I have predicted that law departments will eventually control extranets to avoid dealing with multiple outside counsel systems. In the mean time, however, many law departments are not ready to do so and many law firms continue to find value in providing clients with customized extranets. Bill Gratsch, web technologies manager at Dykema Gossett, writes a good article about the evolution and evaluation of Extranets at his firm. 

In Law Firm Extranets (originally published in a January 2005 ILTA white paper, The World of Intranet, Extranet and Portal Technologies (PDF) and now reproduced at eTECHNews), Gratsch explains his firm’s evolution in the development and presentation of Extranets to both internal and external users. The key lesson learned is to keep initial roll outs simple: “we now deploy initial extranet sites with a focus on the key features that the attorneys wish to use right away, such as a document repository, contact lists and site calendars. Other, less immediately critical features are left hidden in the wings, ready to be added only as necessary.” The firm adds functionality over time as the legal team needs it. Though the firm starts simple and with some common features, “no two sites are exactly alike.”

A combination of simplicity to start with the ability to add features as required is a good formula for introducing many new technologies in large law firms.