You are currently looking at a blog created and managed in Microsoft SharePoint, linked from a website where the content is managed through SharePoint. Behind this is a SharePoint “portal” at http://portal.inpractice.co.uk where you can only see the information already available to the public on our website, but in a different format.
If you were a client, consultant or business partner who had been given a password and user name to log in with secure access, you would see more information there. You would be able to click on a tab (currently hidden as the security settings restrict your access) to take you into all the documents, discussions, links, presentations, calendars etc. that are relevant to your projects or our discussions with you. All these documents are also an integral part of our internal document system; internally here at Inpractice, SharePoint links in seamlessly with Outlook, CRM, Word, Excel and a wide variety of other applications.
Now that this product has matured over the past few years and been substantially upgraded with the launch of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS 2007), every law firm should be exploring how you can use it. What’s more, it shouldn’t be left to just your IT Manager or Director to check it out as there are a bundle of tools in here that lawyers are more likely to appreciate. However, it is difficult to get to grips with what SharePoint can do because there is such a wide variety of tools packed away in this huge bundle, where we can help you explore the options.
For starters, I will tell you what we are using it for, as most law firms could be using pretty much the same set of tools to do the same job for you. The core features of SharePoint of interest to me are:
- Document management accessible via the web – including version control, sign in/out and histories
- Powerful search capability – for documents or knowledge management
- Integration with Microsoft products – Word, Outlook, CRM, Excel …
- “Meeting Workspaces” created in Outlook
- Shared project areas – internal and for clients – through a browser
- Intranet to share information internally
- Web content management – publish direct to your website
- Web site design
These are mostly solutions to help lawyers:
- Collaborate and interact more with clients, contacts and internally
- Build up and share knowledge about law, projects, clients and prospects
- Streamline communications
A bit more about the secure online project sites we use for our clients and business partners where all the consultants working on the project and all the contacts in the firm or partners have access to the following facilities:
- They can share and update documents subject to whatever rules and security we want to apply, with e-mail alerts to let everyone know when new documents have been added or when amendments have been made. How the alerts work can be configured to fit what you want.
- Access to contact details so they can readily find anyone who is involved in the project
- Discussion boards (again with alerts) so everyone involved in a project can share their views.
- Web links, so they can jointly can build up a bank of online information and access it easily;
- Libraries of presentations, photographs and images relevant to the projects
- A shared calendar and tasks for the project
… and there are many more options.
Some legal practice management system providers have now started to adopt SharePoint, integrating it into their practice management system. AIM are the only mainstream supplier we are aware of so far who have launched a product.
Are you looking for these kind of features for your firm?