Edward Kirk, a family lawyer and the Head of North America for Settify, discusses using AI to automate routine but crucial tasks – like client intake – while improving client experience.
My name’s Diana Shepherd, and I’m the Editorial Director of Family Lawyer Magazine. Joining me today is Edward Kirk, a family lawyer and the Head of North America for Settify and he’s here to discuss using AI to modernize law firms’ client intake process. Launched in 2017, Settify is an award-winning AI-driven solution that has seen runaway growth in Australia and the UK and it’s now making its mark on the US and Canadian markets. As a forward-thinking family lawyer, Edward recognizes the need for the profession to move with the times by automating routine but crucial tasks while improving client experience, and he’s here to share some of that forward-thinking wisdom with us today. Welcome, Edward!
Edward Kirk: Thank you for having me, Diana.
Edward, you launched Settify before COVID struck. You must have been prescient! What did you and your team know that we didn’t?
The world is certainly more and more online. Back in 2017, we saw that we were already doing a lot of our tasks online with Uber, booking.com, TurboTax, etc. All of these online tools already set the trend for where consumer behaviors were traveling, and the legal profession was lagging behind. We thought about family law – which was within our own backgrounds – and wondered how we could bridge the gap. How could we create a tool that allows lawyers to meet clients where they want to be met and free themselves to do the things that only humans can do: apply judgment, build rapport, and give clients the advice they want?
You call Settify “an AI-driven solution.” Why is AI needed to gather information about a potential client? Why can’t they just fill out a form and request an appointment?
Good question! Settify is much more modern than just an online form. We use a combination of AI and conditional logic, which enhances the conversation and the experience for the user. Settify only asks relevant questions that are personalized so the clients feel like they’re almost having human interaction. We gather much more detailed answers from potential clients because they’re far more engaged. If you compare that to an online form, what you’re getting there are impersonal and perhaps irrelevant questions, which makes people switch off, perhaps providing lazier answers. Settify also does something really useful with the data: it creates smart documents for the lawyer – including a case timeline and a balance sheet in Excel – so they can start thinking strategically, right from the get-go.
What can an AI-driven client intake solution like Settify tell us about modern client behaviors and preferences? Can you share some eye-opening examples and/or statistics about today’s family law clients?
We were talking earlier about the world being more and more online. When potential clients are using Settify, 44% of the time, they use the system outside of office hours: in the evenings, on the weekends. The peak time is 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. If I’m a lawyer or a law firm, how am I meeting those clients where and when they want to be met? How am I making sure they choose my firm, and how am I making it easy for them to do that?
We see that client conversion increases dramatically – up to 95% – when firms respond within an hour of that inquiry. After that, you can see the rate of conversion decay quite dramatically.
The other thing is response times. We see that client conversion increases dramatically – up to 95% – when firms respond within an hour of that inquiry. After that, you can see the rate of conversion decay quite dramatically.
We have asked clients what they look for in their lawyer; the number-one thing they said was that they wanted to understand the legal process they’re embarking upon. Client education is key, and that really comes down to building trust. Clients want to feel like they’re in the right hands. That’s something that we’ve built into Settify: allowing clients to get their hands on relevant information right at the beginning or when they’re looking for it
As a family lawyer, Edward, you were quick to recognize how Settify could enhance your practice and perhaps offer you an advantage over your competitors. Can you tell us about the features that sold you on Settify – and why?
One of the unique features of Settify is that we add buttons to law firms’ websites inviting people who come to the website to take the first step. I mentioned earlier that most potential clients make contact outside of office hours. A lot of the time, that button empowers them to take that first step and, as they answer questions, they’re more and more invested with that firm.
Modern, user-friendly technology is something that makes clients feel that they’re dealing with a competent organization.
The other aspect that really made me take notice was the user experience. It’s really quite impressive. In legal services, clients aren’t used to getting their hands on easy-to-use technology; it’s often quite outdated. Modern, user-friendly technology is something that makes clients feel that they’re dealing with a competent organization.
For law firms, Settify saves them time gathering background information – and as I mentioned earlier, we give them great documents, which become the first documents on file. We also save them time during the life of the matter as well. The other thing that law firms really love about Settify is the filtering aspects that enable them to quickly review an inquiry and filter it, making sure that they prioritize those valuable clients that they want, and also allocate the matter quickly to the appropriate member of their team.
You mentioned user experience a moment ago. How important is a personalized user experience to a potential client’s decision to choose Lawyer A over Lawyer B and to request an appointment?
Unsurprisingly, user experience is a big deal. When we survey clients, it was number two in the list – above them wanting to have a quick and easy divorce. What’s interesting is when we asked that question, we also asked, “Did you find Settify to be personalized for you?” Even though they knew it to be technologically driven, their overwhelming response was that they felt it was personalized – and that tells us something about what we think is personalized, we think is human-driven. What I would say to lawyers who worry that technology might take away the human touch, it’s really not there to replace anyone. If anything, it’s there to enhance your relationships and enable you to have better conversations with your clients. Ultimately, clients don’t feel better when you ask them about their children’s middle names or the value of the family car. What makes them feel better is when you address their concerns head-on right at the beginning and make them feel like they’re making some headway in their case immediately.
What I would say to lawyers who worry that technology might take away the human touch, [AI] is really not there to replace anyone. If anything, it’s there to enhance your relationships and enable you to have better conversations with your clients.
Let’s talk about conflict for a moment. Let’s say John Smith has just retained or had an initial consultation with you. Without knowing that, his wife, Liz, goes through the Settify intake process that evening. You can’t take on Liz as a client because you’ve already had the initial consultation – even if he doesn’t retain you – with John, but what is to stop the system from either booking a consultation or you from seeing all of Liz’s personal information, which I presume would be an ethics issue?
Conflicts are a big question that firms ask when we demo the system to them. We handle it really simply. Taking your example, Mr. Smith comes to Settify, submits his request for an appointment. The gatekeeper at the firm then will run a conflict check, and we provide the party’s name, date of birth, and address to do that. The gatekeeper does it internally as they normally do, then they use Settify to indicate that they can act for that new client – and up until then, none of the detailed information sits on the lawyer’s server or computer. Settify protects them from that issue. Then, when Mrs. Smith comes along and submits her inquiry, the firm will have already seen Mr. Smith’s inquiry so they can cross-check date of birth, telephone numbers, and that sort of thing. The firm willl know that they’ve already received Mr. Smith’s information. Finally, Settify doesn’t enable users to book time in a lawyer’s calendar directly – we leave that with the law firm to take that on and book meetings.
Let’s talk about law firms that have already invested heavily in some practice management software – which describes pretty much all of them, as I’m sure you’re aware. They may be reluctant to install a new technology either because of the cost or the fear that it will conflict with their existing software and create bugs where there weren’t any before. Can Settify be integrated into a law firm’s existing practice management software without making it buggy or unstable?
Integrations are the way to go – in our minds, at least. We see things connecting like Lego so that data can move seamlessly between different platforms. Settify is really complementary to practice management systems in that it is client based and it does the data gathering in a really detailed manner. Settify integrates with LEAP, Smokeball, and Clio, for example, where that data feeds through and opens the matter in the lawyer’s practice management system. There’s no re-keying of the required information. We’ll continue to create integrations with other practice management software, making sure that the integrations are robust and intelligent.
Regarding our pricing, we charge a monthly license fee to firms of $99. That is for the firm – it’s not per user – and then we charge $99 for each client who uses Settify and retains the firm. If they don’t retain the firm, no fee is incurred. We find that law firms like that. The filtering tool makes Settify really helpful in terms of saving time, and firms can absorb the fee internally or disburse it as part of a follow-up inquiry.
I like the Lego analogy! But truthfully, how easy is it to install Settify, and does it work with any content management system or CMS platform like WordPress, Drupal, Magneto, Wix, etc.?
We do all of the heavy lifting ourselves. We know law firms are busy, so we personalize the application to create a seamless transition from Settify to the firm’s website. We use their branding, colors, fonts, logos, that sort of thing, so the user thinks they’re using the firm’s own technology. We design buttons for the firm’s developers to add on – or we can also do it for them. We make the process nice and easy, and the average rollout time is about a week and a half.
I’d like to get a couple more facts and figures from you. How many law firms are actively using Settify right now, and how many clients have used it to date?
We have 500 active firms, probably a little bit over now worldwide. We’ve had close to 100,000 clients use Settify to provide the instructions to their chosen firm. The takeaway there is that Settify is really becoming the new norm – particularly if we look at Australia where it’s been for a while. Settify accounts for the vast majority of new inquiries with Australian law firms now, which really shows the change in the way that clients are now engaging and retaining their lawyers.
I think it’s all about user experience, and you seem to be all about that.
My guest today has been Edward Kirk, who is Head of North America for Settify. A global leader in client intake systems for law firms, Settify was built by lawyers for lawyers, so you know that it’s dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s. For more information, or to book a demo, go to Settify.com. Thanks very much for being here today, Edward!
Thank you, Diana.
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