Will law departments appreciate client-specific extranets (portals)?

Kenneth Jones, COO of Xerdict Group, writing in The World of Intranet, Extranet and Portal Technologies, International Legal Technology Association (Jan. 2005 at 16, thinks that law firms can develop business with a law department by giving the department access to a secure, online collaboration product – an extranet, a portal.

The site would allow the law department to see such material as “client invoices, working procedures, litigation reports, document templates, telephone listings” and other commonly requested information (id. at 17). According to Jones, the law firm could also load the extranet with business development information, which would supplement its marketing efforts.

My reaction is that law firms ought to consider posting substantive material that the law department’s lawyers might use. New case decisions, proposed regulations, checklists for common activities, examples of frequently-used contractual provisions, issue taxonomies and other boons will earn gratitude. True, such material allows in-house lawyers to serve themselves, which might reduce some demand for the law firm’s services, but the larger gain of more and better work could compensate.

To some extent, too, material on management practices at other companies would attract and impress the law department readers.

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