What Functionality and Content Should I Add to My Intranet: Part 6: Client Pages
This is Part 6 of the “What Functionality Should I Add to My Intranet” series. To view previous parts of the series, click on Series link listed under pages on the right or use the link in the first sentence.
In my last post, I covered law firm intranet content for the home, firm-wide, offices, and practice groups/areas pages. This part of the series will focus on Client/Matter content. There are at least two different ways to make client/matter content available on an intranet. Note: While I am referring to the home of this content as a page, it can be made up of a main page with many supporting pages.
An information page gives users centralized access to the information about specific clients. As some of the content is confidential, access is generally based on roles. Some or all of the content on the page may be static html (updates are done manually by assigned editors) or dynamically generated from firm systems already in place (this would be the most useful and cost-effective method for the long-term), or you could use databases that have been created and are being updated for this purpose). If you only want to present the information and not provide the functionality of users being able to interact with it, this type of page is what you might create for your users.
The interactive page is, most often, dynamically generated from firm systems or custom databases as described above. There is little static html used. Besides that feature, an interactive page allows users to access information from firm databases and add, update or delete that information if they have the rights. An example of this would be a page that includes a marketing plan for the client. The client information/marketing plan is pulled from the accounting system, CRM, etc. and presented on the page. An edit button or blank metadata fields are included in the presentation of the information, allowing the user to add updates on the tasks/work done on the marketing plan. (I will cover how this can be done in detail in a future post)
The information page could include:
- Company information – This can be dynamically generated from outside resources – ask your librarian for assistance in sourcing this information.
- Law firms and other vendors the company has used for legal work (besides your firm)
- Litigation history
- Deal history
- Family tree (parent/subsidiaries)
- Contacts (at clients)
- Other offices
- Link to website
- List of firm lawyers supporting client
- Firm’s history in supporting the client
- Accounting/management reports re client (this would be something you may want to restrict access to) – this could include hours worked, invoiced, etc.
- Recent company news - This content could be pulled in using alerts delivered by an RSS feed. A free alternative might be using Google alerts. You can pay as little or as much as you want to for this type of news delivery. Your librarian can help you to source the news that meets your firms needs and budget.
- Stock info if public company – There are many free sources available for this information
- List of open matters – The most effective way to provide this information is to pull it dynamically from the accounting system. If you don’t have the technology in place to do this (or the database expert who can work out the structure of the backend database) you may want to maintain a list in a document that is updated by an assigned editor.
- List of closed matters - I am not sure how useful this is but I have seen a firm include on their intranet.
- List of practice groups that have worked on matters for the client – this can be dynamically generated using the accounting system or CRM content if the information is available in those or other systems. It’s great information for cross marketing. List of offices that have worked on matters for the client – again, great for cross marketing.
- List of matter types – This deserves its own post as it depends on how good the content your firm has collected regarding types of matters. Many firms ask for this information during the new client/matter intake process. The more granular the types are the more useful this content would be on a client page. For example, if your firm only has 2 matter types, could end up with something like Transaction and/or Litigation listed for your client. Using a more granular taxonomy for this content will make the information more valuable for marketing purposes.
- List of client contacts who have attended seminars, webinars, etc.
The interactive page content is the same as the information page but it’s what can be done with the information that sets it apart. What follows is a list of brainstorm ideas that can provide interaction but please remember that they are only a few ideas. What you do on your intranet will depend on your firm’s needs. Also, your software vendors may already have SharePoint web parts or other means for this integration. Additionally, there are third party vendors who can provide these web parts.
- Search function for accounting system or CRM that allows for generating information at point of need.
- Ability to drill down from client page to matter pages.
- Billing information and ability to mark accounts/invoices for collections, generate an email
- Hours worked on a matter by lawyer or subtask with the ability to drill down to billing narratives
- DMS documents – work in progress docs. Here the user would be able to open and work on documents that pertain to a matter.
- Ability to open new matters
- Ability to close matters
- Ability to view records maintained for the client and to create the labels, and indexes for records filing
- Ability to view and update those client contacts to receive holiday cards
- Ability to send emails
Some of you may say your users can get to and update many of the items I’ve listed in the various enterprise systems your firm uses. While that is possible, one of the goals of a business centric intranet/portal is to improve profitability by reducing the time lawyers and staff spend looking for information. Placing the content from those sources in context of all the information the firm has or can get about the company via an intranet page, and allowing users to interact with it will reduce the time spent seeking information. Beyond that, it will also reduce the time users now spend learning how to use the various enterprise systems the firm has in place for this information. It also can serve to improve processes if done interactively.
Finally, these are only some ideas and not meant to be all inclusive.