We’re less than a year away from the implementation of GDPR, which will overhaul the way companies collect, use and store personal data. As of May 2018, companies around the world, who wish to sell products in the EU, will need to adhere to a strict set of data protection laws, or face fines up to €20M or 4% of turnover, whichever is greater.

While GDPR presents an array of challenges for businesses, it also opens a world of opportunity for forward-thinking law firms. Any company dealing with EU customer data will need to understand GDPR’s implications and develop a plan for compliance – and time is of the essence. For law firms, this presents the opportunity to proactively address client needs, expand existing business and create differentiation through innovative client service.

Here are three ways law firms can turn the burdens of GDPR into compelling competitive advantages.

Advise Clients Proactively

Businesses around the world are largely reacting to GDPR with a mixture of panic and inaction. Only 40% of companies in the UK have begun GDPR preparations, and a mere 28% of companies in the EU say they are prepared. Furthermore, Gartner predicts that less than 50% of global companies affected by GDPR will not be in full compliance with its requirements by the end of 2018.

For law firms, this is the perfect opportunity to step up and take initiative in advising clients. Many organisations lack knowledge of GDPR’s impact on their business and equally are unaware of the regulation’s repercussions. With less than a year to go until GDPR takes effect, now’s the time for firms to partner with clients to quell concerns, identify key areas of risk and help them plan their path towards compliance. By quickly adapting to client needs and pre-emptively solving compliance problems, firms can not only deliver better client service, but also ensure that clients don’t suffer noncompliance ramifications down the road.

Expand Existing Business

Partnering with clients to help them ready for GDPR also opens new business potential for firms. Businesses will need to reassess their current data collection and storage methods, and start making improvements to meet the new regulations.

Firms can quickly and easily provide clients with detailed legal assessments to help them identify areas of concern and develop an action plan for compliance. By providing personalised GDPR action plans, firms can not only offer guidance to clients, but also identify all potential GDPR-related work for the firm.

Many firms also are using GDPR to expand their legal offerings. Under GDPR, many companies will need to appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO), whose sole responsibility is to oversee data protection compliance. A few innovative firms have already tapped into this new business opportunity by offering DPO services for clients.

Build Client Relationships

Today’s law firms are operating in the age of the client. It’s no longer enough to simply engage with clients on a transactional basis. The modern client expects a consultative, partnership-like relationship from their law firms. And GDPR is a great opportunity to not only establish a strong relationship with clients, but start building a long-lasting relationship.

One way law firms can do this is by leveraging technology to help clients approach compliance. Take for example, DLA Piper, who recently released a mobile app dedicated to helping clients make sense of GDPR. Creative uses of technology can prove an efficient and effective way of demonstrating your firm’s knowledge and expertise.

While apps are a great way to engage clients, firms can take it one step further to use technology to form a partnership-like relationship with their clients. Advanced automation technologies have made it easy to not only generate personalised GDPR assessments for clients (as mentioned above), but also allow clients to track and monitor their progress towards compliance. By offering clients an online, end-to-end GDPR compliance tool, firms can position themselves as collaborative consultants helping clients pave the path to compliance.