Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Extranet Case Management

Extranets can be a terrific way for corporate law departments to track case management information. They can, if desired, outsource some or all of the data maintenance with respect to their litigations to the outside counsel managing and litigating the matters. This way, when various individuals need to know the status of a case, since the data maintenance is done by those closest to the case and in a timely manner, the case management information is available to anyone who needs to access it.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Extranet - Build vs. Buy

A number of questions are often asked about the financial returns of extranets and client workspaces, how to decide on building vs. buying a system, etc. This posting and future postings will attempt to answer some of those questions

Should one build or buy an extranet system?

Assess your law firm's internal expertise.

It is critical to access the expertise level of your law firm in building applications from the ground-up, if you are considering doing so. The skill sets required to implement packaged software vs. programming new systems are fundamentally different. To build new software, you need, among other things, a software development lifecycle methodology, strong project managers to develop requirements and translate them into functional specifications programmers can work from, strong programmers obviously, and a strong database analyst to assist in both data structure design and supporting a production application.

For extranets, one also needs experts in obtaining SSL certificates, setting up an extranet zone, and web-server management.

In my experience working with law firms and their technical departments, the trend I observe is a very strong competency in supporting networks, telecom, implementing litigation support and office productivity software, and security.... but less so in applications development. So, in my opinion, I think for the most part law firms are better served, if they are starting from scratch, looking at external alternatives.

This opinion is somewhat dependent on expected system usage and how high usage might tilt the analysis (when looking at this topic from a ROI or cost/benefit perspective), and that will be the topic of a future posting on this blog.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Ensuring That Litigation Extranets Can Store Unusual File Types

Virtually all collaboration systems can store standard file types. By that we mean Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) files, images, PDF's, TIG's, etc...

Storing less common file types is more of a challenge. Some examples of this might be transcriptions that are delivered using customized software or other files generated and managed with customized software.

A good way to provide this functionality is for the legal extranet system to store documents as binary files. This means that the document is converted to a digital format prior to being stored. This way, any document can be loaded into a system database that is equipped to handle attached files.

When storing the documents, it is wise to obtain the MIME type for the file. If this is also stored, when another system client requests the file, the legal extranet can pass both the file and the MIME type to the user. It is the MIME type on the local PC of the user that will synch up with the user's application preferences and then launch the appropriate software to view the file based on the Windows file associations within the local PC.

A strategy such as this will allow virtually any PC file type to be stored in a legal extranet application, and ensure you are well prepared to provide broad functionality to your clients who might tend to work with file types which are a bit of the beaten path.