The benefits of a client portal

Client portals are a valuable tool for law firms in creating a good impression with clients, and come with numerous benefits for both sides.

  • Better Collaboration: A client portal is a place where lawyers and clients can act as one team. Lawyers can upload documents and post progress reports. Clients can drop into the portal whenever they like to check up on projects, notes from lawyers, download documents, or pose questions.
  • Improved Organisation: Siloes are reduced with client portals. Communication and documentation surrounding a client is now all in one place. Any individual from the law firm or the client can access the information at any time, knowing that all the information they need will be right there.
  • Faster Communication: In today’s mobile world, client portals make communication simpler and faster, providing lawyers and clients the ability to connect, wherever they may be. No longer does each party need to send emails, and wait for a reply before commencing the next phase. Through instant messaging, client call back requests, or push notifications to mobile devices, communication is improved no end.
  • Audit Friendly: Nowadays, any organisation in any sector is liable to receive disputes, negligence claims, or be accused of not delivering against statements of work, project plans, or promised deliverables. A client portal becomes crucial evidence in such circumstances, as it holds all communication, all documents, and everything regarding work with and for a client.

Law firms with a client portal in place have taken a big step in securing the most important thing they require from a client – trust.

Brand trust in the legal sector

Today, people are more aware than ever of the influence of technology in their lives, the potential for personal data misuse, and corporate mistakes in relation to data being stolen. Knowledge of personal data ownership and organisations’ responsibility in this regard, has undoubtedly become more widespread since the advent of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The main purpose of a law firm’s client portal is to securely share information between parties, both internally and externally. Sharing multiple documents, comments, and information between lawyers and clients – many of which may be sensitive in nature and require review or signature – must be simple, as efficient as possible, and absolutely secure. Given the nature of the industry, therefore, legal client portals – whether proprietary or off-the-shelf – have been built with security top of mind, first and foremost.

But do clients, and prospective clients, know this?

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer – the world’s leading annual publication on the subject of consumer trust, the level of trust in the professional services sector, which includes the legal industry, currently lies at 67%.

Less than three-quarters of the population trust professional services firms.

Law firms must focus on building trust throughout the customer journey because, as stated by Edelman:

  • Trusted companies have stronger consumer buyers and advocates
  • Trusted companies have greater license to operate
  • Trusted companies’ stock outperforms their respective sectors
  • Trusted companies are more immune to the media cycle

Trust is built on competence and ethics. Consumers today expect greater transparency and assurances that organisations will deal responsibly with ethical decisions, such as usage of personal consumer data1, and they won’t hesitate in publicly calling out brands – especially on social media – that have got things wrong in this respect.

For any new client coming on-board, it's imperative that the security of your law firm’s client portal, and the safety of the client’s data, is communicated from the outset in order to win brand trust.

Retaining clients is no longer just about how good a job you do. You need to show and prove to clients that their data is secure, that you care about it; that you care about them.

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The future of the client portal

As noted above, the installation of a client portal for a law firm allows lawyers and clients a collaboration space to share and document thoughts, comments, information, as well as assign tasks to individuals on both sides. Clients can view budget status, expenses, and project timelines, review documents, and ask questions.

Many law firms are also providing client dashboards, where clients can quickly assess overall progress, identify particular issues, and track performance, such as time-to-task-completion and budget-to-actual-spend.

Client portals have revolutionised communication between law firms and their clients over the past decade. But what does the future hold?

The Law Society has predicted 67,000 legal jobs will be replaced with automation by 2038.2

In Altman Weil’s 2019 Law Firms in Transition survey, it was reported that just less than half (48%) of law firms reported using technology tools to replace human resources in order to increase efficiency of legal service delivery.

It’s clear that automation will have a clear role to play in the future of the legal sector, and in the future of the client portal. However, we believe law firm client portals will need to become more integrated with other systems first, in order to give organisations a complete 360 degree view of their clients, which will lead to a better service, a better experience, more opportunity for automation, and increased revenue.

Integration with a practice management software

Many law firms have case management systems or practice management software already in place. Some of these technologies already come with built-in client portals, or offer portal upgrades, but many don't.

The system law firms use for managing client files, billing, scheduling, must – in the spirit of being open and securing client trust – become fully integrated with their client portal.

Integration with a document management system

Where do clients go when they’re interested in discovering research and relevant articles on a certain legal topic? Your website? Ask one of your lawyers directly? Someone else’s website?

Why drive clients away from your brand experience? How about if they were able to surface relevant documents, and get in touch with your subject-matter experts, without leaving the client portal?

Integrating your client portal with your document management system, allowing retrieval of client-facing content and documentation within the client portal itself, would make a fantastic customer experience.

Integration with a digital experience platform

Imagine one of your lawyers being notified that four individuals from one of her corporate clients had downloaded the ‘Guide to Helping Brands Get Back to Business after Coronavirus’ on your website. She could send a note to her contact at that client saying she’d noticed they might be interested in how to get back to business after coronavirus, and would they like her to send more information or set up a call.

Now imagine a scenario where that happened automatically. Where your website and your client portal are integrated, and because the client viewed the ‘Guide to Helping Brands Get Back to Business after Coronavirus’ on your website, articles relating to that subject and links to related guides were posted into the corporate client’s dashboard area on the client portal. Personalisation personified. We believe that's the future!

How can we help?

Investment in the right technology can help law firms respond to client needs and wants. It can improve operational efficiency. And it can help beat competitors.

Client portals give law firms the ability to significantly increase the level of customer trust and satisfaction, but the services can improve significantly through integration with the systems that matter – systems that, when put together, could transform your brand’s digital experience to something never before seen in the legal sector.

We have over fifteen years of experience in technology, integrating websites and external systems to enable organisations to drive improved digital experiences for their customers, gather data for a more complete customer-view, and increase their ability to deliver more revenue.

If your law firm would like to discuss the creation of a new digital experience platform, or would like to integrate your client portal with your website, CRM, marketing automation, or any other system to dramatically transform the digital experience for your clients, please get in touch.

1 Gartner, “Top Risks for Legal and Compliance Leaders in 2018“

2 The Law Society, "The Digitisation of the Legal Sector"

The Future of the Client Portal in the Legal Sector is part our series of articles dedicated to the legal profession:

1. PWC, Law Firms’ Survey 2018; 2. The BTI Consulting Group, Legal Innovation and Technology Outlook 2019; 3. Law Gazette, 24 September 2018