Leigh Day & Co is a 24partner firm in London that specialises in clinical negligence, personal injury and human rights law. The firm has grown rapidly in the last few years with a total staff of some 150. I was asked to help commission a new intranet for the firm in 2006, it launched in October 2007 and I wrote about the process in the January 2009 issue of this Newsletter.
Our original aim in introducing an intranet was to move away from a paper-based system of arranging non-confidential information about the way the firm is run and to get rid of the office manual which was an enormous Microsoft Word document. We also wanted to provide a quick and easy way for people to check a staff directory.
Both these aims have been achieved, although it has taken a while for everyone to engage with the intranet, and the project is largely considered a success. Other features that have been introduced on the intranet have been well received.
Three years later it seems a good time to take a look at how the intranet is being used, what changes have been made and what lessons have been learnt.
The layout of the intranet was re-structured in quite a major way when the firm started to consider its Lexcel application. Some of the older headings in the original office procedure section have now been replaced by the divisions suggested by Lexcel. Many more policies and procedures have been added since the intranet was first launched. The process of adding and removing material, whilst easy, requires a disciplined and ordered approach to ensure that out of date policies are never left on the site. It was obvious after the site had been running for some months that it was also important to keep old versions of policies even if they were not posted on the intranet so that changes to policies could be tracked.
Initially it was hoped that each department would use a departmental resources section to post useful material of interest to colleagues. In practice this was not used by fee-earners and so I have removed these sections.
One step that we took about a year after the launch of the intranet was to ask the intranet developers to install the code that Google analytics uses to measure site visitor statistics. This has proved a valuable way of demonstrating to partners that the intranet is widely used by support and legal staff and also tells us which parts of the site are most visited.
The search function on the intranet has been improved with the introduction of the option to search either Google or just the intranet.
Moving from a Word-based manual to an intranet had more training implications that we initially realised. Training on the intranet is part of all new staff’s induction process but I have recently held some open training sessions for existing members of staff to encourage the use of all parts of the intranet. There is a lot of useful information such as a CPD points register, list of languages spoken in the firm and list of associations that the firm or lawyers belong to that many staff did not realise was available to them. One lesson to absorb is that continual training should be offered to staff so that they get the best out of the intranet.
The most popular parts of the intranet remain the home page, the staff directory, office procedures, useful documents and the library pages. Lessons to be learnt here are that the home page must be kept up to date. This means, among other things, making sure that photos of new staff are taken as soon as possible. The home page also has as a permanent feature links to the telephone list and to the useful documents page. “Useful documents” was introduced after secretaries reported that they were finding it difficult to locate the equivalent of old word documents. The page now lists all the most commonly used items such as the client care letter.
The main success of the intranet is that is it now automatically seen as the place to go to for all firm policies and procedures and housekeeping-related issues. The most important point to consider post-launch is that constant consultation and training is very important to reinforce the message that the intranet is useful and a natural starting point for many, if not all, queries about how the firm is run and who is responsible for what.
The intranet was developed by Sygnet Interactive who have provided a very responsive service. The company has added small changes, for example increasing the colour palette used on the intranet and introducing the ability to add pictures to the staff notice-board for a small charge.
Helen Dewar is a freelance law librarian and website editor at Leigh Day & Co.