Switch Your Legal Support Service Provider

If you’ve thought about switching vendors you’re not alone. Up to 80% of frequent buyers switch suppliers in a 24-month period. With such openness to alternatives and a legal support service provider market crowded with competition, embracing change is easier now than ever. It’s little wonder that when a provider-side issue pops up the first instinct for some firms is, “Let’s try someone else.”

If that instinct has taken hold of you, here are five ways to reconcile your gut with what’s actually happening. Use these indicators to determine whether your firm is overdue for a new legal support service provider, and what to look for in the process.

Let’s take the first step toward making that change by examining the “why.”

One and Done

One and Done?

A single bad experience may be all that’s needed for some buyers to walk away from a vendor. That may sound harsh but imagine if a court sanctions your firm because of something your legal support service provider did or did not do. Once can be enough.

Today’s legal professionals at a minimum expect their legal support service providers to be client-centered and deliver work on time, correctly. Not all providers are up to the task, however. And, when a legal support service provider underperforms, it can give a legal professional plenty of reasons to consider the options. Among those reasons, five are most likely to trigger a provider switch:

  1. Degraded Service Performance
  2. Subpar Customer Support
  3. Lack of Future-Ready Technology and Software Capability
  4. Lack of Partnering Ethos
  5. No Pricing Transparency

Let’s examine these more closely and find out what each sign may say about your situation.

1. Subpar Customer Support

Court document filing and service of process are cornerstones of civil litigation. When either is performed incorrectly it can jeopardize an entire legal matter. If your current vendor shows signs of weakness in managing these services—dropping orders or missing deadlines—it’s time to look for an alternative.

Before you jump ship, however, there are two benchmarks you can use to gauge whether the performance you should be getting matches the performance your vendor is actually delivering.

eFiling Acceptance

90%

Service of Process Success Rate

90%

If a vendor is scoring below 90% on eFiling acceptance and service of process success rates, it’s time to think differently about the relationship.

In the Dark?

But what if your law firm has no idea what your rejection rates are? The fact that no one is giving you those numbers tells you right away something is wrong. If you don’t have a way to track this performance data yourself and your vendor is unable to provide it, you need to find a provider that can.

One of the ways to qualify that new provider is to make sure they 1) provide you with monthly performance reports and 2) the reports they give you are easy to understand.

That’s because legal assistants, paralegals, and even lawyers may not always have a great deal of business training before stepping into their roles at a law firm. Instead, much of what legal professionals learn about business come from one-the-job training.

Therefore, a customer-centered vendor will find ways to make it easier for the legal professional to conduct the “business side” of her or his job.

The reports should transparently share performance metrics by the vendor, so you know how well (or not well) they are performing and offer insights into your firm’s users and order behavior. They should also demonstrate the value relative to what the law firm is spending.

Find Weak Spots, Solve Mysteries

Despite the gut feeling you may have about where your firm’s trouble spots lie, you may be in for some surprises.

For example, those reports may show that 20% of your service of process orders aren’t being served. Seems bad like bad news, right? But that same report may tell you the cause of those incomplete orders is bad addresses.

You can now course correct without relying on guesswork.

It’s also important for your vendor to provide real-time status updates about your file and serve orders as well as return Proofs and court-stamped documents to you in a timely manner. When a legal support service provider underperforms in these areas, change could be due.


Wondering what makes an electronic filing service provider great?

Read 6 Things to Look For in an Electronic Filing Service Provider (EFSP).


Subpar Customer Support

2. Subpar Customer Support

Customer support can be a powerful differentiator, and from your own experiences you probably know a great customer support experience when you have one. Companies such as Disney, Starbucks, and Ritz-Carlton built global empires by looking through their customers’ eyes to examine their businesses. Your legal support service provider should do the same.

Surprisingly, many service providers don’t invest in this area.

Because legal professionals work in a time-sensitive, high-pressure environment, a good legal support service provider will understand how crucial it is to be reachable to their clients and understand all the state and local court rules to ensure your file or serve is fulfilled accurately, among other things. Which is why best-in-class providers will provide you with:

  • An account manager whose direct line or email address you can access.
  • A team of document specialists with deep domain expertise and experience.
  • A specific document specialist is assigned to your order from start to finish.
  • Multiple communication channels, such as live chat, email, and phone, to reach customer support.
  • A customer support team that is ready to serve you with alacrity.

Feel like a number?

Legal support service vendors may fall short on customer service for various reasons, but a common cause is mismatched priorities. This can happen when a provider becomes too big over time or is swallowed up suddenly in an acquisition.

Either course can shift your vendor’s attention.

You know your vendor has lost focus if you’ve recently been directed to dial into a call center’s 800 number where you languish on hold while the court filing deadline ticks away.

Another giveaway is when the vendor’s representative finally picks up the phone and is argumentative, dismissive, or just plain unhelpful.

When you’re looking for clues about whether a prospective provider can deliver the goods for customer support be sure to read through their testimonials (assuming they have them). Look for comments such as:

  • “They provide court information about closures and filing hours.”
  • “They provide immediate filing status.”
  • “My motion was accepted because they reached out to me proactively.”
  • “I rely on them for time-critical electronic filings.”

If a vendor that doesn’t proudly display its customer testimonials, keep on scrolling.

Lack of Future-Ready Technology & Software Capability

3. Lack of Future-Ready Technology & Software Capability

Does it seem like your service provider’s technology isn’t keeping up with the industry? An aging tech stack will hinder a law firm’s success, which is particularly concerning if growth is key to your firm’s financial outlook.

To keep their expansions on track, growing law firms need legal support service providers who have adopted technology. A recent report demonstrates why that is true:

  • Growing firms use reporting tools twice as much as shrinking firms.
  • Technology helps firms deliver better client experiences.
  • Technology-enabled conveniences such as e-signatures mean scanning and mailing a wet signature are no longer the barriers they once were.
  • Online payment technology makes fee-for-service transactions nearly instantaneous and decreases administrative tasks.

The future is here and it came in a portal.

“We had no future, so I left.”

That remark sums why most relationships end regardless of whether you’re talking about The Bachelor, Real Housewives, or law firms in the 21st century. It also sums why a legal support service provider’s technology must offer an online customer portal or forget having a future with you.

Not only does a customer portal mean 24/7 access to do work, but it also means work will be done with greater accuracy and efficiency.

Here are a few of the ways a portal makes that happen:

  • Each law firm staff user has a particular login and change permission.

Takeaway: This convenience means attorneys have their own logins. If they want to get an update on a service of process order, they can use their own login to have visibility into the complete file.

  • Staff members at different offices can work on the same case and have the same information in real time.

Takeaway: Law firm users are no longer boxed in by their individual office’s systems. They may log into the same portal 24/7 to conduct a variety of tasks such as pulling information about conformed copies, proofs of service, or updates.

Takeaway: Because staff can access information from anywhere in real time, they also minimize time spent on internal dialogue.

  • The portal is directly integrated with the maximum number of courts that allow eFiling

Takeaway: In California, as of April 2022, there are 28 counties that accept electronic court filing. The number of eFiling courts is only going to grow, so the portal is a must-have for law firms that have expansion in their plans.

  • Allows file-and-serve in one order flow.

Takeaway: Mad hot efficiency for law office staff.

  • Ability to customize notifications and notify different attorneys or parties about orders that are being placed.

Takeaway: No need to deal with CC’ing or forwarding emails.

A future-ready vendor will have the tech stack that continues to support your growth with no additional capital outlay. This kind of vendor will be eager to discuss new ways for you to use its technology and consult about integrations with your office’s own software.

This superior class of vendor will also be interested in improving its own system’s ease of use and offer your law firm strategic guidance to help operate more efficiently.

If your current vendor hasn’t taken any of these actions lately, you need a fresh start.


It’s Time to Tool Up for the eFiling Future

Have you begun eFiling? Is your firm looking for an electronic filing service provider (EFSP) that can scale up or down while providing fast and accurate efiling throughout the state of California?

Rapid Legal offers eFiling in every CA court where eFiling is accepted.

Create an account now for FREE!


Lack of Partnering Ethos

4. Lack of Partnering Ethos

Has your current legal support service vendor left you feeling as if they are interested only in selling you a service? Do they only react to your needs as issues crop up?

If that sounds like your status quo, then the status quo is not what you deserve. You deserve better.

What does better look like?

For law firms that want to remain competitive in the 21st century “better” is a strategic partner. There are several characteristics that distinguish a strategic partner from a vendor who is content to just run your credit card.

Here are several strategic partner characteristics that add value to your law firm:

  • Works with you proactively
  • Seeks to add value to your firm.
  • Provides data and reports for transparency and accountability.
  • Inquires about your firm’s goals and objectives.
  • Concentrates on strategic business outcomes such as cost and process efficiencies as well as risk management.
  • Constantly thinks of new and different ways to do things.
  • Focuses on a long-term partnership.
  • Strives to be a preferred vendor your firm.

If you’d like to fully understand the differences between strategic partners and transactional partners, read It’s Time for Law Firms to Think Differently About How They Use Litigation Support Service Providers.

5. No Pricing Transparency

Ever wondered why some legal support services providers bury fees in fine print, or quietly tack on a surcharge to inflate a price that originally seemed like a great deal? You’re not alone.

No one likes hidden fees.

As trouble signs go, hidden fees are worrisome because they can cause you to go over budget. It’s time to take your business elsewhere if you’ve experienced either of the following with your current vendor:

  • Fees are not shown in the workflow of the portal during the ordering process
  • Vendor does not provide in-depth itemized invoices. This includes available payment methods, amount owed, and unique invoice reference numbers.
You’re ready to switch

You’re ready to switch. This is how to qualify and interview alternate providers.

You’ve decided to make your move and, if you choose wisely, good things lie ahead. Your next step is to evaluate prospective vendors with specific questions about the specialized services they provide.

To shorten the distance between you and your ideal match, here are the questions you need to ask.

Pricing

Ask about hidden fees. Make it clear you want to understand every charge for which the firm will be billed. They should offer a way for you to calculate your charges up front.

Likewise, ask them to describe their billing process and whether they provide in-depth, itemized invoices. No ambiguity, no exceptions.

Customer Service

How many ways you can contact the prospective vendor’s customer support? Find out if they offer live chat, email, and phone support.

You’ll also want to know how frequently you can expect updates about document status. Ask if you will have a dedicated account manager.

Filing Success

Two questions matter:

1. What is the vendor’s acceptance rate with the courts?

2. Can you benchmark your acceptance rates and rejection rates against the rest of the industry? No data, no deal.

Ease of Use

Ease of Use

Request a demo and put the system through its paces while you’re at the controls.

Ask whether the vendor returns court-stamped documents quickly and reliably. Make them explain what that means in terms of hours, days, or weeks.

Does the vendor offer custom reports and analytics? This case study shows the importance of these reports and how their data can aid growth and protect your revenues.

Scalability

Can the vendor handle your work volume? Ask about document review, physical filing, eFiling, service of process, and key services you use in quantities you need.

Don’t end the interview until you know exactly how many California courts the vendor eFiles into.


Concerned About Making the Right Choice? Read These to Stop Worrying.

A Complete Checklist for Selecting a Certified eFiling Service Provider

The Ultimate Guide for Process Serving


Get referrals

In the rush to find a new vendor this crucial part of the decision-making process may fall off the radar.

Here are three questions tailored to guide conversations with a vendor about referrals. A reputable vendor will answer them all.

  • Do you have a well-documented performance and acceptance rate with the courts?
  • Can you provide references from any of the courts’ electronic filing manager (EFM) vendors that integrate with your offering?
  • Do you have any case studies that spotlight your work?
vendor

Is Your New Vendor a Keeper?

You’ve done your due diligence, checked the boxes, and found a vendor that looked like partnership material. You’ve worked together for a while and you want to know whether it was the right move.

Here’s the answer: Did the switch fix a pain point or problem?

If poor eFiling performance was one reason you switched vendors, you can gauge the success of your move by determining whether eFiling turnaround times and service of process success rates have improved, stayed the same, or gotten worse.

Monthly performance metrics from your vendor can help make that determination. The right provider will include granular data in those metrics that allow you to track:

  • eFiling orders by county.
  • Service of process orders by service level and pricing zone.
  • Number of documents served (by days elapsed).
  • Proofs of service returned (by days elapsed).
  • Types of orders placed.

Did You Get Any Face Time?

Best-in-class vendors are willing to meet and provide regular updates about itself and the courts. Likewise, a high-performing vendor will provide quarterly business reports that include an order summary report and a recap of its relationship with the firm.

The vendor should conduct review meetings with the law firm to monitor new developments, strategize, and make sure the firm is happy with the quality of service.

This is how the best vendors proactively keep themselves and the law firm accountable to each other.

shortcut

Here’s a Shortcut

We’ve given you all the tips and tools to begin your vendor evaluation. But since you’re here, why not begin the search with Rapid Legal?

With Rapid Legal you’ll get the advantage of a technology infrastructure second to none and access to every eFiling court in California. More importantly, you’ll get a strategic partner dedicated to transparency and accountability.

That’s not just talk. We back it up with one powerful sentence published proudly on our website:

If service is not done right, it’s free.

Want to know more? Contact a Rapid Legal account executive to book a demo or schedule a call.