In decades past, an attorney’s day-to-day work was largely a mystery to clients. Whether intentional or not, most law firms operated under a business model shrouded in secrecy, where information was communicated on a strictly need-to-know basis. Under this old model, a client received very little information from their lawyer unless and until there was some sort of development or resolution in their matter.
Today, technological advances have accelerated the ease and speed with which information can be shared and accessed. Consequently, clients are demanding more transparency when it comes to the legal services they receive and pay for, and law firms that fail to deliver on those expectations risk alienating clients and ultimately losing business.
Many law firms struggle to provide clients with the increased collaboration and communication they need and too many attorneys still rely heavily on email and phone calls as their primary means of relaying important information. But email has limitations and returning phone calls can become time-consuming and burdensome. For law firms, a more efficient and effective solution may be to invest in a technology solution that includes a secure client portal.
The basics: What is a client portal and what are the benefits?
Though client portals may look different from firm to firm, in general they are websites where information and documents can be easily uploaded and shared. Accessible via a secure entry point, using a client portal, clients are able to track their matter and communicate with their attorney — enabling easy and seamless collaboration.
For both attorneys and clients, the benefits of using a client portal are many and varied.
From an operational standpoint, attorneys can reduce the amount of time they previously spent emailing back and forth and returning calls with clients. With everything from case exhibits to billing statements uploaded in one location, attorneys spend less time searching for documents on their personal computer.
In addition to being beneficial from an efficiency standpoint, clients have much greater insight into what is going on with their matter. According to the Thomson Reuters Consumer Client Experience Survey, 11 percent of survey respondents reported using a client portal to interact and communicate with their attorney and 100 percent of these respondents were satisfied with the technology.
Information is power. Providing clients with 24/7 access to legal information and materials that are specifically tailored to their matter and needs, helps them feel more in control of their situation. This can lead to greater overall client satisfaction and ultimately more referrals for a firm.
Key features: What to look for in a client portal
While features vary, there are four important capabilities that a client portal should deliver.
- Easy to use – Using a client portal should be intuitive and the adoption and use should be viewed as beneficial, not burdensome, by clients.
- Secure – Maintaining privacy and confidentiality is especially important for attorneys and their clients. It’s imperative, therefore, that all information and messages that are uploaded and saved to a client portal are encrypted and secure.
- Easy to share and track – Parties should be able to easily upload and share documents in a secure environment. Likewise, activity tracking features should alert parties when new messages or documents are available, and a record of all activities should be captured and memorialized.
- Easy to integrate – Law firms should be able to seamlessly integrate a client portal with any existing practice management software they use. System compatibility ensures that all matter materials are stored and organized in one place.
When clients turn to an attorney for help, they or the business they represent are often in distress and facing uncertainty. They need an attorney to provide solutions and resolve the legal issues they face so they can avoid or minimize negative repercussions and move forward.
Technology solutions like client portals improve the legal process for all stakeholders. Clients gain a greater understanding of their legal issue and feel empowered and law firms streamline processes and increase efficiencies—improving communication, collaboration and saving everyone time and frustration.