IT & the Lawyer

Designing an effective internet strategy for law firms

According to Zaid Hamzah, an internet strategy is more than just a good-looking website. It is an appreciation of the need to integrate a range of useful, secure and innovative internet-based services that clients would benefit from, into an existing business strategy. Such services can include the provision of basic legal information and extend to 'live' case management facilities.

Elements of the internet strategy should include inter alia the following:

  • identification of the business and technology goals;
  • differentiation of the firm's services from those of other firms;
  • clear measurement of financial goals;
  • effective implementation of an internet strategy by the same personnel from start to finish; or/and
  • maximisation of the use of the Internet, yet strengthening the lawyer-client bonds.
He emphasises the bifurcation between the external and internal goals of the firm's internet strategy, to wit the external provision of services to clients and the internal improvement of the firm's efficiency and productivity.

In designing the internet strategy a number of issues have to be considered, such as how the internet strategy fits into the firm's technology strategy. Practical considerations such as who should develop the web services are also mentioned. The firm must then decide what internet-based services it wants to offer. Discussing portals, a topic we will revisit, he distinguishes between Client portals - a kind of client relationship system set up by a law firm that uses the Internet as the main mode of communication between the law firm and their clients - and Transaction portals. The transaction portal is similar to the client portal except it focuses on specific areas such as conveyancing and litigation. The more sophisticated client portals can even create an integrated virtual workspace.

What next? Practical steps to take include:
  • Employ someone, ideally from within the firm, to focus on the firm's internet strategy.
  • Design a clear overall business strategy where the internet strategy is one of the key features.
  • Sort out the types of services that the firm would like to offer its clients over the Internet and whether the firm would like to charge for them.
  • Know the technology, its uses and more importantly its limitations.
  • Address security issues - you would not like to have your system hacked into.
In conclusion, the provision of electronic legal services is going to become the norm, and by having an effective strategy to exploit the Internet, not only will existing forms of delivery be enhanced but new opportunities will arise.

Law Gazette of Singapore

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