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Collaboration and Extranets; The State of the Art?

Kraft Kennedy

2 min read

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Clients complain about the multiplicity of law firm extranets, all different but not better, and the nuisance of maintaining passwords for each one. Can a group of firms collaborate to steer development of a tool useful to all, to build the “extranet as FedEx”— a common facility that many firms and their clients can use, in the interests of both economy and convenience? Is it true that firms compete on the quality of content, not the shape of envelopes?

How do law firms and clients communicate and collaborate? How do they manage the cycle of documents and tasks as deals move from inception to closing?

From Counsel Connect through the dot-com wave of deal room services to Legal OnRamp and home-grown SharePoint extranets, there have been many efforts to improve the profession’s ways of working. Yet fifteen years after Internet Explorer 1.0, the answer is still mostly e-mail, FedEx and yellow pads.

Why? And is there an opportunity now to do something better?

Do law firms reap any competitive advantage from the specific features of their individual extranets? Extranets are, after all, the 21st century functional successor to mail, messengers and FedEx as collaboration mechanisms. Yet in the 20th century no firm thought it necessary to develop its own bicycle messenger or air freight service.

Are firms today wasting money and effort on idiosyncratic software? Would they—and most importantly their clients—not be better served by collaborating around a common collaboration platform, as leading UK firms and banks have done on a common publishing platform?

At Kraft Kennedy’s invitation, a group of law firms will be discussing these questions and hearing about some new answers on June 17. (For information, write to events@kraftkennedy.com.)

We will be talking about SitePoint 2.0, a matter management and collaboration platform that has been used on more than 2,000 matters in the UK. SitePoint is launching in the US after success with several UK law firms, including Allen & Overy, Freshfields and Herbert Smith. Kraft Kennedy is assisting the developers, HighQ Solutions, creators of the UK Banking Portal, with the US launch.

SitePoint Key Features

    • An end-to-end solution—from pre-transaction due diligence and data rooms through deal execution to post-closing events and permanent online closing binders.

    • Single Sign On enabling a client or lawyer working with several law firms to use a single set of credentials for separate instances of SitePoint controlled by each of the law firms.

    • Robust, fine-grained security for sites, folders, documents and modules. Audit trail and reporting of every action.

    • Document management with versioning, bulk upload, digital rights management, customizable metadata and optional integration with Autonomy iManage.

    • Comprehensive project management and group collaboration tools, including wikis, blogs, tasks and events.

    • Dynamic social layer including email, RSS feeds, activity streams, favorites, filters, comments, tags and people profiles.

    • Customizable online databases/spreadsheets and forms with custom columns, fields and data types.

    • Can be integrated with a firm’s Recommind search system, so closing binders can be included in search results without replicating them back to firm systems.

We will also be talking about Basecamp, a very widely used collaboration and project management service in the US.  Among the many tools of its kind, Basecamp is noteworthy for ease of use, low cost and Single Sign On, so that one’s credentials can be used across all sites in the service. Some firms are focusing on Basecamp for technology, office construction, graphic design and other administrative projects with vendors.

For information about the June 17 event or about SitePoint and BaseCamp, write to events@kraftkennedy.com.