Acumen For Innovation: The Acuity Client Portal
At Acuity Law, we are no strangers to innovation – and, unusually for a law firm, we’re not afraid to get our hands dirty and build our own tech tools.
When setting out to create the Acuity Client Portal, Acuity Law embarked upon an ambitious in-house tech project of the sort not often seen in that bastion of traditionalism – the legal services industry.
It’s a stereotype that Acuity Law’s commercial director, Adele Carter, is fighting against: “It’s exceedingly obvious in financial services, the tech sector in general, most of us as consumers do online banking, you buy your house insurance and your travel insurance online. And I think there’s been almost a lagging development in the way legal services are delivered,” she explains.
“There is a lot of wariness. We see the rise of AI, we’re hearing the conversation about ChatGPT and is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? Lawyers by nature are incredibly risk averse. So I think the industry is set for a shakeup. Trying to break the status quo and think differently about how people can access some of the services we offer is always front and centre of anything we’re doing at Acuity.”
As any recent software project veteran will tell you, the secret to IT success is iteration and, from concept to launch, the Acuity Client Portal evolved organically. First trialled as a tool offering Acuity Counsel Service clients (who use the firm on a retainer basis) some self-help – a small repository of how-to documents (our “knowledge bank”), a simple breakdown of hours used, and updates around events and other developments at Acuity – the Portal became a sophisticated platform connecting all clients to the Acuity environment earlier this Spring. It came down to being responsive.
Almost immediately after the first launch, 84% of invited clients signed up to the Portal, recalls Carter: “It gave us the bedrock to understand a little bit more about what they liked, what they engaged with, what we could do better and, more, importantly, what we could build alongside them,” she explains.
“Trying to break the status quo and think differently about how people can access some of the services we offer is always front and centre of anything we’re doing at Acuity.”
Acuity followed up with a client listening programme, to dig deep into what worked and what didn’t. What emerged was a clear desire for enhanced functionality to assist in budgeting – almost like a consumer engages with their bank or insurer.
“We sat with our internal development team to build a better, more user-friendly, visual demonstration of that hours use metric, and then we launched that 18 months ago,” says Carter.
“People were finding material benefit in not having to ring the finance team or to speak to their client partner to get a quick balance check. It was particularly targeted to help them really manage their legal spend so there was a quick assurance that they weren’t going to get an increased invoice at the end of the quarter.”
From there, Acuity decided to roll out the platform to the entire clientbase, and so went back for more client user feedback to roll out a more holistic product. The end-result was the new Acuity Client Portal, providing clients and – significantly – prospective clients with access to their matters, tasks, invoices and the Acuity knowledge bank.
“It’s very rare in our industry that you get something that is completely free. But this gives those businesses that perhaps don’t have the budget to call a lawyer the information for nothing. If, at that point, they need a little bit more support, then the hope would be that we’ve done such a sterling job. they want to engage with us,” says Carter.
“I think, if we’ve got the opportunity to build it with the immensely talented people that we’ve got within this business, then why not?”
Unusually for a law firm, Acuity chose to develop a bespoke tech system using in-house developers – a testament not only to the skill of our innovative IT team, but also to the importance of partnership and people to the Acuity brand.
Says Carter: “Everything we do is built by Acuity people and is informed by our clients. I think, if we’ve got the opportunity to build it with the immensely talented people that we’ve got within this business, then why not? You get to see something developed from cradle to grave, and that’s a fascinating thing to watch happen.”
She adds: “I think the risk when you buy in something in a ‘build it and they will come’ mentality, is that you lose a lot of what your clients are actually looking for. This is built in partnership with our clients. By our clients and, more importantly, for our clients.”
None of this is to say that the process was not taxing, however – as any business undergoing tech transformation knows.
“I think you learn a lot about who you are when you go through a development, particularly a system and product development,” Carter recalls.
“We had to put the brakes on it regularly to make sure that there was no creep in any of what we were developing – that we stayed true to that mission statement: connecting our clients to the Acuity environment and everything done in one click.”
For Acuity, the biggest learning has been to continue boldly going where law firms sometimes fear to go – and that’s towards innovation.
“As long as we’re continuing to listen to what the clients want, and that remains the driver, I think we’ll always develop something that has a need and a benefit. Being willing to try something new, being willing to articulate what we’re doing and be champions of tech development in the legal industry.”
The Acuity Client Portal: Facts
- The Acuity Client Portal is free. Whether you’re an Acuity client or not, there is a wealth of information (privacy protected) accessible in one click
- The Portal enables clients to get on the front foot of what their legal spend might look like.
- The Portal is a community informed by clients and built by Acuity experts
- At a time when businesses are feeling the pinch, the Portal offers knowledge, resource and expertise to equip businesses with the tools they need for today’s challenges.
At Acuity Law, we’re always building. Stay tuned for future technology-based products and tools.