Taking a Vertical Leap with Content Management

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Case Study: Law Firm Offers Spirited Defense of Legal Content Portal
Company: Haynes and Boone
Vertical: Legal
Problem: Need to automate online client information
Solution Vendor: Plumtree and LexisNexis

Dallas-based law firm Haynes and Boone has always taken pride in their high level of client services and was looking for a way to use technology to provide more immediate answers to client inquiries.

Sounds simple enough…but the difficult part was finding a vendor with the technology that provided flexibility, openness, and an understanding of the legal market in particular.

According to Thom Wisinski, chief knowledge officer at Haynes and Boone, the firm didn't have a content management problem in the traditional sense. The concern was with improving client services and saw portal technology as a way to centralize client content. "We pride ourselves on client service, and we really think that's what differentiates us from other law firms. We looked at the portal as a way to add client serviceability," Wisinski says.

Shanda McCoy, Haynes and Boone account manager at LexisNexis, says law firms have unique needs over general enterprise users because their content organization is client-driven. According to McCoy, "In a law firm, they are trying to keep up with clients, then cases or ‘matters' for each client. While they have the need to streamline back-end processes that would be similar to a corporation, their day-to-day life involves more client-matter focused activities."

Previously Haynes and Boone had a firm intranet, but it wasn't widely used because it lacked current information, especially on clients. Wisinski went looking for a solution that could pull information together automatically from various back-end systems and display that information on the fly. They brought in several vendors including Plumtree, which was partnering with legal content vendor LexisNexis. They also looked at Lotus, Hummingbird, and Lawport (a legal-specific portal product), but decided on Plumtree because of its open architecture and partnership with LexisNexis, which gave them a clear understanding of a law firm's needs.

Plumtree provided the basic system architecture and LexisNexis brought legal-specific portletts to the mix. "With the Plumtree framework, you can pretty much create things in a standard Web language," says Wisinski. LexisNexis' McCoy adds, "The Portal is just a technology, a framework for the knowledge management initiative at the firm. It gives them technology to display information from back-end systems."

Haynes and Boone's IT people designed the portal themselves. This level of independence enabled them to learn how the components worked and to build a system from the ground up that met the firm's needs. Using the portletts supplied by both LexisNexis and Plumtree, they were able to build a system that pulls together the most current client and matter information simply by entering a client number.

Wisinski says that prior to implementing the portal, a client would ask for information such as how many billable hours were charged to a particular matter, and the lawyer would need to call back after an assistant had pulled the information from paper files or another computer system. With the new Plumtree portal, they create client and matter pages dynamically from various back-end computer systems, including the billing system, allowing them to give immediate answers to these types of questions.

What's more, LexisNexis portletts provide a direct link to LexisNexis online database information, while searching portletts from LexisNexis also provide a way to create a customized search taxonomy, making it easier to do research and find information across the firm's networks.

After months of tweaking, testing, and implementing the portal across several departments, the system was ready to go live to the entire firm last spring, just as Plumtree released version 5.0 of its portal software. Wisinski says that when they saw the enhanced functionality of the newer version, his company pulled the portal back and rebuilt everything from scratch using version 5.0.

The latest version of the portal is ready to be rolled out to the entire firm and he says feedback in trials has been positive. "What we've tried to do is generate dynamic client and matter pages for all the clients and matter we do as a firm, and people are pretty happy with it." Future plans include bringing all discovery documents into the portal.

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