Legal extranet (also known as a law firm extranet) systems are used to facilitate legal working relationships. This type of legal technology provides a wide variety of collaboration capabilities to allow multiple law firms working on a case to communication in a productive and efficient manner. Technologies such as legal extranets allow clients to receive the best possible representation using best in class litigation support methods at the lowest possible cost. Some of the most common features of legal extranets include:
Law firm extranet systems are secure systems. Only authorized users may access law firm extranets. This is one critical aspect of these types of litigation support applications that makes them different from public websites. Legal extranets are available all the time - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - from any Internet connected PC. This is a key feature, as it allows attorneys and clients to access case data anytime (nights, weekends, etc.) and from any location (office, home, hotel, etc.) as long as they have access to the law firm extranet via their secure account credentials and secured system address (e.g., URL).
Legal extranet systems provide case management litigation support functionality. We define this as the ability to track and manage a wide variety of information about the cases of interest. This includes fields such as the case name, plaintiff, defendant, involved law firms, court information, case budgets, incurred costs, filing and due dates of interest, and many other data points. This information typically is maintained by local counsel and made available to national counsel and the clients within the confines of the online legal extranet system. Law firm extranets also typically provide a variety of queries and online reports to provide for easy access and retrieval of case management information.
Legal extranets allow law firms and their clients to track and manage all of the events, due dates, meetings, depositions, transcripts and other items of note during the management and defense of legal matters. The better extranet systems allow events to be assigned to a specific case(s) or individual(s). The best legal extranets also provide email reminders to notify system clients about upcoming events (or an overdue task) to be sure that litigation support tasks are completed on schedule.
Legal extranets often provide functionality that allows work teams to be notified as new documents are added to the system. This distribution of either new or recently modified documents provides the benefit of notifying team members about new case developments without requiring them to log into a law firm extranet system on a proactive basis every day.
Legal extranets provide the capability for law firms and clients to post sets of documents pertinent to a case. These include historical documents such as trial exhibits, documents that need to be reviewed as part of the discovery process, or documents developed during the course of defending a client. Better law firm extranet systems allow clients to code documents, assigning them document types, categories, issues, or other information to help define a document for easier subsequent retrieval. Strong legal extranet systems also allow for full text searching of documents in addition to searches that can be executed against the coded variables described above. Good law firm extranet litigation support systems also allow a broad and large set of file types (word processing, images, PDFs, TIFs, spreadsheets, presentations, etc.) to be added into the system. Often, legal extranets also provide a workflow capability to a document -- allowing a client or law firm to track the status of a document (status codes such as draft, revised, approved, finalized, etc.).
The best legal extranet systems can send out emails to sets of authorized clients based on predetermined system events. At times, this capability can be time-bound (emails going out to remind clients about upcoming events). Another type of email notification is an action based notification (for example, emails going out to inform clients when a new record – be it a case, document, calendar event, etc. – is added to the legal extranet). Excellent legal extranets should be able to control which actions trigger emails, and the sets of individuals who should receive these types of emails (for example, all extranet clients will not be interested in all information added to the system, so some filtering needs to occur to be sure the proper people are notified about the proper sets of new information).
Legal extranets often provide the capability for attorneys to post and share Internet sites of interest. This can be general sites associated with a case, specific news articles about a case, governmental or court sites related to the tracking and management of a case, etc. The capability to collect and provide all of these links to all members of the legal work team facilitates strong and common litigation support, delivered via tight communication and consistent information sharing among the team.
Legal extranet systems provide the ability to track all individuals associated with a case (clients, law firm employees, court members, experts, witnesses, etc.) and to share this contact information among litigation support team members. Information tracked includes names, addresses, the person's role in the case, telephone and fax numbers, and email addresses. This functionality makes it easy for team members to contact each other in an efficient manner when needed while working on a legal matter.
Better legal extranets allow clients to track and manage the law firms assigned to work on a case (and cases each is assigned to). They also allow clients to track the specific authorized timekeepers (both attorneys and legal staff) assigned to work on a set of matters to help clients manage and control their legal defense costs. Both the timekeepers, and their approved rates, can be tracked and managed in some of the better legal extranet systems.
Legal extranet systems need to address security by controlling user access, tracking and limiting the specific data each user can see, filtering the specific functions each user can see, displaying only appropriate menu options to appropriate clients, encrypting data as it travels over the Internet, and ensuring that the legal extranet system server(s) are properly secured both from physical, network and operating system perspectives.
Legal extranet systems typically provide workspaces to allow clients to manage their data security. Law firm extranet workspaces are created to manage sets of cases and the items (calendar events, tasks, documents, case profile data, etc.) associated with a set of cases. Typically, local counsel are granted access to a subset of cases (the cases they are managing) while national counsel and the client have access to all cases and related information.
Legal extranet systems are typically subscription based. The better law firm extranet systems and companies are able to deploy new implementations at minimal cost to the client. Thus, unlike many system implementations, since initial costs are low, the risks are lower. The subscription costs of a law firm extranet are typically more than offset with litigation support cost savings. This occurs in areas such as the reduction of periodic case status reports, the fact documents are distributed only once (to the extranet), a reduction in mailing and faxing expenses, and a reduction in the number of ad-hoc requests for information sent by a client or local counsel (asking for a document, case schedule, information about a case, etc.) to national counsel. All of these factors result in a reduction of billable hours and billable expenses to a client.
Xerdict provides prospective clients with a no-cost initial litigation technology support consultation to review business and litigation case management needs and discuss potential solutions. Please contact us at Info@xerdictgroup.com or 973-286-4350.