Law2Tech Series: Sucheet Amin – creating mobile apps for your law firm
Our Law2Tech series focuses on lawyers who have created legal technology for use in their own firm or the wider legal market. We explore how lawyers are bridging the gap between law and technology in order to enhance the delivery of legal services through better use of technology.
This week we caught up with Sucheet Amin of InCase. Such developed the client communication app InCase. InCase is a secure client communication portal that bolts onto a firm’s case management system, allowing clients to complete forms and sign documents electronically, as well as keep them updated with the progress of their matter.
MP: Where did the idea for InCase come from?
SA: inCase was born in 2012 after uncovering a challenge in my own law firm, Aequitas Legal. Like any law firm, customer service is high on our agenda and we began to notice more calls and emails from clients requesting general updates or information on the wider legal process. Things had changed in terms of what our ‘client needs’ were from previous years. Before clients let us get on with our job and waited for information and updates to come to them…now they were driving the service by demanding this information and updates at their pace, not ours.
I uncovered after extensive research with our client base that this was all fuelled by the Internet. Once upon a time, clients had little access to information so they relied solely on us…at best a friend or family member that had been through a similar experience. Now, the Internet gave them access to a wealth of information which was conflicting, confusing and sometimes just wrong. That in turn was creating questions that needed answering and resulted in a higher volume of call/emails. Faced with fixed fees in our work, I knew that we couldn’t stand still and continue to manage these calls/emails to maintain our service standards without becoming unprofitable. We had to find a new balance. After a number of weeks pondering what to do, I came across a report from the accountancy firm BDO, called Service 2020. It had assessed what would drive customer service in 2020.
A number of messages were promoted but one stuck out for me – technology would be an enabler. Service would no longer be heavily influenced by the people in the business, or the results achieved but by the technology underpinning it all. Today, we hear that phrase everywhere but at the time it was a new concept. Look at Amazon today…when was the last time (if ever) you spoke to anyone about buying a product, or even returning it! So, I decided to build a platform where we could quickly update clients about their matter, provide an educational tool about the process and show them where they were within it. Provide a secure communication channel to replace calls/email…obtain real time feedback and importantly, integrate it into our current case management system. inCase was born as the mobile app platform to make that a reality.
MP: The legal sector has a strong history of billable hours which can often be the sole focus of a partners time. Did you have to make a case within your business to reduce your caseload in order to focus on your app, and if so how did that conversation go?
SA: At the time, the firm wasn’t even 3 years old. We had seen rapid growth and it had become clear that my time as a fee earner was coming to an end. Running any business is a full-time job and while the firm was establishing itself, it was right to simultaneously fee earn and manage the business. However, as our growth demanded more of my time away from working with clients, I simply had to make the decision to stop altogether. I’m a strong believer in effective communication. What I mean by that is it is sometimes easier to communicate what is changing and how it is going to change but to get people to support and back you, they need to know why. Taking this approach, as I explained to the team why I was taking fewer clients so that I had the time to invest in the growth and security of the firm, create new opportunities for them and continue to navigate in the constantly changing personal injury sector, it was pain-free.
MP: Did you always intend for InCase to be a product that you offered to other firms?
SA: Hell no! At the time I was simply looking to maintain our standards of service and balance our customer needs with being profitable. I had no idea inCase would become a product for other firms…but I’d be lying if soon after we launched it didn’t cross my mind. The initial results were mind-blowing. Engagement levels were through the roof. Feedback and ratings soared to 93%. Use of the app was 24/7, yes even in the middle of the night…why I thought…night shift workers. We had created a platform that was convenient for our clients, not just for us and they loved it. A number of months after launch, the new costs regime as part of the Jackson reforms were announced. It was this event that triggered the decision to offer it to firms up and down the country.
MP: What are the main objections you encounter when asking firms to consider adopting InCase for their practice and how do you overcome them?
SA: We genuinely do not get many objections, the benefits of inCase are clear to see, especially once you have seen the platform. However, the considerations a firm makes when adopting any technology still apply to inCase. These are generally three-fold. Firstly, do the benefits outweigh the costs? Secondly, does it take resource away from the team? Thirdly, is the technology future-proof?
Any additional cost is a big consideration for firms, especially for consumer areas of law like conveyancing and personal injury. However, inCase provides a plethora of efficiency improvements that will directly increase profitability. Our panel firms have also attributed growth in their businesses due to having inCase in their organisations. So, it is always a monetary cost benefit to the firm.
Some firms are worried that new technology will need input from their staff and take them away from their day to day tasks. inCase is the complete opposite. Due to our case management systems integration, the lawyer does not need to do anything differently from their normal processes. We actually give a lot more time back to the fee earners by reducing emails and calls from clients like they did for my firm. In fact, when inCase was being developed for my firm, it had to integrate as I knew that adoption by my own team would be a challenge. We have continued to maintain the high standard that if we can’t integrate, we won’t put inCase into the firm.
The third consideration that firms’ debate is whether this technology is here to stay or is it a short-term ‘gimmick’. Mobile technology is improving the ‘consumer’ experience in every industry and walk of life and it is only going to get more prolific in the years to come. inCase is a part of this movement and tackles the most common challenge in every business relationship with its customer – communication. It’s not a question of if mobile communication will become more widespread in our industry but when.
MP: Do you think your legal background gives you a greater understanding of the pain points for firms when adopting new tech?
SA: I hope so. I still run my own practice and that gives me a very distinct and clear understanding of the real issues on the desk of practice owners. Feeling the same pains they do, encountering the same challenges, working through to find similar solutions helps me align myself and inCase with firms that have issues they wish to overcome with our help.
MP: Building new technology can be expensive, especially if you get it wrong. What advice do you have for lawyers who might thing they have a great idea for a legal technology application?
SA: Simple…build a minimum viable product (MVP) quickly and at the lowest cost possible. It will have problems, it will teach you things you didn’t know and it will have successes. All of the lessons learned from an MVP will help you to build the real platform for the commercial market. If you can get your MVP into a working environment of 1 or 2 firms then great, it will definitely help strengthen the first release. Be honest with yourself though. Get feedback and if it isn’t working for the end users, find out what it will take to get it working. Work out what is important to the end user, not you (you are not the client) and cater to those issues. Don’t assume anything. The great thing about technology is that it is so easily accessible today. There is so much open-source code out there that can be leveraged and bolted together that anything is possible.