Information in Context

“Information in context” is the simplest way to describe our firm’s new portal. There are a variety of contexts – personal pages, practice areas, library services, a learning centre, firm services and departments and clients and matters. Our portal is highly integrated with a number of firm applications, including our document management system and our accounting system. Users access all of their applications and all on-line services from the portal (the portal is the new firm desktop – on the screen 24/7).

I was particularly interested in figuring out how to integrate “external” information into our portal pages. Before tackling RSS, we implemented Lexis Publisher – this allows us to deliver the search results from a particular Lexis/Nexis search to a specific location on a portal page. A number of practice areas have already implemented searches based on specific industries and clients. Lexis Publisher is a great way to deliver this premium content to target locations (premium content can also be something as simple as a recent newspaper or magazine article or a recent case).

One of our current challenges is figuring out how best to integrate the power of RSS feeds into these various contexts. Lexis Publisher can deliver its search results using RSS, which opens up some intriguing potential for our enterprise wide RSS aggregator from Newsgator. Newsgator allows us to set up firm groups (eg practice areas seems like an obvious place to start). We are planning to find a few RSS feeds of particular relevance to each practice area, along with a few feeds of interest to the firm as a whole.

We are able to subscribe users automatically to the RSS feeds based on their practice area (this is set in Microsoft Active Directory). Users are free to set up their own feeds too. Newsgator also allows a firm to set up its own taxonomy of feeds (we have a firm wide taxonomy of practice areas and legal services that we will use) so that users can easily pick from “pre-cateogorized” feeds.

If anyone else is embarking on this sort of exercise and wants to compare notes on practice area specific feeds, please feel free to comment.

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Comments

  1. Congratulations Elizabeth! Sounds like a very impressive project, and a ton of work. I’m curious to how you’re tackling your training issues, and if you have an internal marketing plan in place?

    For the RSS integration, perhaps building a series of ‘feed digests’ (splicing multiple feeds together into one) geared either towards practice areas, or topical ‘areas of law’, and letting the lawyers choose their poison? Another alternative to consider would be to build a series of opml import files (downloadable off of the Intranet/portal), and let the Lawyers cull their own feed collections.

    Some thoughts anyway. :-)

  2. Elizabeth – I am thrilled by you sharing with us this detailed account of practical issues you had to struggle with. I like the concept of “information contexts” as a way of describing your corporate portal. The integration of external resources into our future portal is also of concern to me; I have tried to generalize the requirement in the following form:

    http://imbok.blogspot.com/2005/12/new-face-of-enterprise-seach.html

    About the integration of RSS feeds in various information contexts, the approach we are taking can be described as follows:

    – The portal will have six personalization contexts: World, Government of Canada, National Defence (our main “client”), Office of the JAG (our “firm”), Directorate or Regional Office (the user workgroup) and User.

    – In each context, corresponding to a tab on the portal for example (that has not been decided yet), feeds are automatically included as mandatory depending on your user category (lawyer, paralegal, support staff, etc.) and optional feeds can be subscribed to by the user.

    – Several feeds will automatically be generated by internal blogs, that is, we will select and deploy a blogging platform on our intranet allowing for the creation of blogs. The first use of this blogging capability will be to create blogs and redirect mass emails to subject-based blogs!…Can’t wait – no more hundreds of emails when you’re back from vacation!

    – Other feeds will be generated by wiki pages corresponding to an internal hierarchical Master Index of legal topics in our three areas of practice: Military Justice, Operational Law and Military Administrative Law. In other words, a wiki platform will be deployed enabling the creation of one page per law topic and these wiki pages will offer RSS feeds. See, for an example, the Cornell Law School law wiki:

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/index.php/Main_Page

    In the end, we will rationalize the variety of ad hoc application and databases currently used to three systems: Document and Records Management System, a Case Management System and a corporate portal.

    I can then retire! ;-)