Using Basecamp as a Client Communication Tool

What is the #1 complaint clients have about lawyers? Believe it or not, cost and case outcome aren’t it. Instead, what really elevates clients’ collective blood pressure is communication chaos. You would think that with so many new ways to communicate, interactions with clients would’ve greatly improve by now.  But for many, it hasn’t.

Some of you may feel as though technology has made your life worse as you have to check your business voicemail, personal voicemail, work email, personnel email and even social media messages. By the end of the day you may end up answering the same question over and over, like “what’s the status of my case?” or “can I get another copy of this file?”.  Since I pride myself on client communication, I knew I had to find a solution that would not only answer that question but would increase their participation in the case.  Enter Basecamp.

What is Basecamp?

Basecamp is a web based project management and collaboration tool that allows you to manage client files, contacts, and documents.  As stated on its website, Basecamp focuses on collaboration and communication and prides itself on “bringing people together” – a statement I’ve found to be 100% true, as Basecamp has not only increased my firms productivity but has also greatly improved client communication –the end-result being happy clients.

How to Incorporate Basecamp into Your Law Firm’s Operations to Improve Client Communications

When I started my firm years ago, I did so with the intention of building solid relationships and being open about the work I did. My parents are small business owners, and I always admired how closely they worked with their customers and how open they were with their business.  Basecamp works the same way, as it offers clients a transparent view into the way your firm operates and does wonders in building client-attorney trust.

Basecamp: Friendly Round-The-Clock Lawsuit Administrator

Basecamp’s user-friendly interface requires very little instruction. It’s one of those programs that even novice computer users can figure out. As the administrator of an account, you can set up different projects within the software, and then add whomever you like to each project.

At my firm, after being retained by a client, we immediately set up a new Basecamp project.  A project is akin to a traditional client file and can contain anything related to the case.  The client and any relevant staff are then assigned password access and the Basecamp project becomes HQ for all case documents and discussions. Messages and notes are stored in both a password protected Writeboard or the secure Basecamp messaging system, and all documents are stored in the files section.  We also track our time via basecamp, and export that data to Freshbooks for invoicing.

You can also create to-do lists for you, your staff, or even the client.  Often times we’ll kick off a project by creating a to-do list for a client that includes uploading any files or providing pertinent information.  I’ve even had some clients create to-do lists for me, which although strange at first, ended up being a win-win, as the client was able to convey their expectations before we began (moreover, it gives you the chance to temper expectations if need be).

Our firm has even incorporated Basecamp into a mobile application that our clients use to access their information on the go.

Look before you leap into the cloud

Basecamp is not for everyone and I strongly recommend taking a long hard look before incorporating it into your practice. Some of you may not be able to stomach the idea of having information stored in the Cloud.   Moreover, be sure to check with your state bar association to see whether you can utilize cloud-based software to store client information.

That being said, the drawbacks of Basecamp are few and far between. Simply stated, it’s a flexible tool that can do wonders for your firms client communication efforts.  One caveat: establish internal office procedures to ensure the proper placement of documents. Uploading a document meant for one client into another clients project could be disastrous (not to mention, embarrassing).

Client communication is a key ingredient to a law firm’s success. And when you do it right, you’ll reap the rewards of increased client retention and positive word-of-mouth marketing – the best kind there is.

Imagine if you no longer have to dig through emails to find out what you told the client, or search your hard drive to find the draft copy of that complaint you worked on last month. With Basecamp, it’s possible – so take it out for a test drive, and see if it is the right fit for your firm.