Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Creating Efficiency and Productivity in Law Firms Today: XMLAW and SharePoint

Rob Saccone from xmLaw. The company is focused on providing products and services built on the SharePoint platform to law firms. [Rob used to lead the development team at Goodwin Procter and lead the deployment of our first SharePoint intranet portal.]

There is a dollar value to not finding information. It easy to apply a number of lost hours and amplify it by the number of attorneys and their billing rate to create a huge value number to the amount of time it takes to find the information they need.

His approach is put a layer on top of your underlying systems. This gives a more consistent user interface and more consistent way of finding the information they need. For it to be effective it needs to be embedded in their regular way of working.

Rob quickly moved into a demo of his products.

The opening page is highly personalized. The user gets presented with statistics on hours, month to date, year to date, etc. Also on the home page: firm news, weather, and local news.

He strips "my contacts" from InterAction and presents the information on a SharePoint list view.

The "my clients" gives a list of relevant clients. The information on the "my clients" page is then changes as a different client is selected: client contacts, headlines and billing information. You can then drill down to a specific client pages with more detailed information, such as documents, specific billing information, contacts, etc.

The "my practice areas" pulls together news from the group, calendar, and practice group members., marketing, forms and precedents, resources, financial and administrative information. They are also deploying information graphically, especially the financial information. They are also using the graphic presentation for some key indicators from the document management system.

The "my documents" sections pulls documents from the document management system.

Rob also highlighted the SharePoint search capabilities. He also pointed out that with the FAST acquisition, the search capabilities are going to grow. Attorneys want "The Google" to find stuff.
He thinks SharePoint can deliver on that need. xmLaw adds on the ability to index other systems that SharePoint alone cannot index. In particular, the document management system.

In the demo, he presents a simple text box centered in the screen. [Looking just like the Google search screen] xmLaw adds a great filtering tool allowing you to refine the results by author, client, matter, etc. Faceted navigation of the search results. The search results are tied into other systems so you can link to author information, matter information, etc. Adding hooks into other systems adds a lot of value.

xmLaw has also managed to allow faceting from RealPractice document types. They are also looking to integrate into WestLaw, RealPractice and other systems.

Rob's approach is integration. He thinks information should be pulled into a central location from the separate information systems.

A new product is an extranet solution. The key is to make it easier to publish documents to the extranet site. He is not poking a hole in the firewall to allow access. [I wholeheartedly agree with this approach. There should be an obvious and deliberate action to push a document to an extranet.]

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