Last week I gave a presentation with Chad Burton at the ABA LPM Spring meeting about the eLawyering Task Force‘s newest project, the Client Portal Matrix, formally titled as the “Comparative Evaluation of Web-based Practice Management Software with Client Portal Applications for Solos and Small Law Firms.” Donna Seyle, who did most of the work gathering data for the matrix, was unable to make the meeting so I filled in to discuss some of the practical uses of a client portal in law practice and the best practices and ethics issues that might come up.
The matrix will be posted on the eLawyering website in the near future. It is a work in progress, but is already a useful tool and starting point for lawyers considering virtual practice. It was designed primarily for solo and small firm practitioners. The matrix focuses on cloud-based, SaaS solutions and specifically excludes the online client portals and tools provided by branded networks, such as Rocket Lawyer. The focus of this project was on client-facing technology so also excluded were systems that focused on other administrative tasks, such as time and billing, calendaring, or matter management among others. There are fourteen companies with client-facing features on the matrix so far.
It makes me think back to eight years ago when I opened my solo virtual law office and co-founded the system that is now Total Attorney’s platform with client-facing features. At the time, there weren’t any SaaS options out there for a practitioner. Now there are choices and more most likely in the works. Expect to hear more clients asking their lawyers and firms for online access to their legal accounts. If you don’t have a client portal or any client facing features in the technology you use for your firm, you need to consider in the near future how you will add it to the mix. This is going to be the case whether you are delivering legal services online with a virtual law office or operating a traditional law firm without online delivery options. It’s about client access and good customer service which should apply in any firm structure.