Document exchanges between law firms and its clients and/or counsel are rapidly changing, with the move to the ‘less paper’ office. More often than not documents are processed and stored in a digital format, and hence are now exchanged electronically, especially with the rise of file sharing and extranet portals. Whilst using technology to improve this process is a positive move within law firms, many are only at the start of this journey and have not necessarily improved the process, they have just shifted it from paper to electronic. So what can law firms do with this technology to not only move ‘less paper’, but to improve and speed up the process, and give a value add to their clients?
An extranet is a perfect solution for sharing electronic files with clients, a professional platform, for a professional firm. Many firms upload documents to an extranet, which is the part of the process that is far too often manual. Some might say it needs to be manual to avoid wrongly sharing a document or information. Integrating systems with your extranet is key to improving a law firm’s process. Having tight integration with your DMS (Document Management System) and your extranet solution will improve and speed up the process. It doesn’t need to be 100% automated, but it doesn’t need to be 100% manual either.
A DMS allows lawyers to keep all documents regarding a matter in one place. For a want of a better term, it is an electronic library. Getting documents from the DMS to an extranet could be as simple as right clicking on the document or folder in the matter, and sending or synchronising it with your extranet. This allows firms to share all of the matter from their DMS with their client in one secure place at the click of a button. Simple hey!
Let’s not stop at document exchange when improving the ‘less paper’ process. With the ever changing laws and constant development of solutions to increase business efficiency and present analytics, law firms are under more pressure now than ever to report this to their clients and keep them informed. Having a place where law firms can display this information relevant to each client would go a long way to improving the law firm to client relationship, the overall perception of professionalism and care a law firm gives their client, which in turn is seen as value for money.
Given what we have already mentioned about file sharing and extranets being on the increase, wouldn’t it make sense to integrate these two processes? So when a client accessed their documents they could also access reporting information such as WIP (work in progress) all in one place. Clients have high expectations and want data on demand at anytime and anywhere, therefore some extranets are built with this in mind, allowing the user to integrate all their desired systems into one place. The ability to present clients with data on demand, along with their documents helps build a good relationship with them by developing trust and reliability. And guess what? This also improves your internal processes and saves you time and money when trying to keep your client informed.
It should be a priority for any law firm to have one place to share documents and reporting data with their clients. Not only does it make it easier for clients to access information about their case, it also frees up more time internally by improving and speeding up the process. Integrating systems with your extranet will help assist with a firm’s transparency to its clients, and not only help retain the client, but it should also help expand your business with your clients by upselling other services.
If you are a law firm reading this and you don’t have a solution that delivers this, you should be worried. If you aren’t doing it, someone else is, and it won’t take long for your clients to realise that!