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Reimagining a Collaborative Intranet for the Future

A man in a suit is climbing the stairs.

A global law firm in Chicago needed a faster, more secure, better organized collaboration platform that could give each department access to marketing information at a moment’s notice. Their previous intranet, built in 2006 with SharePoint 2007 on 2003 servers, was sadly outdated. Essential and widely used resources were housed in disconnected databases. With 2003 services no longer supported, it also posed a security risk. How could they improve access, tighten security, and make it easier to collaborate?


Before writing a line of code, it was important to understand what the new intranet needed to do. Together with the law firm, we captured the day-to-day needs of users by interviewing them and developing 37 administrative “use cases,” including eight for search alone. Since everyone uses the site differently, the firm decided it needed a robust search function. We designed a search function that would pull not only from SharePoint, but also from four other vital information databases: the website, a secured document management system, their billing system, and HR’s people database. Everything can be accessed from a search bar on the home page. Users can now tag documents, making search exponentially more effective.


The team completed a full migration from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2013, launching the new portal with firm-wide communications—emails, mail, intranet posts, training and humorous videos. Launch week also included launch parties to train users on the basics. They were also directed to a training page and a feedback button. Because of this successful rollout, the client’s team received only 42 helpline and feedback tickets during launch week.


The new SharePoint intranet was completed on time and within budget, even with an expedited migration required due to the security vulnerability. The new intranet’s intuitive navigation and simplified search have encouraged greater use over the client’s old intranet (Figure 1). Key features include:

  • Powerful search, right on the home page, that accesses information in multiple databases
  • Cross Service videos, featuring new laterals, practice chairs, etc.
  • New Matters section, which shows matters unique to each lawyer on the home page
  • Department members’ current information is pulled directly from the active HR directory


The intranet’s intuitive navigation and simplified search have encouraged greater use over their old intranet.


The new intranet is an innovative way to provide access to data that previously was not searchable or viewable by the users who needed it most. The team leveraged modern technology to build an intranet that works the way people work today—to put it simply, “google” what you need and move on. Making this kind of change—“how we’ve always done it” to the best way to do it now—meant challenging assumptions and pushing mental boundaries.

It would have been easier to start with fresh data, but in a fast-moving business like this firm, that never happens. Instead, the team worked with mountains of documents and information that were already being used within other systems, mapped it all to one central location, and built a search function that enabled users to find and combine exactly what they needed. The return on investment is already being seen as users spend less time performing redundant functions and more time serving clients and focusing on important legal matters.