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Client portals key to efficiency in the legal profession

Self-serve portals for clients will be essential for law firms in an era of commoditized legal services, says Korbitec Inc. president Alan Bass.

And Bass tells AdvocateDaily.com the Toronto-based leader in document automation will be ready to answer the call when lawyers start moving in this direction. 

“The generation of documents, whether in paper or electronic, will always be mission-critical to law firms, and our business for the last 43 years has been document automation,” he says. “When law firms develop these portals for clients to fulfill a task, we will be able to work with them to turn client choices and inputs into documents.

The legal profession is working to keep up with the client's expectations of efficiency and cost-effectiveness, Bass says.

“Large and medium-sized firms, in particular, are under pressure to reduce fees, but it’s difficult with all of the overhead and infrastructure it takes to offer so many services,” he says.

However, Bass says there remains potential for efficiency in certain areas, where routine or repetitive tasks that don’t require a high level of legal expertise feature prominently, or where there is a heavy reliance on standard clauses.  

"Using portals, firms can make client-lawyer interactions more efficient," he says. "It's something I think we will see more of in the future, and we're looking for ways we can play a part.

“One example that comes to mind is the employment packages that laws firms assemble for large companies. Another is a lawyer with a thriving will-drafting practice. You could also deploy a portal for standard business documents, and I am sure there are many more areas, where there is a cookie-cutter element to the offering," says Bass.

He says systems could be built with trigger mechanisms, allowing clients with more complicated needs or questions to get in touch with a lawyer, and could even become a lead-generation tool.

“If someone incorporates a business and produces the documents using a portal, it could send a message to one of the firm’s lawyers or business development person, who would reach out and suggest what else they might need, such as a shareholder agreement or critical-illness insurance, or whatever else,” Bass says. “Even if they don’t need additional services right away, they’ll have the firm’s name and number for when they do." 

He says the idea is that "the law firm could service the customer with a lighter touch, through a client-facing portal which asks them a few questions in a secure environment, and provides them with the documents they need.

“The bottom line is that the law firm cuts its costs, and it allows them to charge less,” says Bass.  

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