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Legal firm looks to the future of collaboration with clients.

Aird & Berlis LLP (A&B) is a prominent, full-service corporate law firm with a large, diversified, national and international practice. The Canadian-based firm represents some of the world's largest corporations as well as a wide array of entrepreneurial businesses, associations, government agencies and individuals.

Gary Torgis, the firm's Executive Director, recognized that A&B's continued success was dependent upon the best current technologies available to support its business strategies. He turned to Paul Knapp, Director of Information Technology, who was charged with the task of improving the firm's ability to deliver cutting-edge service to current and new clients.

One of Knapp's key responsibilities was to ensure that clients have secure access to the documents they need and if necessary, access to other applications. "The way in which law firms are providing service is changing," said Knapp. "Clients are starting to expect the accessibility and collaborative features provided by portal solutions," such as Hummingbird Portal.

Planning Spares Headaches

"Future collaboration with our clients is going to continue to evolve in directions that we can't completely identify at the moment," said Knapp, noting the ability of Hummingbird Portal to integrate new applications and allow for enhanced functionality in future. "You certainly don't want to spend a significant amount of money and find out a year down the road your portal can't handle new software that's critical for your orgmization to remain competitive' he said.

Before the portal was implemented, A&B lawyers and administrative staff collaborated with clients primarily through email. This method of communication limited the size of files that could be exchanged and raised security concerns. "One of our criteria when deciding on a portal solution was airtight security," said Knapp.

The ability to use predefined or custom-made e-Clip plug-ins to extend the portal was also a key consideration. E-Clip plug-ins are Hummingbird Portal components that integrate dynamic information such as email inboxes or sales reports, as well as interactive services such as threaded conversation, online procurement, an employee directory or data from enterprise applications and business systems into the centralized web-based workspace of the portal.

A&B is working closely with Hummingbird partner AMH Communications, a consulting firm specializing in portal, document management and knowledge management solutions for the legal vertical, to develop new customized e-Clip plug-ins.

New Control Over Documents

Implementing the portal has allowed the firm to give its clients more power over documents that are used in their legal matters. For example, clients supply A&B with templates for legal documents that require updating on a regular basis. In the past these templates were e-mailed to a clerk at A&B who copied them online to be updated. Now, customers can come through the portal using a custom e-Clip, designed by AMH Communications, to directly edit and update their own templates. "They have the security to replace any template, putting the control along with tight security right into the client's hands," said Knapp. 'We're definitely meeting with positive comments from our clients. There is no more confusion as to which template is the latest and did the correct one get updated. This uncertainty was cause for significant time to double-check to ensure accuracy in the documents that is simply no longer an issue. Our clerks know that they are working with the latest versions when they pull it out of the portal."

The firm has also integrated its pre-existing Hummingbird document management system into Hummingbird Portal. Employees who need to access the firm's documents from remote locations go through the portal, accessing a Hummingbird DM e-Clip. This approach eliminates the need to install Hummingbird DMon each computer, saving money and IT resources. The firm is currently in the process of placing all of its documents into a centralized library that can be accessed from any location by authorized users. This technology allows lawyers, staff and clients have quick and easy access to all documents whether they are in the office or on the road or at their home office.

In the near future A&B is planning to plug in a Microsoft Exchange 2000 c-Clip to allow users access to their e-mail from the same interface they use to access their documents. In addition, A&B plans to integrate Citrix into Hummingbird Portal to provide remote access to specific desktop applications. It would be most effective to have remote access to custom litigation software from a laptop in the courtroom rather than bringing boxes and boxes of evidence, opinions and testimony into the courtroom.

Coupled with a strong search engine, this technology would allow the attorney to quickly call up relevant documents and print them out in the courtroom as required during the course of litigation.

Knapp has a message to other firms about to make such a decision. "Get off the fence. Firms that are not moving forward with software tools (like Hummingbird Portal) are quickly going to discover that they cannot remain competitive in the current and future marketplace."

Industry: Legal

Organization: Aird & Berlis LLP

The Challenge: To implement a portal solution that would provide a secure platform for sharing documents and collaborating with clients

Hummingbird Solutions: Portal, Document Management

Key Benefits:

* High level of security;

* Better client relationships through collaborative capabilities;

* Reduced application integration costs Future Plans:

Future Plans:

* Further enhancements of client/firm collaborative environment;

* Transfer of all the firm's documents to the document management system;

* Integration of litigation software and reference resources into the portal;

* In-house development of u-Clip plug-ins to integrate new software applications; and

* Customization of the portal's interface to a look and feel" unique to Aird & Berlis LLP.
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Title Annotation:Aird & Berlis LLP
Publication:KMWorld
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2003
Words:930
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