheesy but genuinely the people I work with and the people I meet. I really enjoy other people’s company and building relationships is a lot of fun. I get reward from seeing my own staff develop and becoming leaders in their own right. In my role I get to travel the country quite a bit and meeting new people gives me the opportunity to learn from others while making new friends.
What’s been your career highlight so far?
That’s a really tough one as there have been so many highlights…I think winning The Law Society Excellence Award in Client Service in 2013 was a monumental achievement. The firm had only been going 3 years when we submitted the entry and to have beaten off international law firms to win the Award was a massive achievement for me and the firm.
What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
Have no fear and stay committed.
Where is your favourite holiday destination?
Manley, Australia. It’s a boat ride from Sydney and my uncle used to live not far from there. I only got to visit him once back in 2005 but the location was just breath-taking.
If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Martin Luther King Jr. – I’d want to know how the power of his words and actions united so many people in unison.