What is Client Portals?
Who uses client portals, and why?
Lawyers and law firms use client portals to facilitate communication with clients and allow back-and-forth sharing of documents and messages. In an age when consumers have come to expect real-time updates for many commercial activities – from Amazon shopping to ordering Domino's pizza – enabling clients to get real-time updates on legal matters should be no less important.
Providing clients with a web-based portal to send lawyers intake information and receive alerts for important calendar dates and timely invoices can reduce inbound calls to the firm and enhance client-attorney communication.
What features do client portals include?
The Law Practice Management Tech Center includes Law Practice Management Suites, such as AbacusLaw, Clio, MyCase, and PracticePanther, that generally have client portals in one or more of their all-in-one product offerings. A full-featured client portal can support mobile app access, client intake forms, real-time direct and group messaging, task assignments, file sharing, and secure links to electronic payment processing for clients to pay invoices and maintain a payment history.
Vendors such as Case Status, Milestones, and The Client Bridge App solely focus on client-attorney communications. These vendors include portals with mobile apps for law firms to send push notifications, direct and group text messages to clients, share documents, assign tasks, and enable client reviews. Some vendors offer portals with products and services that support specific practice areas, including bankruptcy, divorce, and estate planning.
The LawNext Directory uses tags to identify vendors with client portal capabilities, including Client Intake, Client Reviews, Document Sharing, Group Messaging, Messaging, Mobile App, and Task Assignments.
How can my law firm use client portal software?
Use client portals to help your firm communicate and share case or matter information with clients, such as intake forms and questionnaires, court dates and deadlines, bills and invoices, and important documents. Let clients message attorneys and staff, view and pay invoices, and review payment history. Many vendors support a mobile app for clients to access portals.
Should I choose cloud-based or on-premises client portals?
Law firms have been slowly migrating to cloud-based SaaS, where reliability, performance, and security requirements can meet or exceed on-premises resources. Small and midsized firms embrace SaaS to compete with the resources of Am Law 100 and 200 firms. Firms of all sizes can reduce their total cost of ownership in client portals by using SaaS.
Cloud-based client portals reduce the total cost of ownership. Cloud software requires no capital expenditures (CAPEX) and maintenance on local computers to run the software. It relieves organizations of the administrative burden of supporting, upgrading, and patching on-premises servers, the client portals, and the enabling software. The user experience from a cloud-based CLM is like on-premises systems, but users get immediate access to the software's latest features and security updates in the cloud.
Consider on-premises client portals if the firm needs to meet stringent client data security and privacy requirements or integrate with legacy systems that SaaS cannot access. The law firm must have sufficient IT budget and resources with the knowledge and skill to support on-premises client portals and allow a limited client access to firm resources through firewalls.
Should I select an all-in-one or an a-la-carte provider of client portals?
f you use an all-in-one LPM suite, choosing a vendor offering that includes client portals is most efficient. But if you use an LPM suite or case management solution that does not offer client portals, then use an a-la-carte offering from another vendor or a focused client messaging platform from Case Status or Milestones.
What should I expect to pay for client portal software?
If you use an LPM suite, you most likely have the capabilities to offer clients portals to communicate and share files. You may have to upgrade your license to a professional or elite offering, but the few more dollars per month would save you time effectively communicating with clients. Lawcus Plus starts at $44 per user per month with client portals. Clio Manage supports portals in its Essentials package at $69 per user per month, and MyCase makes it simple with its single all-in-one offering that includes client portals for $49 per month per user (billed annually).