Collaborating with clients used to be a face-to-face deal—taking place in your conference room or office, or perhaps a swank restaurant to impress. Now, communication with clients mostly happens virtually, with emails and documents substituting for face time. Clients don’t visit offices nearly as much, or at all, and conference rooms see less action than phone lines.
Today’s conference rooms. If you want to leverage some of the new cloud-based tools to collaborate with clients and colleagues, consider online client portals. Through online portals, you can conduct almost all of your business with a client—securely sharing documents, messages and even collecting payment. And, whether you use a system like Google Docs for document editing, Dropbox for file storage, or a SaaS product for practice management, sharing data with clients often involves just one click. Using online collaboration tools helps set your practice apart from the competition and establish you as an innovator. No one wants to work with a dinosaur!
There’s a lot of information out there about working in the cloud. But for lawyers, the key points remain:
- Security blanket. Many of the technical and security-related challenges associated with cloud-based portals have been reduced or eliminated, so you can now securely collaborate with your client. Unlike unencrypted e-mails, all communications through a properly secured online cloud-based portal are secured using SSL encryption. This is the same type of encryption employed by banks and e-commerce sites to ensure secure, confidential transmission of sensitive data. Of course you need to assess your risk, but ask yourself what’s more secure? A password-protected online portal or a stack of file folders lying on your desk for anyone to peek at, including the janitorial staff?
- Lower overhead, increased efficiency. Communicating with clients online can often be more efficient and focused than in-person meetings, which leads to substantial time savings. Web-based collaboration eliminates many of the costs and delays that plague law office communication—printing, courier and mail costs—and can also create an opportunity to work out of your home or at a lower-cost office location.
- Instant gratification. In a world dominated by Facebook and Twitter, not to mention iPhones and BlackBerrys, clients expect rapid, real-time communication with their lawyer. Online collaboration tools give you the capability to communicate more easily and directly with your clients, whether you’re in the office, on the road or at the beach!
Using online collaboration tools in your practice can lead to a more convenient and low-overhead method of delivering service to your clients. Create your own virtual conference room online with extranets and portals, and you won’t even have to pay for lunch!
Jack Newton is co-founder and President of Clio, a leading provider of cloud-based practice management and client collaboration tools. Jack holds a M.Sc. in Computer Science from the University of Alberta and holds three software-related patents in the United States and EU. He has written and spoken extensively on cloud computing in general, and specifically on the ethics, privacy, and security issues relating to the use of cloud computing in the legal market.
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