Many law firms offer their clients extranets. Anecdotal evidence among law firm knowledge managers and IT professionals is that clients do not use them very much. Perhaps that is because most extranets are focused on exchanging documents. For that, e-mail will do (or at least that is the view of most lawyers).

My July 12th post described how Morrison & Foerster created a popular extranet by populating it with a patent docket. Earlier this week, I had an opportunity to see how another firm, Shaw Pittman LLP, has created extranets that are used because they do more than share documents. Three examples are noteworthy.

For a large real estate company, the firm uses an extranet to track the client’s multiple legal entities and each entity’s property holdings. The same system also tracks key dates for rights and obligations in leases. For both the firm and the client, the extranet is the sole and central repository for this information.

For a large financial services company, the firm hosts an extranet for a particular type of high-volume transaction. Most transactions have multiple parties and require multiple types of documents. The extranet tracks all parties and documents and uses checklists to make sure each deal is complete.

And finally, for a retail franchise operation, the firm uses an extranet to assist its client in trademark enforcement. There is a relatively high volume of potential or actual infringements. The extranet is used to manage background research, the issuance of cease and desist letters, and follow-up to the letters.

Shaw Pittman LLP develops its extranets using Lotus Notes/Domino, which it adopted in 1996. The firm has a group of Notes/Domino developers who know how to use the platform to quickly create easy-to-use customized systems to meet specific needs.

It is clear that all of these systems are used regularly by the firm, its clients, and third parties. And that regular use demonstrates the value of the technology to help cement client relationships.