The latest issue of Law Technology Today has a piece on extranets: Extranets 2.0: Using Extranets to Build Client Relationships by John C. Trednnick, Jr.
I am heavily involved in the extranet deployment at my firm. We have a few dozen extranets deployed using Sharepoint.
Mr. Trednnick proposes opening your intranet or using the document management system to external users. Our extranet platform requires the user to export the document form internal system into the extranet. I have been very cautious of making it too easy (read accidentally) to publish something on the extranet. The convenience of linking the two may be outweighed by the lack of clarity of when a document ends up outside the firewall.
I find a request for extranets in most RFP and client engagements, but little follow up from the client of the responsible attorney. My theory is that both sides do not really know what they want from an extranet.
Most people want drafts of documents under negotiation to be circulated by email and have a negative reaction to being told to go the extranet for the draft. I do find extranets to be a great repository for diligence information and for tracking matters.
Since diligence documents are not static it is easy to add a list and post them to a site. For an asset purchase agreement, I posted the assigned contracts from the schedule to the agreement on an extranet. This helped both the buyer and seller to make sure they were dealing with the same set of documents that are labeled in the same way. This was very successful.
I also put together an extranet to track the status of transactions. The key people are listed along with other columns of information, such as the location of the asset, key dates and type of transaction. This is a great tool for the client and us to share information.
We several successful deployments maintaining a client’s intellectual property portfolio on an extranet. We also have several deployments maintaining litigation documents to be shared among co-counsel