Monday, August 25, 2008

Interaction Portals -- ILTA 2008, Monday morning

Formal Title: InterAction - A Different Perspective Using Your Firm's Portal


As your entry point, your portal integrates data from disparate systems. We will demonstrate how InterAction information can be displayed in your portal and even combined with other firm intelligence to provide a comprehensive view of firm contacts.

Ayelette Robinson - Morrison & Foerster LLP and U of M.
Matt Dixon - Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis
Tim Jones - Bracewell & Giuliani LLP

My Take:

This session is of great interest to me because Interaction is my firm's Contact (or Client) Relationship Management Software, and is one of the main sources of information for matter management. We have spent and will spend a lot of time figuring out the best way to break information out of Interaction's own notoriously unfriendly user interface.

I enjoyed Ayelette Robinson’s presentation on how Morrison & Foester has taken advantage of Interaction to make contact information searcheable and in context with information from other firm systems, through the firm’s AnswerBase search. (AnswerBase is powered by Recommind’s MindServe search technology, one of the cutting-edge enterprise search tools in the legal industry.)

She covered “why” integrate Interaction into portals, but also showed pictures of AnswerBase’s Contacts search. She showed a closeup of a puppy and asked, “Who is the cute puglike dog in the picture? “ We might guess its breed, and we might know the dog’s name. Knowing that Rufus is George Clooney’s dog gives us a lot more Rufusy context.

Contact information grows and expands every day. Where contact information is spread across different systems like email and Contacts, it gets harder and harder to find. Users want contact information to be reliable, accessible in one place, and build in as much related context as possible for the contact. Context like your firm’s background with the client, who at your firm knows the client, cultural information like education and social networks, and so forth. HR information may help contextualize the information about an employee’s relationship with an outside contact, by providing your employees’ title. Documents and email, as well as billing or marketing information, also provide context for the relationship and the next contact.

How are you going to get the data?

Automated maintenance is critical. Syncing up with Outlook is one way. Relationship discovery through email analysis (i.e., as through Contact Networks) is another way. A third way is to draw out entities from documents, or leverage existing information in Interaction to get to the company’s web site.

Where you can, integrate with attorney workflow. Get emails into matter- or client-related projects. MoFo has a window that suggests a client/matter for the email on sending. Or, require attorneys to identify contact information in connection with expense reimbursements.

AnswerBase has 4 categories of searches, Documents, Personnel, Contacts, and Matters (Projects), as they found that people were usually looking for one of these. This presentation is about the Contacts search.

You can refine “Contact” as either “MoFo Contact” or “Related Contact.” The full company profile hides the Interaction GUI profile. A client record shows MoFo contacts, ranked by number of stars (out of 5); the basis of rank is emails (perhaps vetted through Contact Networks?) with particular people over a given date range. The record also shows the type of law addressed in the emails, as determined by the emails between MoFo and outside contacts that have been tagged to a given type of matter (e.g., patent).

She also showed a sample Cal. state court contact record, with related documents and employees.

You can have a ranking of strength of contact so long as the attorneys can also drill down into the reason for the ranking. At the outset Ayelette recommends having specific goals like “% increase attendance at marketing events” or “% increase business with existing client”-type goals.

The thrust of her talk is that the key to successful portal display of Interaction contact information is providing as much additional context to the contacts as possible. Just as MoFo was out front among law firms in rolling out enterprise search, they are once again leading the way in terms of providing user-friendly access to rich contextual information about firm contacts.

Tim Jones

Tim Jones has published a White Paper on the content of his presentation, on Integrating LexisNexis InterAction with Portals in August 2008. Download Tim’s White Paper at

In a portal, you can show context because contacts and other informaiton are related in some way.

Interaction has room for additional fields that could include information like floor, floor map information, matter numbers, or client numbers. Tim discussed the different technical approaches to getting information out of Interaction and into a portal.

He encouraged us to write our own Sharepoint webparts because the built-in ones don’t do everything you need. Much of his talk was quite technical, which seemed to suit the rest of the audience quite well but went some distance over my head.

Unfortunately I had to leave before I could hear Matt Dixon’s presentation, which also was to address integrating Microsoft Sharepoint with Interaction.

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