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How you can use data to create client personas for your firm

Jack Lees

With Post-It notes and my name badge in hand, I turned up to the recent Legal Design Geek event a little skeptical of yet another day of conference lectures.

Given that it was the day following its older brother conference, Legal Geek, I suspect some of the other geeks that planned to attend both events also were feeling similar and a little overwhelmed from the previous day’s events.

But as I quickly discovered, this was not your typical sit and listen conference. This was going to be a full day of workshops centered around design thinking focused on developing client personas to improve your offerings.

There were 5 sessions over the course of the day designed to help firms hone in and understand a couple different common customer personas. Each group focused on two personas: a senior in-house lawyer, the other, a key business stakeholder such as the head of business development or the head of HR.

Without fail each group of attendees picked the lawyer to do first, which was unsurprising given the makeup of the audience was mix of lawyers (both in-house and law firm), legal ops, and technologists. The sessions helped us better empathise with each personas specific  experiences, behaviours, goals, and obstacles.

The concept of personas is well known in software development, with design teams having used them for years, evolving their use of them from only in radical design organisations to now more widespread adoption throughout the industry.

But for a law firm they’re right on the bleeding edge of legal design.

Overcoming doubts

Many legal industry experts may not have heard of using personas to better understand their common clients, or worse, have opinions limited to ‘I already understand my client, what’s the point?’ or the classic ‘We don’t offer a product so why should we waste our time with personas?’.

So how should you use personas in a law firm and how do you convince sceptics of their value?

Even at Legal Design Geek, a safe space for radical design ideas, there was some skepticism. But disbelief was often replaced with interest when the realisation hit for many attendees that their law firm really didn’t know what the business drivers were for the firms for which they spend so long creating RFPs.

Now you may be reading this and thinking ‘but we’re a law firm, we understand how to provide council in the way all our clients need.’

But do you really understand the rest of your business? Have you done the due diligence of mining your data, or dare I say speaking to your clients to really understand their needs?

You must start doing so as you think about what you can do to improve the services you provide, such as making data more accessible to areas of the business not specialising in law through high-level bullet points, pictures, or summaries of long legalese documents, for example.

Help those areas of your clients businesses make sense by creating personas, give each persona a name and use a fictitious picture. Use your research to break down your target audience into groups and then into subgroups with clear answers for each of these questions:

  • Who is this customer?
  • What are their goals?
  • What’s their behaviour?
  • What motivates and what frustrates them?
  • What pain points and challenges do they have?
  • What does their typical day look like?

Then create assumptions based on those personas and review them constantly. While it may feel like stereotyping, there’s nothing dishonest with creating target personas based on assumptions from current customers.

Personas ultimately help you develop a customer journey map and give you a better understanding of user behaviours throughout the journey. This helps you create a strategy to guide them throughout all stages of their journey — from the awareness stage through to the consideration stage, to selecting your company in the decision stage, and ultimately to retaining your services as you understand how they operate and what their goals are.

Once you begin using data to fully build out your customer personas and journey maps, you’ll be able to more accurately productize to the right customers. And then you’ll be on that bleeding edge of Legal Design.

About the author

Jack Lees

Jack is a Product Manager at iManage RAVN.