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Five things clients will ask their lawyers in 2018

What is on your clients' minds in 2018? Having a good grasp of the latest trends and challenges impacting your clients will help you develop stronger relationships with them. The following are some conversations small-firm lawyers should anticipate their clients initiating in 2018.   

What can you tell me about blockchain?

The last quarter of 2017 saw Bitcoin dominate news cycles with its dramatic increase in value. This generated more public attention on crypto-currencies and the underlying blockchain technologies.  

Blockchain is a public ledger where transactions are logged and verified anonymously. The advantages of blockchain are its decentralized nature that removes reliance on a middleman and the security in the unalterable nature of recorded data.   

Much of the talk in the legal world revolves around the potential to use blockchain technology in real estate transactions for recording transfers of title. Similarly, there is buzz around smart contracts, which are essentially codes that trigger actions when a pre-condition has occurred. There will undoubtedly be more uses developed as people become familiar with blockchain. For a more in-depth summary of what blockchain is, here is a good guide. 

How do the federal government’s new tax changes affect me?

In 2017, the federal government proposed and, despite strong opposition, moved forward with numerous changes to the Income Tax Act. These changes will significantly impact small businesses and professional corporations in 2018 and beyond. Clients will want to know how to navigate and plan for tax changes, including whether they should restructure their business or how to stay in compliance, particularly those with family members who contribute to the business. The changes may affect many law practices as well with the elimination of billed-basis accounting.       

Is my information secure with you? 

In terms of cybersecurity, 2017 was a bad year. The WannaCry worminfected businesses small and large with ransomware back in the spring. The Equifax data breach disclosure capped off the summer. And, throughout the year, we were inundated with news stories of Russian hacking of emails in relation to the presidential election in the United States. The positive corollary of all this is that consumers and clients are more sensitive to cybersecurity and the protection of their data. Clients will increasingly want evidence that their personal information is secure with you, especially if that information is stored and shared electronically. It may be appropriate for you to outline, whether in your retainer letter or in reading material in your waiting area, what steps you take to protect client data.  

You know I'm a millennial, right? 

Believe it or not, millennials are now of the age where they will be steady consumers of legal services. What this means is that the presentation of information should be tailored to this younger audience. Whether it is embracing digital forms of communication and information sharing or knowledge of the current trends, it is important for you to reach out and learn how to talk to the younger generation. They are potential clients ready to develop a lasting relationship with their lawyers.  

Can you cut your fees because minimum wage went up? 

Minimum wage is increasing across Canada in 2018. As of Jan. 1, the Ontario minimum wage is $14 (up from $11.60). Alberta, Quebec and Prince Edward Island are also expected to increase the minimum wage by the end of the year. This could result in businesses cutting back on legal services or finding themselves behind in bill payments. Conversely, for personal services legal work, it could mean that a greater percentage of the population can afford something like a will and powers of attorney or paying for a consultation or limited-scope services to steer them in the right direction. Appreciating how the increases in minimum wage impacts clients can change your approach to business development.

Anticipating client questions and what keeps them up at night demonstrates an interest in your clients’ lives and delivers value as a trusted adviser. Trends, new technologies and news cycles will impact how clients see the world, and the more familiar you are with these, the better you can serve your clients.