Sharepoint and Extranets

Law.com’s Legal Technology section has an article by Mark Gerow of Fenwick & West: Implementing Large-Scale Extranets.

Like Fenwick & West we also use Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 as our extranet platform. The trouble with using it as extranet is finding an attorney and finding a client with a matter they want to share information by using an extranet. Although there is a lot of talk about clients wanting extranets, I find it to be more talk than need or desire.

I was surprised to find that we have more extranets for litigation matters than transactional matters. I think the problem is the database style of presenting and holding information in Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 . The great thing is that Sharepoint gives you the flexibility to organize and display documents. The bad thing is that Sharepoint gives you the flexibility to organize and display documents. I believe the chronological display of litigation filings breaks the barrier of having to figure out how you want to display the documents.

One way I found to leverage the Sharepoint structure was to host the contracts be transferred under an asset acquisition agreement. Representing the seller, we published each of the contracts to the extranet site and tagged each entry with the corresponding item reference on the disclosure schedule to the asset purchase agreement. When looking at the schedule you could see a lease referenced as item 12 on schedule 1 of the disclosure schedule. You could then turn to the extranet site, quickly browse to the schedule 1 section and look on the list for item number 12. Then you can pull up the contract. The extranet was a great tool for use to organize the documents for our client and allowed the purchaser easy access to the documents.

I was surprised to hear that Fenwick & West automatically creates an extranet for each matter opened. Granted, the information for a blank Sharepoint site takes up little memory and space. Unless their extranets are widely used (and I have found few firms that widely use extranets) you end up with lots of dead extranet sites.

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