How panel firms and in-house teams can use IT to collaborate; and risk-managing social media.

Corporate legal departments want to get closer to their external legal advisers, in terms of sharing data and knowledge, tighter IT integration and greater collaboration with and between panel firms.

It has almost become general practice for firms to share knowledge and know how with clients. This adds value because many large organisations have relatively small legal teams and do not invest in knowledge resources to the same extent as their external firms.

As law firms differentiate themselves in the market by specialist knowledge which might include industry/sector expertise and in-depth understanding of client processes and preferences, how do they manage tighter integration with other firms? Do they need to draw a line between collaboration and competition? How much can they share without giving away their competitive advantage, as their collaborative partner on one panel could be their competition on another?

Firms regularly give clients online access to matter and billing information, and self-service guidance and advice. This has extended from portals and extranets to apps. For example, south-west firm Stephens Scown created apps to give commercial and residential property clients real-time, self-service, mobile access to their documents and billing information.

As Stephens Scown is regularly instructed by corporate and commercial clients on a range of legal issues – including commercial, employment and property matters – IT director Dean Mostert developed a client dashboard, accessed via an online portal, to give senior corporate management a bird’s-eye view of all their company’s legal matters, including real-time financials and work in progress. This does not include access to documents, but these can be accessed via the app.

Read the rest of the article by Johanna Goodman at