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Legal Enterprise 2.0 Success Story

by Penny Edwards

The Law Society recently announced the winners of the 2010 Excellence Awards. The short list featured several Headshift clients in the legal sector, including Matthew Arnold & Baldwin LLP, shortlisted for the ‘Excellence in Innovation’ award. Lars Plougmann, former Headshifter and colleague over at the Dachis Group, gave a great overview of the ‘innovation’ by Matthew Arnold & Baldwin, namely the firm’s intranet.

Here’s how Lars described the ‘innovation’ (re-posted from the Dachis Group website):

“Matthew Arnold & Baldwin LLP is a regional firm in the United Kingdom and the innovation in question is the firm’s intranet, “The Cube”. The Cube is one of three strategic investments that the firm made within a 12 month period, the others being a new practice management system and a relaunch of the firm’s public website.

The Cube is not just an intranet, it is a social intranet where work happens. Old style intranets were communications channels, a way for the central communications team to broadcast messages to staff. If you practiced knowledge management there would be a link from the intranet to a carefully curated (but often sparsely populated) collection of templates and best practice examples. A social intranet, in contrast, is a place for everybody to build their collections of useful information, store stuff they are working on and ask questions of their peers. The value of the social intranet is that those personal collections are visible to everybody else, and groups of people can collaborate on them.

Just like mablaw.com represents the firm’s embrace of Web 2.0, The Cube is Matthew Arnold & Baldwin LLP’s adoption of Enterprise 2.0 principles. Heloïse Paull, the firm’s marketing director and the project’s sponsor, witnessed that as the firm grew, “People relied heavily on email communication, which created exclusivity on certain knowledge. Information and knowledge became diluted in information silos. Accurate CRM and cross selling suffered. There was a decline in the social aspect of the firm.”

Mark Weston, the partner responsible for the project, explains that email is not necessarily a bad thing: It works just fine when clients email instructions to the firm for new matters. But when those instructions and other matter related communication is drowned out by internal conversation in a way that makes it hard to share valuable insights then there is a clear need to move that conversation to a different platform.

“We needed to create something that was easy to use and fun to use. We needed to create something that was community-based and without boundaries.” Any member of the firm can create a new community and invite colleagues to join. The communities range from industry sectors and strategic client groups to the netball team.

The fact that anyone can set up a new community has helped accelerate adoption, as has the fact that communities for non-work related topics have been encouraged from the outset. Each individual opts in to the communities that are relevant to them. It has led to a spate of groupings that can seem daunting when viewed as a list but recommendations, links and search help point people to relevant places. Communities are open by default, restricted groups require partner permission.

“The Cube is a living, breathing space where people can communicate and interact regardless of their office, their team or their qualification. Rather than information being hidden or inaccessible, all users can now view project updates and contribute to communities. We have started to manage CRM through The Cube with Client Relationship Partners creating communities to store information pertinent to the development of client/referrer relationships” explains Heloïse Paull.

Underlying the flexible groupings is an information architecture that reflects the firm’s structure and processes. This provides every member of the firm with a place they belong and from where they can follow recommendations to join communities and projects relevant to them.

A special area was set up for the firm’s library, where relevant news in the legal world are shared and bookmarks to resources on the internet are made available. Previously, updates from the library were sent out in email, which put the burden (and cost) of filing on each recipient. Now, new joiners can easily search library content (and everything else) without asking for past emails to be forwarded to them.

The Cube is integrated with the firm’s practice management system: An individualized chart of key performance indicators (KPIs) is prominently displayed on the home screen.

The next step for The Cube will be to open up secure extranet areas for working with clients, something that was made possible in a recent version of the Jive Social Business platform which is being used to run The Cube.

Matthew Arnold & Baldwin LLP has earned their place in The Law Society’s shortlist.”

Update: Eversheds won the ‘Excellence in Innovation 2010‘ award for its Legal Clubbing model for collaboration and cost sharing between its public sector clients.

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