After completing my undergrad I worked as a legal assistant at a law firm here in Vancouver, BC. With approximately 300 employees, an organized system for internal communication was imperative. We already had an intranet, but most communication was still done through interoffice mail and email, while the intranet acted as a glorified craigslist.
Why wasn’t our intranet more widely used? Well, it was built using a complex platform that was difficult to expand on and update, and those that possessed the skills to do so simply didn’t have time (yup, that platform rhymes with “fairpoint”).
Working at Intranet Connections, I now see SO many areas where we could have benefited from a well-run intranet software, and I LOVE working with Law Firms to implement Intranet Connections’ Intranet Software in their environment.
Here are the top intranet features I recommend for law firms looking for a new intranet solution:
1. People Directory
A People Directory with photos and contact information is extremely helpful in getting to know other employees within the law firm. This is especially helpful if your firm is located on multiple floors as ours was. It’s also beneficial for floating legal assistants who want to look up the lawyer they’ve been assigned to ahead of time.
If you’re a legal assistant who needs to grab a file from another lawyer in the firm, you can simply perform a Quick Search for the lawyer you need, then use the Employee Org Chart on their profile to find out who their legal assistant is. Using the Live Chat feature you can then shoot their assistant a quick, instant message asking them to pull the file, so that when you head over to their desk it’s there waiting for you – no time wasted.
2. Online Forms
In my firm, we would fill out expense forms on paper. From there we would scan the form into our document management system along with all the receipts, then staple the receipts to the paper form and inter-office it down to Accounting. It was quite the process. What if I told you we could cut that time in half using an Online Expense Form with automated routing?
Today, most receipts are electronic anyway – hotels, car rentals, plane tickets etc. Rather than printing them out, just save them to your Online Form, enter in the amount for each receipt in the spreadsheet and your total is calculated for you. Not sure how many miles were traveled for gas reimbursement? Just click your “To and From” locations on the GPS mapping tool, and the distance is calculated for you.
Upon submission, forms are routed to Accounting and stored online in case you need to pull them up later on. If it’s an excessive claim amount the form triggers an additional workflow stage to route it to the appropriate Partner for additional approval before being sent to Accounting.
3. Employee Engagement Tools
Legal Assistants usually have a heavy workload – at one point I was working for five lawyers, and days just seemed to fly by. It’s easy to forget to take a break from the hectic day-to-day and enjoy your time at the office. That’s why intranet features such as Recipe Exchange, Buy & Sell and Idea Share Exchange are so important. They engage employees and allow them to take a moment out of their busy day to post their favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, browse for new Ikea furniture or share their new green office idea. Happy employees mean work gets completed in a less stressful, more creative and efficient manner.
An Events Calendar is another great way to keep employees engaged. At our office, we always had events happening, such as someone had a baby, announced an engagement or was retiring. An intranet calendar would have made it much easier to keep track of all these events going on, and give me a heads up for present buying and card making (yup, I’m one of those crafty people).
4. Employee Recognition
A law firm is a fast paced environment, and it’s easy to become so busy that you forget to enjoy the work you’re doing. I loved being a legal assistant, but there were certainly times where I was so busy that I was focusing on the task at hand, and not what that task meant on a greater scale. In many instances the cases being worked on by lawyers, paralegals, articling students and legal assistants have a significant impact on people’s lives, and it’s easy to forget to celebrate the victories before moving onto the next task.
The Employee Recognition application allows employees in the firm to acknowledge when a coworker has gone above and beyond, and deserves recognition. Being able to log in to the intranet and take a few minutes to post a nomination, leads to a great impact on employee morale and reminds employees of the bigger picture.
5. Document Management
Legal assistants sit at a desk all day, which can wreak havoc on your back as well as your eyes. Having your employee benefits easily available on the intranet makes it easy to quickly lookup your max allowance for massages, eyeglasses and other available perks.
Keeping all your HR documents online with Document Management also ensures that employees are accessing the most up to date version of your HR documents, policies and tools, such as read confirmation, help you track and confirm which updates have been read.
6. Employee Surveys
Employee feedback is important in a law firm. We would get annual survey invites requesting our feedback, and we would go to the site, fill out our feedback and submit it back to HR.
The intranet allows you to create multiple surveys from within one application, which are then routed through a workflow and stored online. They can be tied to your intranet user login, or made anonymous. Randomized question banks allow you to present the employee with new questions each time they take the survey, or the same questions in a different order. You can even embed photos or videos at the top of the survey which make them a great tool for contests such as “who had the best Halloween costume this year?”
7. Lunch & Learn Registration
I absolutely loved Lunch & Learns at the firm, and we sure had a lot of them! A mass email would be sent out and you had to reply if you were going so they could ensure they had enough lunch orders. Using the Online Training Calendar, employees are automatically alerted of a new training session or Lunch & Learn and they simply have to follow the link in the email and then register for the session. They can then add the session to their personal outlook calendar so they are reminded to attend, and the Training Manager or Lunch & Learn Manager has a list of everyone who has registered on one page. They can even use this list to send out bulk emails to all attendees if they need to remind them beforehand to bring specific items or questions to the session.
A Business Intranet for Legal
There are many other features within an intranet that a law firm could make use of – these are just my Top 7. To see a complete list of the over 100 other features in our Corporate Intranet, check out our Corporate Intranet Whitepaper.
Of utmost importance though, is the ability for non-IT admins to update intranet content. Just because an intranet is software does not mean IT should be responsible for it. In fact, when it comes to a law firm intranet, it’s usually HR or Marketing that wants to do the updating. A simple, out-of-the-box intranet allows them to do just that.
Do you have ways in which you’re using an intranet in your law firm that aren’t listed here? I’d love to hear them! Leave your comments below.