Why legal intranets lets users down!

For anyone who manages an intranet in a law firm, a recent webinar by BA Insight will definitely be of interest. Called "Why Legal Intranets Let Users Down"

The Webinar starts with an introduction to the four main issues that BA Insight see as being the most significant problems with Legal intranets. They are as follows:

  1. Not finding information
  2. Finding too much dis-organised information
  3. Lack of responsiveness
  4. Lack of personalisation

Not finding information

Not finding information is a problem for all organisations, not just law firms. However law firms might well be unique in the sheer number of places where useful information could potentially exist.

So within Law Firms information literally is everywhere from the Document Management System (DMS) to emails, Know How, Templates, Bound Volumes, intranets, extranets, toolkits, social networks, the list is potentially endless.

To help with this issues BA Insight suggest that instead of having multiple search tools organisations should think about having an enterprise search tool and that provides a single window into an organisations multiple sources of information.

It's also important to understand what your users requirements are. So you shouldn't be building something and expecting your users to start come and using it. You should understand what users are looking for by looking at analytics and other sources of information and ensuring your search tool reflects what users are looking for.

Too much information

A related issue to not finding information is finding too much information. So it's quite common in many organisations for users to run searches and find that they are presented with 100's of results. Ideally the result or results they are looking for would be on page 1, but if it isn't then you need to think about how you could organise the information that is being indexed by your search engine.

So one of the ways in which you can "better" is look the both the available metadata an item has and what metadata you can derive from it. Organisations could also look at auto-classification/auto-tagging to organise content. Metadata is important because it can help boost an items relevancy.

Another option might be to improve how content looks, this means providing previews, clickable links where appropriate so that a user has access to the system where the content came from or can find out more about the piece of content they are looking at.

Lack of responsiveness

The next issue with Legal Intranets is around a lack of responsiveness. This doesn't necessarily mean that the intranet is slow, although it can means this, but that it is hard to use or not as intuitive as it should be.

There were several points made during this part of the webinar, which are worth repeating here:

  • Search is slow or hard to use - A very common complaint in my experience!
  • Find it fast is second in importance behind only Find it period - This is crucial, what's the point in having a search tool that returns results in milliseconds, if it doesn't return the results you're expecting!
  • Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) - We can get overly technical and provide too many controls
  • One click rule - This seems obvious but users should be taken where they want to go.

Ultimately simple is better and where possible we should avoid giving people too many options as many different options will just confuse users.

Lack of personalisation

Unfortunately the recording goes a bit awry at this point so whilst it continues to play the start of this section doesn't include any audio. Fortunately it re-starts again after about 40 minutes and this sections looks at how you can make intranets and search more personalised.

There are several ways you can do this within SharePoint (which seems to be the tool of choice). One interesting suggestion is to add My Recent Matters and My Recent Documents to intranet homepages. This immediately customises the intranet or portal to the user.


This was a useful, albeit it not groundbreaking, webinar on some of the issues law firms are facing when it comes to managing content.