The old saying ‘time is money’ is probably more relevant in the context of law firms than almost any other industry. Time really is money for most lawyers and so finding opportunities to streamline and automate business processes, increase productivity and improve access to information has to be a priority for law firms. A legal intranet may well be the portal for doing so. In this article, we look at the top ten most useful features for a legal intranet. Regardless of whether you are a sole operator or a large firm with multiple offices, legal intranets bring many benefits. Let’s find out more.
1. Knowledge Management
The intranet can be the central repository for all relevant case law, precedents, legislation and law review articles as well as safety and health requirements. So rather than having multiple sources of information, document management systems and databases, all information is instead stored on one platform on the intranet. The knowledge management portal can be structured and organized to reflect the business of the law firm.
Advanced search functionality will also be required to ensure that staff members can quickly and easily access the information they need. Use filters to allow users to narrow down their search and provide ways to search even if the user is unsure of the document name or case or client number. This will help to ensure that the search results are relevant. Finding too much information is sometimes worse than finding none at all so make sure your search functionality is strong on relevancy.
In addition, the knowledge management portal can be quickly and easily updated in the light of changing case law and new legislation. In this way, staff members can be confident that the information they are accessing is the most up to date and relevant and in the context of law firms, this is critical.
2. Online Forms
Law firms are traditionally big on completing forms! It could be to file an expenses claim, record time spent working on a particular case, setting up a new client on the system or booking a conference room. With an intranet, all these forms can be completed online, eliminating the duplication of effort involved in processing paper forms. Some cloud-based legal intranets will even have easily customizable standard form templates so you could be up and running in a matter of hours. Furthermore, the intranet can automatically direct a claim for expenses, for example, through to the accounts department for payment. All forms are stored online for easy access.
The bottom line is that online forms make for speedier, more accurate processes. What’s more, you will be doing your bit for the environment by doing away with paper systems.
3. Staff Directory
A staff directory, particularly in large firms with lots of partners, associates and paralegals is another essential feature. It’s pretty much impossible to keep tabs on names and faces much less remembering which cases they’re currently working on. A staff directory with photos, contact information and a brief summary of current projects will act as a great enabler within any legal firm. This is even more relevant for large firms that may have multiple offices in different towns and cities.
4. Opportunities For Collaboration
Often particularly complex cases and issues require the input of a number of specialized team members from across the law firm. For example, a multi-million dollar construction project could involve contract attorneys, tax lawyers as well as the employment law team working together. Collaboration spaces within the intranet will allow staff members to get together, whether it be to brainstorm ideas, share information or to jointly work on files and documents. The legal intranet will help to reduce the need to email updates and ideas across the organization or time spent in long face-to-face meetings. Team members will simply log into one central intranet location and can make their feedback or comments, share files, store conversations, and reference relevant data, thereby promoting collaboration and efficiency.
5. Client Portal
External communication and collaboration with clients is another essential feature for a legal intranet. Operating as an extranet, or a private network that securely shares company information with selected third parties, a portal helps you better serve your clients. A series of integrated site permissions means that clients can only access appropriate information. And the latest online security features such as encryption protects the confidentiality of the data and safeguards it from hackers. So, whether it’s to update clients on changes to legislation that impact their business, or collaborating with a client on the preparation of an affidavit, will, contract or deed – the client portal means you can provide a superior anytime, anywhere service.
6. Firm News And Corporate Calendar
In very busy law firms it can be hard to find the time for team meetings and staff briefings. However, it’s essential that employees are kept up to date with company news. One of the main benefits of a legal intranet is improved communications across the organization. Company and team news functions are an important means to that end. Indeed the legal intranet provides the opportunity for online newsletters, news pages, and blogs or news feeds. These can all be customized by team function, area of the law or by similar job. The news feeds should offer a two-way communication channel, giving lawyers and attorneys the opportunity to comment on and discuss news items as well as share updates and highlight key information across the business.
In addition, social media feeds can be incorporated into the intranet so that employees are kept informed on your public-facing marketing messages.
Quick links can be added to the intranet’s home page for easy access to the firm’s most frequently used tools or information. And one tool that’s bound to be in the quick links is the corporate calendar feature. The corporate calendar is a way of highlighting key events and dates including trial dates, billing cut-off dates or even the staff Christmas party. The corporate calendar will help to eliminate the need for all-staff emails. It’s a great time saver as staff members will no longer need to search through their overloaded in-boxes for that all-important deadline. Instead, they can find it quickly and easily on the corporate calendar.
7. Simple And Intuitive Intranet Software
Attorneys have traditionally been very conservative when it comes to embracing new technologies. In fact, many lawyers would describe themselves as being technophobes that rely on the support of administrative staff to function properly. To make sure that your legal intranet is widely adopted and fully utilized, it’s worthwhile keeping the design as simple and intuitive as possible so that even those staff members that are less confident and comfortable around technology will find it easy to use.
A comprehensive staff training program with how-to videos, wikis or webinars can support the process of implementation. As well as demonstrating how to use the intranet, it can also serve to showcase what the intranet is capable of such that attorneys will appreciate just what a difference it will make to their daily work.
Law firms obviously deal with highly sensitive and confidential information. Knowing that such classified data is entirely safe, secure from hackers or other unauthorized users will be of paramount importance to any law firm. A legal intranet will, therefore, need to utilize the very latest SSL security encryption software and protection from malware and hackers and will need to be constantly reviewed and updated.
9. Employee Feedback
Traditionally law firms have not been at the vanguard of employee engagement initiatives mainly because of the pressure of time. However, engaging with employees is just as important in law as it is in any other industry. There’s plenty of research out there that demonstrates happy and engaged employees tend to be more productive and also stay longer in the job. So, not only will you be getting the most out of your existing staff, but you will also be keeping your recruitment and retention costs as low as possible.
Using the intranet’s surveys function is a great way to gain employee feedback. Surveys can even be made anonymous so that staff can give their honest opinions. Find out what staff member’s priorities are for the refurbishment of the office kitchen. Survey employees for their views on the new company logo. Invite staff to submit their bright ideas and suggestions for improvements within the firm. You can even make it light-hearted by asking staff to vote on who’s had the best Halloween costume this year!
10. Employee Recognition
Recognizing the contributions and efforts of employees is another important employee engagement tool that the intranet can support. In the fast-paced, non-stop environment found in most law firms, we sometimes forget to formally thank employees when they go above and beyond. A company employee recognition scheme on the intranet is one very visible way that you can acknowledge those staff members that really deserve special recognition. Invite team members to submit nominations of worthy recipients and give a shout out to the employee or team of the month on the intranet’s news feed. Often this public recognition is all it takes to boost staff morale and employee engagement; however, shouting the employee a coffee or a shared pizza lunch for the team of the month would no doubt be warmly received by staff.
Legal Intranets In Action
As we have seen, a legal intranet has the potential to increase productivity, improve the ease of access to information as well as streamlining businesses processes. And all this is available in one platform with simple, easy to use functionality. But what does that look like in practice?
Now that we’ve covered the theory of what a good legal intranet looks like, let’s look at a couple of real-life applications.
Here are two different examples of how law firms have implemented an intranet platform. The end result, however, is the same: streamlined processes, more efficient working and increased productivity.
P4B Law’s Client Portal
UK-based P4B Law is primarily using the MyHub intranet as an extranet or client portal. The company provides specialist advice on employment law to a variety of businesses from sole traders through to multi-nationals.
With employment law, legislation, as well as precedents and rules and regulations, are constantly changing. Keeping clients updated with the latest developments was the impetus behind the extranet. P4B Law has been able to tailor the portal to fit the needs of clients so that they can quickly and easily find what they need. What’s more, the portal is accessible to clients outside of standard business hours. And so, even if the P4B Law office is closed, clients can still get the help and support they need.
Also, the portal is a secure way to share confidential information – much more so than alternatives such as email or file-sharing websites. All the data is encrypted and access is carefully controlled. This is an essential requirement for lawyers such as P4B who regularly deal with sensitive information. The MyHub intranet is able to deliver with its integrated, advanced security features.
You can read a full case study on P4B Law’s intranet here.
Turnbull Hill Lawyers’ Intranet Supports Business Processes
By contrast, Australian-based Turnbull Hill Lawyers is using their MyHub intranet to enhance internal communications and improve business processes.
The intranet platform is used to make company announcements and run news blogs. As a result, all staff feel engaged and in the loop about what’s happening both within the firm and the wider industry.
Furthermore, their intranet acts as a central knowledge hub. All of the policies and training materials used by employees of Turnbull Hill Lawyers are held on the intranet as well as practices and procedures for quick and easy reference. Supported by an advanced search capability, this employee self-service approach was a priority for the firm.
Another feature of the MyHub intranet that Turnbull Hill Lawyers has been taking advantage of is the integrated forms builder. The intranet’s online forms make for a more streamlined, speedier process with greater management oversight.
For Turnbull Hill Lawyers, the MyHub intranet has been a cost-effective, easy to implement and manage solution to their business needs.
You can read a full case study on Turnbull Hill Lawyers here.
Best Legal Intranet
If you are considering implementing a legal intranet, then get in touch with the knowledgeable team at MyHub. When it comes to the essential features we have identified in this article, you will find the MyHub intranet ticks all the boxes. Be sure to take advantage of our free demo or a no-obligation trial and see what a difference a legal intranet could make to your firm.