Posted on 

December 23, 2022

Legal Portals - An Ultimate Buyer's Guide

Anders Spile
Director of Business Development

In 1995, Wells Fargo was the first US bank to add online account services to their website. Back then the introduction of online banking was radical, but looking at what online banking has become, it’s hard to imagine going back to the days when you went to your local bank to transfer money to your friends or family.

The same is true when looking at the accounting industry. When would you ever go to Deloitte, PwC, or even your local accounting firm with a shoebox full of receipts? No! You take pictures with your phone and upload them automatically, which helps with spend allocation and everything else you need—in a digital platform! 

Management consulting firms are using digital platforms for project collaboration and to offer ad hoc advice and project development with existing clients. 

“Everything is pointing towards the fact that modern consumers are looking for digital options to conduct self-service, and that includes professional services as well!”

So where is Legal in all of this? Enter The Legal Portal!

What is a legal portal?

A legal portal can be many things depending on who you ask and depending on the kind of company or users who are leveraging a legal portal. It can be defined narrowly or very broadly. As this is the “Ultimate” guide, we will go for a broader definition which is: 

“a digital solution, where end users can consume legal services”

What this means is that much like online banking, a user is able to access a digital medium where they can self-service, but contrary to online banking, the end users consume legal services rather than financial services. Let's dive into the different types of legal portals that are most common.

What are the different types of legal portals?

What are the different types of legal portals?

As mentioned above, legal portals come in many shapes and forms. However, they all serve more or less the same purpose. In order to differentiate them, the most straightforward way is to look at who is offering the value that the portal brings. Below is an outline of the most common legal portals that exist today.

Legal Portals for Enterprises

Historically, the legal function in larger enterprises has been focused on mitigating risks. In recent years, we’ve seen a shift away from this. Legal is now becoming an integral part of the commercial organization, where the responsibilities of the legal function are not only mitigating risk but actively helping other areas of the organization succeed. That can be achieved numerous ways, but in recent years, there has been an increase in specific areas where legal teams are now rethinking the traditional ways of working and are coming up with new ways to create value. Some of the new areas we see proactive legal departments exploring include:

  • Self-service solutions for legal documents (so the organization doesn’t have to pass through legal every single time they want an agreement)
  • Streamlining the ways the organization works with the legal department by applying standardized communication frameworks and proper legal project management
  • Educating the organization to a larger degree to demystify what it is legal does and make employees feel empowered even when working with legal issues
  • More effectively collaborating with external parties to make sure the in-house legal function covers what is specific to the company, but still make use of external advisors for complicated matters

These are just a few of the changes that are currently happening in legal divisions all around the world. But how is this relevant to legal portals?

The legal portal for enterprises works as a digital platform, where employees and other end users can consume legal services. It is collecting all the legal knowledge, learning material, guidelines, legal documents, processes, and everything in one location, so whenever someone in the organization needs something, they know exactly where to go to find it. The results of applying solutions like this in enterprises can include significantly happier legal team spending more time on high-value legal work and less time on repetitive tasks that employees are perfectly capable of handling themselves.

Benefit of Legal Portal for Enterprises
Benefits of Legal Portal for Enterprises

If you’re considering purchasing a legal portal, it’s a good idea to have a clear idea of what you are actively using to solve this. If you want a free consultation on what to consider when buying a legal portal for an enterprise, feel free to book a demo with our legal portal experts.

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Legal Portals for Law Firms

Many law firms are facing increasing external pressure to innovate the way they offer services to their clients. Beyond innovation in business models, organizational structures, and other internal processes, technology is a hot topic for law firms. Discussions on how to properly apply legal tech in modern law firms is on pretty much every law firm’s agenda today. 

As part of this, many law firms are looking into the application of shared spaces with clients, where documents, services, and knowledge can be exchanged seamlessly without a need for anyone to sit on a call with a lawyer or have to go through some rigorous emailing just to solve simple legal tasks. This also makes legal portals extremely interesting for law firms. 

Some of the ways law firms are applying legal portals today toward their clients are to:

  • Have a shared platform for collaboration on larger legal projects and cases that require lots of inputs from both sides (for example M&A or larger due diligence projects)
  • Run automated legal processes throughout the company and enable in-house legal terms to fully leverage the advisory services of the law firms
  • Share legal documents, which can be owned and updated by the law firm to save the company valuable time that can be used on more high-value work
  • Create a low barrier for clients to interact with the law firms (e.g. through ticketing systems, legal hotlines, or similar)
  • Share relevant knowledge with clients as eLearning, guides, news, and other mediums of sharing knowledge within the organizations of clients
  • Offer high-quality legal services and documents to a larger groups of clients, especially in the small- to mid-market segment, where clients may not always have deep pockets to pay for custom solutions and advice

There are numerous ways that law firms can use legal portals, and this covers just a small portion of it. Essentially how the legal portal is used is up to each law firm. Based on the use case, the law firm should carefully select the type of portal and its content.

As a rule of thumb, if you are a mid-sized law firm, the general portal that caters to a broader audience is a good starting point, where several use cases can be tested, value can be delivered to a larger group of clients, and you won't break the bank doing it. If you are a larger legal company, the custom legal portal, tailor-made for each client is definitely an option, but that also takes a larger investment and commitment from the law firm to succeed. Every type of portal can create its own type of value for law firms, but here are a few of the most common outcomes of leveraging a legal portal:

  • Ability to provide high-quality legal documents and services to a large group of clients at the same time
  • 8% increase in client retention
  • Increase in the number of practice areas where a law firm is providing services
common outcomes of leveraging a legal portal:
Common outcomes of leveraging a legal portal

The outcomes of leveraging a legal portal depend greatly on what type of portal you choose, how you offer it to clients, and which clients you offer it to. The general distinction is either a custom-built portal on a client-by-client basis or a portal that can create value for multiple clients. If you want a free consultation on what to consider when buying a legal portal for a law firm, feel free to book a demo with our legal portal experts here.

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Legal Portal for Membership Organizations

Membership organizations cover a wide variety of groups, but what they all have in common is that they offer services or value to a group of members. These can be trade organizations, communities, and platforms, but could also cover financial institutions, rewards programs, and more. What they all have in common is that the majority of them are looking for new ways to re-invent themselves to match the needs of the consumer in the digital age. What was previously an on-site network meeting is now a webinar or a virtual call. What was previously face-to-face is now handled via Zoom, Google Meet, and Teams. And the sharing of knowledge, industry reports, valuable help, and advice now happens almost exclusively via digital mediums. 

In 2019, a survey was made in Scandinavia among members of trade organizations. The members were asked what service was most valuable to them, among all the services offered by the trade organizations. 82% of the small and medium-sized businesses listed that legal services and documents were the most valuable service offered by the trade organization.

But this posed a problem for the trade organizations because while legal services were valuable and important, they were also expensive to offer and not scalable. This posed a problem until these organizations started making use of digitized legal services and documents, which retained the high quality of these while offering them in a format that made it highly scalable, and in order to properly present these to members of the organization, they started leveraging legal portals to do so. 

What the organizations offered was:

  • Automated legal documents for members to use autonomously
  • Standardized legal guides and news that was relevant to members and delivered by either the membership organization or a law firm partner
  • A legal helpdesk, where members could ask questions via forms that are sent to either the legal team in the organization or an associated law firm
  • Templates and policies to help membership organizations reach a solid level of ESG compliance with a minimum amount of effort 
  • Other legal tech tools such as whistleblower solutions, board management tools, IPR platforms, etc.

While many of the services can be provided by a membership organization themselves, the real value usually appears when an external legal partner is added to the mix. This could be a legal advisory house or a law firm, that can help provide legal documents and services, and can keep these fully up to date at all times. 

While both models are extremely valuable to members, some of the key values from these legal portal solutions include significantly higher perceived value of the services and membership benefits provided by the organization and competitive advantage.

key values from these legal portal solutions
Key values added by legal portal solutions

The outcomes of properly leveraging legal portals for trade organizations can be significant, and the implementation of these can be fairly swift and painless if the projects are scoped properly. In essence, a legal portal can create a lot of value for the members, and future-proof the membership organization, when it comes to legal services.

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What can be included in a legal portal?

What can be included in a legal portal?

As described above, a legal portal can be a lot of things, and what to include in these is determined solely based on who the end user of the portal should be. If you are building for a large enterprise, functionality such as legal project management or billing could be beneficial, but if what you are building is targeting small- and medium-sized companies, legal project management and billing will be overkill, and a step-by-step guide to simple legal questions would create significantly more value for these. However, to simplify what can be put in a legal portal, there are roughly 3 overall areas that should be considered which are:

1. Services

Services to be considered when building a legal portal are:

  • Legal Hotline: This can be a phone number, online calling service or even use one of the real-time demo solutions in the market to get face-to-face in an instant.
  • Legal Helpdesk: This can be anything from a form that sends an email to a centralized email inbox, to a direct connection with a Microsoft Teams or Slack channel where users can post questions for legal experts to answer.
  • Legal Ticketing system: this can be a form that creates a ticket automatically in a matter management system, or in your project management tool of choice (for example Asana or Monday.com)
  • Legal News: This can be linked to relevant content on new rulings, things to be aware of as a client, or general changes in the legal landscape that users should be aware of.
  • Legal Guides: These can be links to eLearning, simple guides on what to consider when developing legal agreements, or specific processes—either as general users or general guides that are leveraged within an enterprise.

2. Documents

Multiple documents should be considered when building a legal portal. Often, less is more, as you are looking for good consumption and high quality, rather than just pushing everything you have into a portal. The document can be offered either as static documents (DOCX, PDF, Excel, PPT, etc.) or as automated documents (which are generated by using a questionnaire or similar to draft the agreements). Documents to consider could be:

  • Employment agreements
  • Termination agreements
  • Non-disclosure agreements
  • Data Processing Agreements
  • Sales Agreements
  • Collaboration Agreements
  • Letter of Intent
  • Employee Handbooks & Policies
  • Incorporation documents
  • … and many others

In essence, you can add any document you want to a legal portal, whether the document is static or not. It fully relies on who is going to use the portal, and which documents they find useful in their day-to-day work.

Solutions

Solutions is a very broad terminology, which covers a variety of things. For the purpose of this guide, solutions are anything that is not a legal service, and not a legal document. Solutions usually include external tools which can be integrated directly into the legal portal, to keep everything collected in one place. 

Examples of solutions include:

  • Whistleblower
  • Board Management
  • IPR
  • ESG / Policy Management
  • Legal Project Management
  • Billing 
  • Matter Management

There are no boundaries to what can be added to a legal portal, and whatever solutions you wish to add to yours, it should be clear what value it creates for the end user and how they can make use of the solutions in the portal. 

How do you decide what kind of legal portal to go for?

How do you decide what kind of legal portal to go for?

This should be a fairly simple question. You always look at the end user and their needs. In essence, a legal portal is just a platform where you collect multiple legal services, documents, and solutions, to make a one-stop shop for end-user to visit, when in need of legal aid. There are however considerations that you should always take when looking into a legal portal.

10 things to consider when looking to buy a legal portal

1. Who will use the portal? 

These are by far the most important questions, as it sets the stage for everything else going into the portal! 

(Example: Legal Department vs. Regular Employees)

2. What value are they looking for? 

What problem are you trying to solve by offering a legal portal, or what value are you looking to create? 

(Example: Time saved on legal documents vs. managing legal projects professionally)

3. What should be put in the portal? 

This question can only be answered once the previous two have been properly mapped out! 

(Example: Legal Hotline vs. Guides and Processes to enable a user to self-serve)

4. Are you looking for Custom or Generic? 

Are you building a legal portal, where many different users can come in and make use of services, documents, and solutions, or are you building the portal for one specific company or user group? 

(Example: As a law firm, are you building this for one single client, or to service many clients)

5. What about Scalability? 

Are you looking to reuse components of the legal portal for other purposes? Perhaps embedded in your own website, or used for marketing purposes or specific clients? 

(Example: would you want to re-use documents or services elsewhere?)

6. Whitelabel vs. Shelf product

Do you want to white label your legal portal, to either be an extension of your own brand or someone else? Or do you want to buy a shelf product without branding, and offer value through this?

7. Self-service vs. External management

Do you want to be able to manage your legal portal on your own, or do you want this burden on whoever is providing the legal portal when changes need to be made?

8. Big or Small project? 

How many resources do you want to throw into this to get your first working portal? This should be determined by the expected value.

9. Who will keep it up to date? 

A legal portal with no updates or maintenance will die out very quickly. Determine who is responsible for the portal post-launch to help keep the platform fresh.

10. What is your business model? 

Are you building the portal for retention? To earn more money? To create more value for less? Or for marketing purposes? Whatever it is, make sure you are clear on what you wish to achieve with a legal portal.

The Contractbook Client Portal

The Contractbook Client Portal

In Contractbook, we have spent several years building and perfecting our legal portal setup, to be used by Law Firms, Enterprises, and Membership Organizations. Our legal portals can be scoped and built, fully white-labeled, in less than a week and come with a variety of functionalities, including:

  • Custom URL where you get your own URL you can embed anywhere
  • Full white-label with your colors, logos, pictures, text, etc.
  • 2-Factor Authentication which can be toggled on/off for users
  • SSO with Microsoft for a centralized login
  • SCIM user provisioning where we can automatically adjust users
  • Terms & Conditions checks for end-users
  • Custom service tiles where any service you like can be added
  • Tracking of in-progress and completed legal agreements
  • Integrations with external solutions such as Slack, Teams, iManage, etc.
  • Automated documents
  • Legal Checks, both mandatory and optional, with and without payment
  • Data Dashboards that can be tailor-made to your needs
  • Full CLM integration with negotiation, signing, storage, and management.
  • Integration options with +4,500 other apps
  • … and much more!

We are working with some of the largest enterprises in the world, the largest law firms in the Nordics, and some of the most prominent membership organizations.

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