Creative design thinking for a law firm intranet
Over the years we’ve seen some superb law firm intranets, including the 2010 Intranet Innovation Award winning site, BenNet, at Bennett Jones. The nature of law firms does, on the face of it, provide a great opportunity for some fundamental intranet, document and information management strategies. The opportunities for widespread expertise location, knowledge sharing, online social interaction and more project/matter/case specific collaboration also seem huge.
Yet at Step Two we also frequently see law firms, and other professional services firms, really struggle with their intranets and related tools. There are significant constraints to work within, including existing technology that’s typically dated and rarely user-centric in its design; heavy confidentiality restrictions; professional etiquette; well-established hierarchies and a true wealth of information to deal with, to name a few.
We recently ran a workshop with an Australian law firm that’s at the beginning of their modern intranet story. In it, we aimed to provide plenty of examples of where the bleeding edge of intranets currently is, and then help the working group break out of their constraints by doing something very un-user-centric and very fun; totally open-ended, blue sky thinking about what the future intranet, or even digital workplace, might look like at the firm.
Using some more typical scenarios, we ‘reinvented’ and mapped out:
- The new partner welcome and induction process.
- An integrated, multi platform training, learning and performance development dashboard.
- A new matter creation process, that integrated client histories and records with the new matter, produced recommendations for staff and expertise allocation, presented all relevant precedents, and provided plenty of collaboration tools too.
Within these scenarios:
- Synchronised, personalised mobile devices (iPads) featured prominently.
- An artificial intelligence concierge both holographic and virtual/digital (this was probably my favourite concept, and definitely the most sci-fi!) was present throughout the firm, both greeting new employees as part of (not replacing) the reception, and providing capabilities online too.
- Integrated, systems that provided a seamless, user-centric, easy-to-use layer over all of the existing independent systems, were highly desirable.
You can see some of the results in the photo above (apologies for the blurry shot).
In many scenarios, unconstrained thinking isn’t useful. It’s neither realistic, nor helpful towards putting together a viable project or project plan. Used appropriately, though, this technique can be incredibly valuable in pushing a project team towards greater ambitions, and help them conceive a rich vision for the future, and one that doesn’t have to be 5 years away.
Okay so the holographic concierge has a hint of Star Wars about it, but a number of concepts within the new partner induction process were discussed further and deemed very feasible in the short term, potentially reducing the amount of effort involved by some 50 percent, and reinforcing the firm’s ambition to provide cutting edge technology to match it’s high-performance legal services.
Who said lawyers aren’t creative!