Client portals have been making headlines in many different outlets lately and we at Accellis wanted to take a moment to provide a more in depth look at what client portals are, how they work, and why they may or may not be for your firm.
What is a client portal?
First, let’s take a look at what a client portal is. A client portal is a fairly generic term that essentially means a client facing website for your firm. It is used to securely share information with your clients over the web. In today’s age we are seeing more and more client portals coming packaged with practice management and document management systems. These portals are specially designed to allow a firm to easily share information directly from the programs and software that they use every day.
How do client portals work?
This question isn’t quite as simple to answer. Each portal is built differently and will provide different features and functionality. Some will provide the bare minimums of functionality that allow the firm to share information while others can be quite comprehensive and provide ample amounts of features and functionality allowing the firm to selectively share more information.
One core concept of a client portal that exists through all of the various client portals offered by software vendors is that they are accessible via web sites or mobile applications. This is the core feature and benefit of a client portal, to make information available any day, any time and anywhere.
When is a client portal for my law firm?
Inevitably this question will arise when a firm considers the viability of implementing a client portal for their clients. In this section, we will define some specific use case scenarios and the benefit of a client portal implementation. We will point out some points of concern to consider when evaluating a client portal solution.
1) Sharing confidential information
The first and probably biggest reason that most law firms choose to implement a client portal is to streamline knowledge and information transfer to their clients, such as scheduling and general case information. A client portal can serve essentially as another staff member in that information becomes readily available to your clients, saving you time, money and hassle of endless phone calls and appointments to discuss status of a matter.
2) Enhancing communications with clients
Communication is vital when practicing law. Be it to communicate the status of filings or case appointments, many firms spend the better part of their day calling, emailing and meeting with clients simply to communicate information. Client portals provide an easy to use web site that allows clients to self-service their information requests as well as securely submit information back to the firm.
3) Accepting online payments
Accepting online bill payments is another beneficial feature that can be added in to client portal. Taking the hassle out of accounting and billing, saving money on paper, ink and postage. Furthermore, clients expect easy means of paying their bills online now a days. A custom built client portal from Accellis can provide this competitive advantage and increase a firms profitability by reducing the amount of time spent collecting monies that are owed to the firm.
Many cases involve working with co-counsel, expert witnesses and other such collaborators. A client portal and securely increase the efficiency of working with external sources by providing all parties with a central location to access information, communications and documents!
5) Auditing information access
Many times it becomes important to know or report on who is accessing what information on a specific case or contact in the system. A custom built client portal can offer extremely advanced audit logging which helps a firm to become ISO-27001 compliant.
6) Leveraging anytime anywhere access to firm information
Client portals provide the ability for an attorney who is on the road to access to the firm’s environment to access practice management software and document repositories. This allows firm members to respond in a more expedient manner and provides the benefit of always having access to critical information.
In summary, a client portal is valuable to firms of all sizes and in all practices of law. They increase efficiency, provide a larger market presence and streamline all client / external facing procedures allowing the firm to focus on what they do best.