Top 10 Things to Consider When Developing an Intranet for a Law Firm or Legal Department

If you are managing a law firm or a legal department, you probably already know that having a well-functioning intranet is key to efficient knowledge sharing and teamwork. You probably also know that the Slacks, Igloos, and other off-the-shelf/plug & play solutions won’t work for you. So you know you’re looking at a custom intranet software development project.

But where should you start?

1. Find the Right Partner

Finding the right technology partner to develop your intranet can be one of your biggest challenges — and probably the most critical one when it comes to the success of your project. Typically, even the well-known software developers won’t have enough knowledge about your business and workflows to really grasp what you need, and educating them on it can be a long and burdensome process.

You, on the other hand, might not have enough knowledge about developing technology to really nail down the technical specifications at the outset of the project. Which can lead to big problems down the line.

What ends up happening more often than not is that the technology provider will develop something.And when you see it, you realize it requires a LOT more work.

The result? A big mess. Not only will you more than likely run into massive delays, but you are also likely to exceed your budget, as everything that you realize won’t work (that has been built based on incorrect assumptions by the developer) is regarded as a “new specification” and “out of scope” of the original project.

How do I know all this, you may ask. Well, because I’ve seen it from both sides of the table. I used be a lawyer (I guess I technically still am). I used to manage a law firm and teams within law firms. I was involved in intranet projects, website projects and app projects. Then I became the CEO of a tech company. We are the developers behind the most advanced, yet simple, digital workplace on the market (go check it out at intraboom.com and download the app from the App Store or Google Play).

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not marketing the Intraboom software as the solution for you. After all, I just got finished saying that the plug & play solutions that you can subscribe to off the internet won’t work for you. I’m just pointing out that we built Intraboom, and we can build something similar for you. And because we know the legal industry inside and out, you won’t find a more knowledgeable partner to work with.

So, we already found the answer to the first question: if you are building an intranet for a law firm or legal department, how do you find the right technology partner? We are it. We bring to the table extensive experience and expertise from the legal industry, together with cutting-edge technology solutions and high-quality custom development. You can contact us atsales@intraboom.comand we will take it from there.

That leaves us with 9 more things to consider when developing intranets for law firms and legal departments. Let’s start with the key functions that you will probably want to include.

2. Knowledge Management

One of the most important functions of your intranet will be to act as a knowledge management portal. Categories may include case law, legislation, news, document templates etc. When all the information is stored in one central location, it’s easy to find. As the amount of data grows, having an advanced search functionality becomes paramount. It’s important to think through what type of tags and search filters will be most useful. One thing to consider is how burdensome it will be to add new documents and material to the repository while ensuring that they turn up in the proper searches. You want to have a system in place for categorizing and tagging the material for future reference before it’s uploaded into the system. Adding an element of AI to your intranet might be worth considering in this context.

3. Staff Directory

Particularly in large firms or departments, a staff directory is another key feature. A relevant consideration is what type of information should be displayed in relation to each individual, and whether or not specific functions related to workflows (for example, tagging individuals related to particular projects) is a necessary feature.

In large firms, incorporating a staff directory into the system via integration of, e.g., Active Directory also makes it easy to manage permissions and restrict access as necessary, and keep these permissions updated as staff comes and goes.

4. Corporate/Team News

One of the main benefits of traditional intranets has always been that they facilitate easy distribution of information across an organization. The “News” function remains an important means to that end. In order for this feature to be effective, it’s useful to think about who has a need to broadcast information across the organization and what type of content the news section should contain. Another consideration is the possible need for smaller teams to have a separate news functionality at their disposal.

While traditional intranets were more of a “top down” communication channel, modern intranets strive for engagement. Therefore, it is important to offer a two-way communication channel, where users are given an opportunity to comment on and discuss news items.

5. Group Calendars

In many cases, a shared corporate calendar can be an important feature to include in an intranet. Here, too, there may be a need for teams to have their own group calendars as well. A centralized calendar will help avoid confusion and eliminate the need for all-staff emails. An important consideration here is to take into account the calendar systems otherwise utilized by the firm or department, and to ensure that any group calendars included in the intranet properly sync and integrate with the other calendars being used.

6. Collaboration

A great intranet will offer an interactive platform where staff members can interact and collaborate. This leads to better information sharing, higher engagement and motivation, and also helps build company culture. In a law firm or legal department, perhaps the most important thing is that having a transparent platform to collaborate on ensures that the best knowledge that’s available within the organization is always being tapped into and at the disposal of those who need it. Some law firms and legal departments will want their intranet to allow for creating separate workspaces for projects so that the staff members involved in the project in question can collaborate amongst themselves. The collaboration space may allow for brainstorming, sharing information, and working jointly on files and documents. A digital workplace like this can drastically reduce the need for internal meetings and emails.

7. CRM, Billing Systems and HR Forms

Especially in larger law firms, it may be worthwhile to incorporate (or integrate) CRM and billing software into the intranet. For example, if the intranet allows for creating project-based workspaces, it is useful to be able to access CRM information as well as monitor the billing related to the project on an ongoing basis.

Another function worth considering is including online forms, for example, expense forms, on the intranet. Having any electronic forms that the staff is consistently filling out available on the intranet can reduce the need for duplicated work and add efficiency to their processing.

8. Keep It Simple & Intuitive

One of the critical success factors of your new intranet has to do with adoption. In order for you to get the benefits you are looking for, you need the entire staff (not just the tech savvy ones) to embrace it. This is where many organizations go wrong. The intranet has to be simple and easy to use, or it will not fulfill its purpose.

During the development phase of your intranet, it’s important to obtain feedback from the people who will be using it. I cannot stress enough how important it is notto let the design and functionality be dictated by engineers. Get feedback, and lots of it, from a project group before you start the technical implementation of your intranet.

9. Security

One of the most important considerations when building an intranet for a law firm or legal department is security. You need to ensure that no third parties will be able to access privileged or confidential information. Having the best security protocols in place, as well as technical solutions that minimize the risk of accidental disclosure, are extremely important. Many software developers lack the necessary expertise to implement truly secure protocols to the system, resulting in an invisible threat — if the intranet is breached the consequences can be catastrophic. It is, therefore, extremely important to utilize a technology partner that has relevant expertise in applying the best encryption and security standards to intranet solutions.

10. Mobile Intranet

Last, but not least, you want to give careful consideration as to how you want your intranet to work on mobile devices. As millennials take over the workforce, it becomes increasingly important that core tools are available not only on desktop, but mobile as well. It is not easy to add mobile functionality to an intranet (at least not in a well-functioning way) unless this has been a consideration from the beginning. I am a big advocate for extending the intranet function to mobile devices, because that way you will get the most benefit (and engagement) out of it.

If you are considering building an intranet for your law firm or legal department, get in touch! Send us an email at sales@intraboom.com.