Leigh Day is a law firm with offices in London, Manchester and Liverpool. It was founded by Sarah Leigh and Martyn Day and celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. The firm currently has more than 400 staff, the majority in London, but with an office of more than 60 staff in Manchester and a small set-up in Liverpool.
Our practice areas include human rights, personal injury and clinical negligence, employment, product liability, and international personal injury.
The firm has expanded rapidly since 1987. In 2007 the firm decided to develop an intranet, going live on 17 October 2007.
The first intranet served us well for 10 years but a decade after the first project we felt that a new, more up-to-date and accessible intranet was needed to help maintain the special Leigh Day ethos following the firm’s rapid growth and to help people work more effectively.
Research and specification
I initially carried out a questionnaire survey of all staff using SurveyMonkey to find out what they wanted from a new intranet. A number of points emerged from this which formed the basis of the project specification. Staff were also invited to suggest a name for the intranet; the “Hub” was eventually chosen.
Overwhelmingly staff wanted a really efficient search function on the intranet; a revised structure and navigation to make it more user-friendly and more intuitive to use; and a quick way for users to find the firm’s policies and procedures. This last point is particularly important at the time of our Lexcel assessment when both our assessor and staff members need to be able to find our up-to-date policies quickly.
The firm’s management also wanted to eradicate any duplication of work by the business services departments so that, for example, a staff profile that is created in one place is then used by IT, payroll and intranet. In order for this to happen the Hub had to be able to synchronise with our HR system. We also wanted to be able to share updating duties so that different sections of the support side of the firm would be responsible for updating their own sections.
The introduction of the Hub was also seen as an opportunity to reduce the preponderance of email traffic. A message board feature where staff would have a space to share and post information was seen as vital for this, especially if it could feature some of the social media tools familiar to many, such as liking or commenting on a post.
Staff really wanted a single login for all the firm’s services, so the Hub needed to be able to synchronise with our daily login.
Other features that we needed were:
- different editorial rights to be allowed for some users
- ability to embed images (+ captions) in pages
- the colour and branding of the Hub to reflect that of the firm’s main website
- section where restricted content, eg partner meeting minutes/financial information, could be stored securely
- hosted on a secure server and backed up daily
- detail provided about restoration should the intranet fail/crash
- passwords to synchronise with universal login
- installation of google analytics to measure traffic and performance
- AA standard for accessibility
- fast load time
- site map
- confirmation that data is not held outside the EU
- procedure for management of intranet security and protection of data to be provided, including penetration tests.
At the time this project was planned, SharePoint was not one of the choices open to us so we asked a number of small agencies to pitch for the work using a different solution. The successful agency was DotLabel.
DotLabel suggested that we use Symfony 2.8 for this project which I asked our IT team to assess for vulnerabilities and reliability. IT reported positively on Symfony so we were able to proceed.
Having won the pitch for the work and signed non-disclosure agreements, DotLabel suggested holding a discovery workshop day so that they could really get to know the firm and its requirements. I had put together a focus group made up of a range of job roles, including a partner from the Manchester office, and this was the group that took part in the exercise.
During the day DotLabel took us through an extensive checklist ranging from project objectives, scope, success and considerations, brand, company structure, users, content, design, technical considerations and search options.
Following on from the discovery workshop we received the initial designs for the Hub and we started exchanging thoughts and responses on these, as well as thinking about the new structure of the Hub.
We had opted to copy old content over to the Hub manually ourselves to keep costs down and also took the opportunity to edit and delete content that was not heavily used on the intranet, or which was very out of date.
Design and functionality
The eventual design and structure of the Hub is a big improvement. We have used the header and footer of the intranet to provide quick links to heavily-used services, such as the HR system, the IT and facilities service desk, our e-learning platform, website, and heavily-used legal databases.
The firm’s twitter and Instagram posts are fed onto the home page which helps staff stay up-to-date with activities and website stories.
The search box is prominently placed in the footer and offers filtered searching once a user starts to type.
The CMS proved easy to use and moving content across was straightforward. Different teams in the business services section built their sections although the bulk of the content transfer remains with my team.
The IT team loaded the Hub icon onto all staff desktops and set IE to open the Hub automatically when people use it. The Hub went live the day before staff were informed so that we could check for any glitches. I organised a number of drop-in sessions for staff in London and also went to our Manchester office to take feedback and suggestions from staff there.
The reception to the Hub has been very positive:
“The Hub is brilliant!”
“The new Hub is really impressive. It looks really good and is easy to navigate. It makes finding policies / announcements / updates so much easier.”
“It’s very user-friendly. I liken the newsfeed to that of Facebook and so a useful chronological summary of recent events. The policies and procedures are now really easy to locate. This is ideal day-to-day generally and especially so with Lexcel approaching.”
“You did a great job designing the Hub, it’s really easy to use and very helpful.”
“I think the Hub is really brilliant! I am sure it must have taken a huge amount of work.”
“I just wanted to say that I think the hub is brilliant. I have found that it has very clear navigation tabs that lead me to relevant sections and is a great way for staff to interact. Also the colours used make reading easier!”
We had to spend more on development costs than planned because of problems in synchronising with our HR system which did not provide an easy way of exporting data to the Hub.
We had some hosting problems early on as a surge in usage first thing in the morning means we are using capacity that is then not needed for the rest of the day at an extra cost.
The reduction in email around the firm is a long-term objective, and one which will take some time to achieve. The library bulletins are not being circulated by email and are only available on the Hub which has already reduced the number of emails being sent from the library.
Overall the project has been a success. It was delivered within budget and only a few weeks late. There has already been an improvement in the division of labour, with the HR and marketing teams taking responsibility for their sections of the Hub, and the transfer of data from our HR system is working. Members of staff have been enthusiastic about posting items on the message board.
As with any system there are some small niggles, and the cost of hosting and supporting the Hub is far higher than the old intranet.
However, we now have an intranet that can be used easily by every member of staff and I look forward to developing different features on the Hub in the future to make it even more useful.
Helen Dewar is head of information services at Leigh Day. She is an experienced legal information professional and has had responsibility for the firm’s intranet for the last 10 years.