How lawyers communicate with clients

How lawyers communicate with clients

In this article we look at how lawyers communicate with clients. We start off with how lawyers communicate with clients using traditional means like phone, mail, and fax. Then we look at more modern electronic ways of communicating like email, client portals, and document sharing. 

How lawyers communicate with clients using traditional means 

In the past, lawyers mainly communicated with clients using phone, fax, and traditional mail. These days, they still do, but the traditional means have clearly taken a backseat. Interestingly, there are hardly any recent statistics available on how many lawyers still use phone, fax, and traditional mail. Of the three, phone calls still appear the most popular. 


Lawyers still call their clients, and they call each other. One thing that does stand out is that their clients clearly would prefer to get more phone calls. One of the few available statistics is that clients greatly prefer human-to-human interactions like phone calls (62%) when dealing with issues. Instead, what they receive are largely automated emails. 

And there is something to be said about relying on phone calls more often. It is usually much easier to talk about complicated matters over the phone than it is through email. It’s also a better way to build rapport with your clients. And often, it’s just easier to have a casual conversation on the phone than through email. 

Traditional mail 

For a long time, regular mail was the traditional way of sending and receiving documents, letters, and notices. It is still used by some lawyers and clients who prefer a physical copy of their correspondence or who need to comply with certain legal requirements.  

But regular mail has clearly lost much of its appeal. This largely has to do with some of its inherent disadvantages. It is slow and unreliable compared to other methods. It can be lost, damaged, or intercepted by unauthorized parties. There typically also are additional costs for postage and printing. And, finally, it can create clutter and wastepaper. 

According to a survey conducted by the American Bar Association in 2020, only 9% of lawyers reported using regular mail as their primary method of communication with their clients, while 75% reported using email as their primary method. 


Fax is another traditional way of transmitting documents electronically. It, too, has lost much of its popularity because if its limitations. It requires a fax machine or service that may not be always available or accessible. It can be expensive due to phone charges or subscription fees. Faxes can be low-quality or illegible due to poor resolution or transmission errors. They can be insecure or untraceable due to lack of encryption or confirmation. 

According to the same survey by the American Bar Association in 2020, only 4% of lawyers reported using fax as their primary method of communication with their clients. 


Electronic Communications 


These days, email is king. It is the most common way of communicating with clients. It is fast, convenient, and cost-effective. It allows lawyers to send and receive documents, attachments, and messages at any time and from any device. It also enables lawyers to keep a record of their communication history and to organize their inbox using folders and labels.  

As mentioned above, in 2020, it was the preferred way of communication of 75% of lawyers. The same survey revealed that 92% of lawyers reported that they had sent confidential or privileged communications/documents via email. Additionally, nearly half of those lawyers (49%) shared that they did so at least once every day. Also worth noting is that 25% of clients prefer emails as the initial method of outreach. 

However, email has its own drawbacks. It can be hacked, spoofed, or infected by malware or viruses. It can be misinterpreted or misunderstood due to lack of tone or context. It can be ignored or overlooked due to spam filters or information overload. It can create legal risks if not used properly or securely. It is why that American Bar Association recommended using client portals and/or sharing of documents instead, as they are more secure. 

Client portals  

Client portals are secure online platforms that allow lawyers and clients to communicate and collaborate on their cases. They offer several benefits over email and fax. They provide a centralized and organized place for storing and accessing documents, messages, calendars, tasks, invoices, and payments. They allow real-time updates and notifications on the status and progress of the case. They enable interactive features such as chat rooms, forums, polls, surveys, or feedback forms. They often allow to generate documents automatically, collecting the necessary data that are available in the portal. They enhance security and privacy by using encryption, authentication, and authorization. 

Client portals may have compatibility issues with other software or systems that lawyers or clients use. There may also be legal implications such as ownership, liability, or jurisdiction. And they must be sufficiently secure to allow for safe communications. Lawyers are therefore recommended to choose a reliable and reputable client portal provider that meets their needs and expectations. They should also educate and train their clients on how to use the portal effectively and efficiently. 

Document Sharing 

Client portals typically allow document sharing within the portals. But it is also possible to share document without the need for a dedicated legal client portal. These days, cloud technologies allow for the safe sharing of documents. It involves using online tools such as Google Docs, Microsoft SharePoint, or Dropbox Paper that allow multiple users to view, edit, or comment on the same document simultaneously or asynchronously. So, it is yet another way of communicating and collaborating with clients. CICERO LawPack users can easily share documents and leave comments using Microsoft SharePoint. Syntex offers exciting new opportunities. 

Like client portals, document sharing allows real-time or near-real-time feedback and revisions on the document. It eliminates the need for sending multiple versions or attachments of the document. It preserves the history and track changes of the document. It facilitates teamwork and brainstorming on the document. It is a secure and reliable way to share information between lawyers and their clients, where the cloud service providers like Microsoft guarantee a secure environment. And for those reasons alone already, it is to be preferred over email. 

To reap the greatest benefits of document sharing, lawyers should follow some guidelines when sharing documents with comments. They should use clear and constructive comments that are relevant and respectful. Use different colours or symbols to distinguish between different types of comments, such as questions, suggestions, corrections, or approvals. Make sure to acknowledge or address comments. Use lock or protect functions to prevent unauthorized or accidental changes to the document. Finally, use share or invite functions to control who can access or edit the document. 


The ways lawyers communicate with their clients has changed dramatically over the last decades. Electronic ways of communicating have clearly taken over. And email has become the predominant way of communicating. But because of its inherent insecurity, client portals and document sharing should be given preference. 



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