In an era where the ‘old man in a suit’ epitomises the pinnacle of trust and expertise for many, a seismic shift is underway, challenging the very foundations of traditional private client practices.  

Ben Stanway, co-founder of the widely utilised savings and investing app Moneybox, captures this zeitgeist: “One way to give confidence is via the old man in a suit, for the generation who has a strong belief in experts and institutions. However, the world is changing and we believe the next generation will achieve confidence through data-led, beautifully presented digital experiences.” This statement not only captures the essence of evolving client expectations but also serves as a clarion call for private client practice in the legal sector. 

The pandemic has accelerated a shift across all age groups, with even the traditionally less tech-savvy clientele now starting to demand digital, personalised experiences. This transformation is poised to redefine the conventional solicitor-client interactions, ushering in an era where adapting to digital innovation is not merely an option but a necessity for remaining relevant and delivering on the modern client’s expectations.  

In this article, we delve into the heart of this revolution, exploring how the demands of, perhaps surprisingly, all generations are reshaping the landscape of private client practices, compelling a reevaluation of long-established norms, and urging a swift adaptation to the digital age. 

The Changing Client Base  

You might expect this section to discuss how Generation Z (1995-2009) and Generation Alpha (2010-2024) are driving forward change with their digital expectations of legal services, yet these age groups are barely scratching the surface.  It’s  the Millennials, Gen Xers and Boomer generation which continue to generate the most wealth, interactions and need for services from within the legal sector;  and expectations around digital, personalised, services,  are increasing across every generation.  

Recent studies reveal a telling shift: over 75% of Baby Boomers now use the internet daily, and more than 68% of those aged 65 and above are active on social media platforms, challenging the stereotype that digital services cater exclusively to younger generations. This digital engagement isn’t superficial; it extends to financial and legal services, where there’s a growing demand for digital access and transparency. Among Millennials and Gen Z, the expectation for digital-first interactions is even more pronounced, with 82% expressing a preference for online platforms to manage their financial and legal affairs. 

Think about your own experience: was the last time you needed to interact with your personal solicitor as easy, digital and personalised as the last time you used banking services? The future of legal services must be as adept and agile digitally as it is traditionally in person, blending the convenience and efficiency of technology with the irreplaceable value of human expertise. 

Adapting to New Norms  

Unsurprisingly, progressive firms are digitising client interactions, from initial consultations to document exchanges, with 60% of legal professionals acknowledging technology’s role in improving service delivery (Lexis Nexis). 

The integration of digital platforms not only meets the modern client’s expectations but also streamlines operations, enabling solicitors to focus on the nuanced, advisory aspects of their role. This shift towards digital does not replace the personal touch; instead, it enhances it by making services more accessible, responsive, and tailored to individual needs. 

Overcoming Challenges  

At Legado, we’ve met a number of challenges over the years in introducing our client-facing technology to the legal sector. A recent survey indicated that firms adopting technological solutions are outperforming their traditional counterparts, capturing 40% more business on average, primarily due to enhanced client satisfaction and operational efficiencies (Law Society, Today’s Conveyancer). 

The irony is palpable – a profession dedicated to advocating clients’ best interests seems hesitant to heed their own evolving needs. This stubbornness not only hampers client satisfaction but also blindsides firms to the lucrative opportunities that digital innovation presents. 

The Path Forward  

The path forward involves not just adopting new technologies but reimagining the solicitor-client relationship for the digital age. This means creating a synergy between the traditional, personal touch that has long defined legal services and the efficiency, transparency, and accessibility that modern technology offers. As we navigate this transition, the focus must remain on delivering exceptional client experiences, tailored to the expectations of a diverse, digitally-savvy client base. 

A note from Legado’s client-servicing team:  

In the coming weeks, we will be conducting research among UK private client solicitors to delve deeper into these themes and explore the industry’s readiness for change. We invite you to contribute your insights and experiences to this important discussion. The survey will take just 5 minutes of your time, and participants will have the chance to win up to £250. This is not only an opportunity to reflect on your practice’s path forward but also to contribute to shaping the future of your profession in the digital era.