After working with dozens of law firms on their SharePoint projects, I've developed a list of best practices and "killer apps" that we have found to make a real difference in the success of law firm intranets. The key to a successful implementation is identifying features and services that will drive traffic from users, encourage user adoption and deliver measurable business benefits. As a result of a good intranet implementation, law firms can reap benefits such as increased inter-office collaboration, faster access to information and better insight into data.
Here's the summary of best practices and killer apps:
Our experience and industry research has shown that branding applied to an intranet will improve user acceptance and adoption. We have used affordable third-party themes that can be tweaked to your firm's color palette and style guide. Implementation is typically done in less than one day. This is a low-cost, high-impact addition to your SharePoint project. You can also create a custom theme, working in conjunction with your marketing department, to design an interface that is completely unique and tailored to your firm.
With a consolidated calendar in SharePoint, an authorized user can see meetings taking place in facilities across all offices in one screen. Views can be sorted by meeting type, time period, facility, etc. A user can select a meeting to see its details. The benefit is that you can easily see room availability, and contact someone if you want to swap conference rooms with them, for example. A consolidated calendar can be created directly in SharePoint using lists and the Calendar Overlay feature, or it can pull calendar data directly from Microsoft Exchange. You can even integrate with common third-party applications such as Meeting Room Manager.
Instead of sending firm-wide emails for non-business issues such as charitable donation requests, personal service referrals and items for sale, these communications are centralized in a Classifieds section of the intranet. Items can be categorized for ease of use. This is a low-cost, high-impact solution for firms where "reply-all" emails run rampant.
"My Missing Time"
This killer app addresses a common problem in today's law firm. A calendar-like control displays color-coded dates where time is missing. Selecting a missing date opens a Web-based form where the user can populate his/her missing time. This can be implemented via integration with a time and billing software vendor's WebParts, or a third-party integration tools such as Handshake Software (a mindSHIFT partner).
Integrated with a DMS (Document Management System), CRM (Customer Relationship Management System), and/or time & billing systems, a dashboard gives internal users instant access to links and metrics all in one screen. Data such as "Most Recent Documents," "Most Recent Matters," "YTD Time," "Missing Time," "My AR Aging" and more are available with one click. We have implemented this killer app via a client's existing data warehouse that already captured data from multiple legacy sources. The Matter Dashboard presents all of that data in an easy-to-use format. For external users (such as clients and vendors), the same data connections could be used to share documents, invoices and more from existing systems.
SharePoint is an ideal platform for transforming offline or paper-based business processes into dynamic, streamlined workflows. Using InfoPath forms and the SharePoint workflow engine, you can design and implement workflows for common tasks like conflict checks, new matter intake, expense reimbursements, employee on-boarding and more.
Do you have other great killer apps to suggest for law firm intranets? Let me know: AppDev@mindSHIFT.com.
Learn more about mindSHIFT's SharePoint solutions for law firms.
Tracey Klein is Divisional Vice President of Sales for mindSHIFT's Managed Hosting and e-Business Application Development group, based in our Commack, NY office.