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In this three-part series, attorney Nicole Black, Director at MyCase, will be discussing online client portals and how they can benefit both lawyers and their clients. First up, an introduction to and overview of web-based client portals.
Lawyers often talk about the importance of providing excellent client service, but for many lawyers that simply means effective legal representation. The problem with this perspective is that 21st-century legal consumers expect more. They’re used to having instant access to whatever information they’re seeking — whether it’s instant streaming of music or videos, 24/7 online shopping or anytime bank account access.
Like it or not, this expectation of instant access to information doesn’t end at your law firm’s door (or with your office hours). Like every other type of consumer, your clients increasingly want convenient, 24/7 access to information about the legal services that they’ve retained you to provide. But how exactly do you provide that to them? The answer is simple: online client portals.
Web-based portals are already commonplace in many industries, including banking and mortgage financing. It shouldn’t surprise you, then, that legal consumers expect the same convenience when it comes to your services.
Fortunately, modern technology makes it easy to give your clients instant access to case-related information, and a number of web-based law practice management platforms, including MyCase, the company for which I work, already include client portals.
These portals empower legal clients by giving them control over their cases and expanding their access to information. Many of the portals offer features that reduce or eliminate the need for clients to contact you to find out their next court date or obtain documents. Instead, your clients can log in day or night then quickly and easily find answers to many of their most common questions.
You’ll find that some web-based practice management software includes all of the back-end office management tools you’ve come to expect — such as calendaring, contact management, document automation and storage, time tracking and invoicing — along with very robust online portals, which make it possible for you to share calendars, documents and billing information with your clients based on permissions that you grant. Clients simply log on and view all recent activity to which you have given them access — including new court dates, recently uploaded documents, and invoices — which they can then interact with in a secure, encrypted online environment.
For example, clients can upload or download documents, comment on documents or calendar events and even pay invoices. Some even permit you to add contacts of your choosing, such as investigators, experts or co-counsel, so that they, too, can access documents and information stored online. And, just like your clients, your contacts can upload or download documents and communicate with you about the case in a secure online environment.
Client portals that include built-in communications features, such as comment streams, can be invaluable since they allow everyone involved in a case to keep track of updates and developments. Phone tag and communication via unencrypted and insecure email become things of the past. Instead, all important communications appear in chronological order in one central location, ensuring that everyone is kept up to speed on new developments as they happen.
So, now that you understand what client portals are and how they can be used in your law practice, next time let’s move on to gaining a better understanding of how these tools can benefit both you and your clients.
Tune in for Part 2 of this series and learn how web-based portals will help streamline your law firm and increase productivity while decreasing costs. Then in Part 3, I’ll discuss how it benefits your clients and allows you to provide better client service.
Nicole Black is a Director at MyCase, a cloud-based law practice management platform. She is an attorney in Rochester, New York, and a GigaOM Pro analyst. She is the author of the ABA book “Cloud Computing for Lawyers” and co-author of the ABA book “Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier,” and she co-authors “Criminal Law in New York,” a West-Thomson treatise. She speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com)
MyCase is a leading all-in-one web-based case management software solution offering features that seamlessly cover all the daily functions that a modern solo and small law firm requires. To learn more about MyCase and get your 30-day free trial, visit www.mycase.com. Follow MyCase on Twitter at at @MyCaseInc.
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