Many law firms continue to struggle with their “portal strategy.” Is the goal unifying applications? Is it knowledge management? Is it matter-centric views? A recent article in LegalIT is helpful in considering these questions. 

Knowledge Management Portals: It’s just a phase asks what is the purpose of a portal in a law firm. This is a good question because, as the article notes, “the sheer breadth on the subject matter illustrates the peril inherent in talking ‘portal’ before you know exactly what you are trying to achieve.” Once a firm defines its goal, it has three broad portal choices: (1) build one on top of the document management system, (2) buy a dedicated product such as Plumtree or LawPort, or (3) build from components such as Microsoft Sharepoint. The article goes on to describe how UK firm Dentons is building its portal using Hummingbird and how Freshfields is building one using Microsoft components and Interwoven’s Worksite. One of the concerns at Freshfields is allowing lawyers to do as much as possible in Outlook – a concern I hear increasingly voiced among large law firms.

Thinking about portals reminds me of a great line about computer standards (attributed to Esther Dyson when I first heard it): “The great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.” Similarly, with portals, the great thing is that there are so many platforms, features, functions, and design choices. Of course, that means a firm should think carefully about what it wants before embarking down the portal path.

For more on portals and KM, see my prior post on this topic at Portals and KM – Part II.