Posted by Colin Bohanna, General Manager, UK & Ireland at Legal Futures Associate Clio
You may already be aware of how legal technology is driving major changes in how law firms organise and manage their files, cases, and time—but legaltech can do so much more than make firms operate more efficiently.
At Clio, we are on a mission to transform the legal experience for all. As part of that, we look for ways to increase access to justice and to ensure that the most vulnerable clients in society can have their legal needs met.
While legaltech cannot and should not promise to be able to alleviate all challenges in closing the access to justice gaps in society – particularly those caused by funding challenges to legal aid and other societal and governmental programmes – there are ways that it can ensure greater access to justice for vulnerable clients.
Here are some examples of how practice management and client relationship management software can assist in this area.
Online intake forms and client onboarding
How is your firm currently engaging new and potential clients? While many law firms still use phone, email or in-person meetings to conduct new client intake or to onboard new clients, there is a significant risk of clients falling through the cracks or dropping out of the legal process at this stage.
On the client side, there can be good reasons why a person who needs legal representation cannot phone, email or come to your office – or afford to wait for an answer.
Those with certain disabilities, those who are in domestic violence situations where they cannot easily make a phone call or visit an office, and those who may be working in precarious job situations or providing family care may not have the ability to engage in those ways.
As such, offering online options, such as contact forms or the ability to speak to a lawyer through a secure client portal (on desktop and mobile) gives clients more options to connect with your firm.
By offering a range of ways for potential clients to get in contact, law firms can connect more with those who need them. Client onboarding can similarly be completed online, without the need for extensive follow-up calls or visits to the law firm office.
Mobile practice management
Video conferencing can be valuable for those clients who have access to a working computer, tablet or mobile phone and an internet connection. For those who do not, however, finding ways to travel to meet particularly vulnerable clients can be difficult for lawyers who can only operate from their office.
With a mobile practice management solution, however, lawyers and other legal professionals do not need to be at a particular computer in order to work.
That means lawyers can securely and efficiently work on the go, recording case details, checking calendars and updating matter information. As such, those lawyers can travel to meet clients who cannot come to them, e.g. the elderly, incarcerated or vulnerable.
This enables a better level of client care and lawyers to meet vulnerable clients where the client feels most comfortable.
The reality for many working with vulnerable clients on a pro-bono or non-profit basis is that being able to apply for relevant funding helps to keep them afloat and able to clients. Often, though, this requires collating a huge amount of data, which can put pressure on already stretched organisations.
With performance dashboards, you can more easily and efficiently track where firm time is being spent; where there are expenses; where referrals are coming from; and more besides.
Legaltech and vulnerable clients: The future
As the world continues to become more technology advanced, lawyers will need to take steps to ensure they keep reaching those who need their services most. Legaltech companies like Clio have a duty to enable this goal.
A free report, authored by Legal Futures and sponsored by Clio, examines whether innovation and technology can save legal aid and access to justice.
Featuring experts and practitioners working with vulnerable clients, including legal aid practitioners, advocates, and tech innovators, it looks at what the legal industry, the tech sector, and society and government can do to ensure access to justice.
Download your copy here.