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More and more, lawyers are recognizing the power of extranets to develop their practice. With increasing frequency, clients, too, are considering extranet capabilities when selecting outside counsel, especially for certain matters of regular representation. Law firms seeking to expand their litigation practices should give serious consideration to extranets. An extranet is a secure Web site maintained by law firms or clients, or by a Web hosting service. The extranet provider controls access and security through user names and passwords it assigns to authorized users. Just about any kind of information one can see on a Web site can be posted on an extranet. The person accessing an extranet site usually does not need to purchase any equipment or software and usually requires only Internet access and a current Web browser — facilities most clients and lawyers already have. A well-designed and implemented extranet requires virtually no training for either the people inputting data to it or those accessing information from it. Security should, at a minimum, be secured socket layer for Web access. Interesting and innovative extranet implementations in litigation include: � Pleadings files.Litigators can use an extranet to maintain their pleadings index and images of the pleadings in their case, both of which can be accessed by their clients or by co-counsel at any time from anywhere. � Matter management.Lawyers can keep track of key information about each case they handle for a client, including the jurisdiction, the judge, names and addresses of opposing counsel, case type and case status. � Calendaring.This function enables lawyers to keep a list of all upcoming events so that they, their client and their co-counsel are working with the same set of dates. If possible, law firms should build in e-mail alerts to provide advance notice of upcoming events. � Complex litigation coordination.In complex, multicase litigation, such as multidistrict litigation proceedings, lawyers can integrate pleadings and matter management for multiple, related, coordinated cases into one extranet. This produces an extranet site with one unified calendar and list of events for all cases and offers clients one place to go for all the information they need. � Produced documents.Images of all documents produced can be made available over an extranet with a full, searchable bibliographic index for each document. � Key documents.A client may prefer to have only a set of key documents made available, including commentary and analysis by counsel on the significance of the documents. � Document production to opposing counsel.Some lawyers are doing document production via extranets. � Depositions.Lawyers can make electronic files of deposition transcripts available to clients and co-counsel. Better yet, lawyers can make those electronic files fully searchable by their clients and add note-taking and issue identification capability, allowing their clients to go to the deposition sections that the lawyers consider most important, and to exchange thoughts with the lawyers through the notes. � Chronologies.Lawyers can keep a master chronology for a case on the extranet, giving their clients full-time desktop access to the most important facts in the case. They can also link chronology entries to images of relevant documents, witness interview notes or even deposition excerpts. � Witness lists.Lawyers are able to keep an online witness list of all of the people involved in a case, together with their addresses, other contact information, and whether they are fact or expert witnesses. This function also allows for issue identification, attorney analysis of the witness’ significance and even document images or attached document files of witness interviews, evidentiary documents or deposition transcript excerpts. � Task lists.This function enables lawyers to share with their clients over an extranet an integrated list showing what each member of the team is doing on a case and the status of the case. Clients will find this a convenient, cost-effective way to monitor closely the activities of litigation counsel. � Research library.Lawyers can create a fully indexed library of research and factual analysis memoranda. They can even attach images of the key court cases that they or their clients consult regularly in the course of a case. Lawyers and clients are using extranets for a variety of nonlitigation matters as well, including as virtual data rooms, for tracking the status of multiple contract negotiations, for monitoring patent prosecutions, for creating shared databanks and form files and even for negotiating complex transactions. Clients operating on the cutting edge of this labor-saving technology are even receiving attorney invoices, managing the invoice review process and paying outside counsel all through an extranet. These and other specialized applications can be customized to a particular case. EXTRANETS SAVE MONEY From the client’s perspective, the three advantages of an extranet are that it is better, faster and cheaper. The client gets better information because the information comes directly from the lawyer and is already organized for the client directly on the client’s desktop. The information is received faster because as soon as the lawyer updates the data on the extranet, the client has it. It is cheaper because the lawyer spends less time on letters and phone calls to communicate information. Clients usually can also save on internal administrative costs because extranets eliminate much of the need for filing and keeping track of information pertaining to a case. Some corporate law department managers have discovered, as an unanticipated benefit, that extranets supplied by their outside counsel can help them meet their own information technology development challenges. They are under the same pressures from senior management to leverage the Internet and automate routine functions as other parts of their company. But they find themselves at the back of the line at their information services department when it comes to procuring equipment, applications and support. Outside counsel can really help clients by providing extranets that satisfy law department needs at no additional cost, and using equipment and applications the law department already has. Extranet-based information is available to clients 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from home, from the office or from anywhere an Internet connection is available. For lawyers who use extranets, a huge benefit is, simply, more satisfied clients — clients who believe they are getting better value for their legal-services dollar. In addition, lawyers who use extranets find themselves much more closely connected with their clients, perhaps becoming a virtual extension of the legal department. How does a law firm set up an extranet? There are two approaches: the internal approach and outsourcing. Whichever route a firm takes, however, it is important that the extranet pages be driven by databases, and not appear in a flat Web page format. Most of the litigation tools described earlier require a database engine to drive them effectively. Some lawyers have elected to develop their own extranet tools (the internal approach) but may host the site either internally or through a hosting vendor. Advantages to the internal approach include: � Security access and control.The law firm retains control over the data and who has access to it. Some clients will probably feel more comfortable with a lawyer-developed site instead of entrusting control over access to their privileged information to an unknown third-party Web hosting service. � Custom extranet tools.Like a custom-built house, a custom-built extranet looks just the way lawyers want it to and provides just the information that they want to deliver to their clients. Vendor-developed extranets sometimes provide only a standardized tool with limited flexibility or opportunity for customization. � Integration.Law firms may be able to pull data from some internal systems such as budgeting, accounting or other matter management directly into their extranet tools. ADVANTAGES OF OUTSOURCING Other firms find that outsourcing the extranet function to a vendor works better for them. Considerations for outsourcing include being sure to investigate thoroughly the vendor’s security and reliability, including backup procedures and redundancy; and using care with the terms of the contract the firm or its client executes to ensure it is clear that the law firm and its client own the data, and that the vendor is to deliver it in a usable format, on demand. An extranet set up through a vendor often takes much less time to set up than an internally developed site. Unless a law firm running its own extranets has reduced them to a series of standard templates which can be customized quickly for specific cases, internal development time and expense can be substantial. Outsourcing frequently saves law firms the substantial up-front expense necessary to purchase equipment and to build the extranet tools. Those development costs, if incurred internally, often cannot be passed on to the client. Of course, outsource vendors may charge substantial fees, together with monthly service charges, but law firms often can share those expenses with their clients. Outsource vendors often provide greater bandwidth, both technologically and in terms of support personnel, as well as superior scalability. Using an outsource vendor saves the law firm the expense of maintaining the in-house staff of Web developers required to design and implement their extranet tools. Note that when evaluating an extranet provider, an extranet user should not rely exclusively on glossy sales materials and PowerPoint presentations with screen shots of extranet pages. An extranet provider, whether a law firm or an outsource vendor, should be able to provide a live interactive demonstration enabling lawyers to use from their own computers each of the proposed extranet litigation support tools. Whether a law firm uses an outsource vendor or builds the extranets itself, the firm and its clients will likely find them to be a win-win solution. Extranet capability will be a key element of any sophisticated litigation practice in the years to come, and one that clients will be demanding of their regular outside counsel. Christopher King is a litigation and intellectual property partner in the Chicago office of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal and is the firm’s director of extranet development. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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