General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionMagazine
Extranets: A Secure, Private Network
Extranet services are designed with encryption technology to assure security and operate as a centralized digital repository for all your case information. There are both free extranet services such as FindLaw and pay services such as Legal Anywhere and Legal NetEx. There are also specialized pay services such as Legal Extranet for litigators.
The FindLaw Office offers many of the key features you need to get started with a digital practice. JusticeMail is a free e-mail service that lets you send and receive, organize mail into folders, and set up an address book to manage e-mail contacts. Firms Online helps you build a website for your practice in a matter of minutes, without needing to know anything about html language or web design. The service simply builds your site as you provide information, and also hosts the site for free.
NetDocuments is a secure service that lets you store and share electronic files over the Internet, with free basic service. Once you’ve created a document, you can share it with one or more colleagues electronically, granting editing and viewing rights for each user.
The Legal Anywhere service is called Collaborator and can be accessed at www.legalanywhere.com. This is a very impressive service that can be licensed for a one-time fee of $399 per user, $80 annually for updates, and a hosting fee of $10 per month per user. It operates "turn-key" (i.e., licensed to the lawyer and ready to use), the way law firms communicate, collaborate, and manage the knowledge used in the delivery of legal services. The most important area of the site for the purpose of the virtual office is the extranet Case area. This is where lawyers can communicate with clients and lawyers via document sharing and discussions. Also available is custom development of the site, so that you can link the legal extranet site to your own databases and firm intranet.
Internet technologies that are designed to handle specific casework, such as litigation, are also available. Though our firm does not handle much large-scale litigation, we have available the resources of the Legal Computer Solution’s Litigation Extranet (my brother is one of the company’s founders). The LCS legal extranet enables electronic management of attorney work product and documentary and testamentary evidence. Tools embedded in the technology include full text retrieval, database management, hypertext-based calendaring, docketing, e-mail, and bulletin board conferencing. For the digital lawyer, the legal extranet gives you access to electronic case files.