Archive for the ‘Web Design’ Category
This is Part 8 of the “What Functionality and Content 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 administrative department pages. This part of the series will focus on content for internal users of practice group and administrative department pages. The next post – Part 9 will focus on Research Pages/Portals.
Goals & Intended Outcomes
In a business focused on making money, the creation of an intranet should be based on a goal to increase productivity while decreasing or containing expenses with the outcome of improving revenue. To reach that goal, the intranet’s functionality and content improves:
- Business processes
- Information access
and, in the end, delivery of services to clients.
To date, the strategy for the creation of intranets in law firms has generally been focused on firm-wide initiatives that will make those improvements (e.g., supporting new client/matter intake). Administrative department pages went a step further in marketing their services/support to the rest of the firm. In recent years, some firms have begun to work more on practice pages but, in many cases, their focus has been on the marketing of practice groups/areas to the firm.
To be clear, our strategies have focused on communication and have dabbled with improving business processes and information access but we have a way to go. To achieve the goal described above, firms and their intranet teams will need to focus on processes, communication and information used by internal members of each practice group and administrative department.
In a sense, what is needed is an intranet within an intranet.
What would that look like? Here are some ideas in the case of an admin department, let’s say IT.
Click on image to view it in a larger format.
In this example, I created a wire frame (using IntranetFactory Modeler – a free SharePoint tool) that included links to other pages, links to bookmarks, the latest posts of an internal blog (internal to IT), announcements, and the IT calendar. The links to other pages include some that need no explanation – policies, procedures, projects, and others that may not be so easy to determine the content.
The Network, Help Desk and App Support team pages are used by those teams to support their work. As an example, the following image of the Help Desk Team Page, has the same navigation as the IT Department home page as well as a quick launch web part to give team members quick access to their most often used web apps, the help desk request que, a chart with the % of open requests by priority, and frequently asked questions the team receives. If you were able to scroll down, you would also see a web part for the teams knowledge base.
Click on image to view it in a larger format.
While this is an example of an administrative departments internal pages, it should give you an idea of what to include on practice pages as well. Anything the practice group, area, team, etc. thinks would support its work or requests during your user needs assessment. For example, a practice area page might include:
Contacts, projects, forms, most often used DMS documents by practice area members, open matters, calendar, who’s an expert in what, etc. Anything that is important to the practice area (within reason).
A caveat: If you get requests for content/functionality that may be used by other departments, groups, etc., you have a decision to make. Do you treat it as a one-off or do you take a step back and decide if what they are asking for might be a firm-wide, office-wide, etc. initiative. If you have a strategy in place regarding how this will be handled before it comes up, the decision and how you communicate it back to the group will be much easier. If you went one step further during planning and conducted a thorough user needs assessment before starting to code, you would have fewer decisions altogether.
NOTE: IntranetFactory looks like an interesting product. The modeler is offered at no charge along with a lite version of a product called SharePoint Works which IntranetFactory says can convert the wire frame into a SharePoint site. A more full featured commercial version of Works is available as well, along with a commercial version that includes all of the products.
This is Part 7 of the “What Functionality and Content 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 client pages. This part of the series will focus on content for external users of administrative department pages. The next post -Part 8 will focus on the internal users of administrative pages.
Both administrative department pages and practice group/area pages have two audiences. For the practice group/area, the audiences include individuals internal to the group/area and individuals external to the group who need information or assistance about the practice and its lawyers. For the administrative department pages, the audiences are the individuals internal to the department and individuals who need information or assistance from the department.
The function of both these types of pages is to market to and provide assistance to external users while providing internal users the functionality and content needed to do their work. To satisfy both audiences for the administrative department pages access to be given to users in the following manners:
Access by role – Is the user viewing the page a department member. If they are, give them a different view of the page that include links to information and functionality they need to do their work. If no, give them access to content developed for external users.
Access by secured groups – Has the user been added to a security group that can see the link. If yes, it would give them a link that would take them to their internal page along with the content developed for external users. If no, hide the link.
Note: In both cases, you would be using Active Directory or some other means to authenticate your users by identifying them using their network login id.
Aside from the differences already mentioned, these administrative pages will be different for each office. Additionally, you may want to provide a page for each department and for departments within departments because lawyers and staff tend to think of each administrative team as a department. For example, the lawyer recruiting team may be part of human resources but are generally seen by the lawyers as a separate unit.
As with the client pages, while I write about an administrative department page, it could be a page with many supporting pages. Also, I am only talking about the content for these pages but some of the content could be integrated into other parts of the intranet or to a personalized page for each user. For example, all department training calendars and documentation could be listed by department and by the use of a firm-wide training calendar.
What content might be included? Here’s a list of ideas for content for external users. Again, it is only a beginning. Content for internal users in groups and departments will be covered in a separate post.
- Staff list with links to staff directory (or link to staff directory with results limited to practice group)
- Services FAQ with contact info (who to call)
- Policies/Procedures – these items could be provided in a list or integrated into a workflow
- Forms (these are administrative forms the firm uses to conduct business) – Rather than just provide a list of forms, you could provide access by a “How do I label” where the users will be given access to a page or pages that have both instructions and the form for an individual task.
- Case studies or testimonial pages
- Suggestion “box”
- Online intake form to use in requesting services
- Client/Matter lookup
- Search by client and/or matter number that returns client/matter name, responsible lawyer, etc.
- Link to accounting application if web interface is used by firm
- i.e. Elite, CMS Professional, etc.
- Business intelligence reports
- Open matter or New matter intake form
This is not a research task page. It is a page that is used to market the libraries services and provide access to policies, forms, etc. I will be creating a post that covers the research page/portal separately.
- Library catalog
- List of electronic resources accessible by practice group/area and title with information about each application with links to training manuals and opportunities for training and/or online training
- List of journals
- Training calendar – as with the training calendars listed for other departments on this post, each session on the calendar could provide a description of what will be covered in the session with the ability to register
- Access to online training
- Suggestions for research work flows depending on the type of research being done
- Best practices for conducting research
- Copyright compliance instructions
- Link to any web application HR may make available to lawyers and staff (timesheets, vacation balances, etc.)
- Training calendar
- Firm Polices (staff and/or lawyer policies)
- Open positions
- Manuals for staff, supervisors, etc.
- Curricula – for any program the firm offers to staff that allows them to develop skills that they need or that they can use to better themselves
- Training calendar
- Access to online training
- List of applications IT supports with information about each application with links to training manuals and opportunities for training and/or online training
- Training calendar
- Help desk information
- Access to online training
Litigation support (may be called by other names)
- List of or access to all applications supported by Litigation Support with information about each application with links to training manuals and opportunities for training and/or online training
- Request form for electronic filing userids/passwords for federal and state courts if applicable
- Training calendar
- Access to conference room scheduler
- Floor maps for each office
- Description of any services provided by facilities – for example, I’ve seen where one of the most important part of facilities content at one firm was the list of pop/soda machines in the office, their locations, and the type of pop/soda they contain
Office Services (could be part of HR or Facilities)
- Hospitality content
- Mail room content
- Telephone information
- Document services information
- Link to CRM system if firm has one that is web-based for end users
- Access to proposal writer if applicable
- Previous responses to RFPs
- Top XX client list
- Firm and group marketing target lists
Training/Professional development (Maybe part of HR or other departments)
- Training staff
- Training courses (any course provided regardless if it is on the schedule)
- Training sessions calendar (Lawyer, Paralegal, LAA, Professional Development, Soft Skills, Research, Computer)
I am not including everything that could be included on each departments page as this post has to end sometime. What I would like to see is your ideas. Please use the comment feature to add to the content listed above as well as functionality.
This is Part 5 of a series I’ve been writing on functionality and content of a law firm intranet. Before I start discussing content, I should note that this list is for an intranet that follows the structure of the firm. It is by no means an exhaustive list but should give you an idea of the type of content on an intranet. The next couple posts will also cover content. Let’s start with the home page.
- Firm-wide Calendar for the week
- Public events and happenings for all offices of the firm regardless of location (annual meetings, fundraisers, holidays, etc.)
- Firm-wide News
- News and updates on the firm for all offices (mergers, new offices, reorganizations, etc.)
- Firm-wide New Employees
- Updates of all new legal and administrative staff joining the firm in all offices, including name, title, job description, email, start date, office, etc.
- Staff Directory
- See list below under Firm-wide page for details
- Time zones
- Shows current time in all offices across all time zones
- Link to weather
- Shows current weather conditions in all offices, pulled from outside source
- Access to applications and software used by the firm if the intranet is the starting point for accessing those resources
Could include things like: firm background and history for employees to read, basic information on policies or procedures that are followed at the firm, locations, management committee and group head lists, etc.
- Committees & leadership lists
- Lists of committee members organized by committee. Could also include links to any committee pages on the intranet
- List of leaders who are responsible for managing some aspect of the firm where a committee may not be necessary. An example of this might be the risk management partner. This list may also include links to intranet pages the partners want maintained to communicate information on the topic they are responsible for.
- Firm policy manual
- Shows all documented and approved policies for appropriate use of firm resources by employees, i.e. computer usage, internet access, vacation time, etc.
- Firm events calendar (ability to filter by group/office/etc & timeframe)
- See above under Home page for description
- Staff directory
- Phone number
- Practice group, area, team, working group, admin department (depends on what is tracked in Human Resources or Active Directory)
- Firm ID number
- Picture, if made available
- Start date
- Home contact info, if made available
- Languages, if available
- Bar admissions, if available
- Links to marketing profiles (for those who have them)
- Special programs
- Pro Bono
- Community Service
This information is specific to each office location, if any, and could include office addresses and directions, hotel and local venue listings, location-specific events and happenings, in/out status of local employees, other location-specific data, such as:
- Location descriptions
- Address, building picture, maps
- Floor maps
- Layout of offices on each floor with office numbers/names
- Office calendars
- Events and happenings specific to each office location
- New employee lists by office
- See above under Home page for details
- Staff Directory by office
- See above under Firm-wide page for details
- Travel information for each office
- What to know when visiting another office, who to call, reservation information, office space availability, etc.
Practice Group Pages
The practice group page is both outward and inward facing. In other words, there is information about the group that would be useful to those not part of it as well as information and resources that only the group needs to see. Providing access to both could be done using links or based on roles. Those who are not part of the group would only see the marketing materials while those who are members of the group would see the inward facing group page as well as having access to the marketing page.
This is a list of the items that would be on the practice group pages. There may be more content depending on the group.
- Marketing materials that help individuals in other practice groups understand the services offered by the group and the individuals to contact or refer a client to
- Group news
- Secure access to practice group information and resources to be used by practice group members in all offices only
- Member list with links to Staff Directory (or link to Staff Directory with results limited to practice group)
- Group-specific calendar
- Forms – those developed by the firm or available through a 3rd party vendor
- Precedents or sample documents
- Mentoring program (could be under Firm or Office instead or in addition to depending on the firm)
- Most often used research resources specific to group
- Marketing lists/information
- Current matter list
Practice Area/Client Team/Industry Team/Working Group Pages
Information and resources on these pages will probably be similar to practice group pages but will focus on more specific practice, client, industry, etc. content. Note: Providing role-based access to these pages depends on the firm tracking membership of groups, areas, and teams on a more granular level.
I worked with one firm that wanted to provide access to these types of pages but were using active directory for authentication. In their case, the IT staff did not track more than membership to one group and did not want to be responsible for keeping track of this information that would, most likely, change at a whim. At the same time, no one else was responsible for tracking who belonged to what group/team. They had no option for providing the role-based access they wanted.
This post provided lists of content that may be available on a basic organization centric intranet. We’ve covered firm-wide, office-wide and practice group content. Part 6 will cover content for client/matter pages followed by Part 7 which will cover administrative department content.
I’m enjoying working on these posts and would love to get some feedback. Any comments?