Demonstrating a superb combination of client service and marketing, Winston & Strawn has built an Extranet for one of their key clients, solving a crucial problem for the client and firmly bonding the company to the law firm.
And the law firm got paid for its work!
The successful Extranet project was displayed at the April 18, 2000 Chicago Legal Marketing Association chapter meeting. Our partnering relationship goes far beyond the Extranet, said Barbara Sessions, Marketing Director for Winston & Strawn in Chicago. But when you are think about your long-term relationships with your clients, Extranets make a huge difference.
The Panelists were Mark Ohringer, Deputy General Counsel, Heller Financial, Inc.; Mary Riedesel, Legal Assistant, Heller Financial, Inc.; David Hambourger, Of Counsel, Director of Practice Support, Winston & Strawn; and John Fish,President and CEO of Hubbard Online,
An Extranet is a Web-based secure communication tool for select groups of people, according to John Fish, president and CEO of Hubbard Online, which develops Extranets, Web sites and Intranets. While Web sites are open to the public, and Intranets are open only to internal staff, an Extranet fits in between.
You are connecting two worlds with an Extranet, Fish said. You can collaborate with others across a wider audience. Only visitors with passwords can access an Extranet, which is viewable by Web browser. With an Extranet, law firm staff plus the selected outsiders can exchange documents, review bills, enter time, send secure e-mails, view biographies, publications and news. "Walter" to the Rescue
Winston s happy client is Heller Financial, Inc., the No. 1 small business lender in the country. With a $25 million annual legal budget, Heller employs 25 law firms, chiefly turning to Winston & Strawn and Goldberg Kohn Bell Black Rosenbloom & Moritz, both of Chicago. Every transaction needs a lawyer, said Mark Ohringer, Deputy General Counsel, Heller Financial, Inc. We have a lot of needs that our Extranet will solve.
The client s problem was that it had dozens of form documents for six different lines of business. As regulations and laws change, the forms must be updated and distributed to all of its law firms. We as a company need to have one set of form documents; it s been a huge logistical task distributing these to our counsel, Ohringer said.
Winston & Strawn s solution was to store all the forms on an Extranet, slyly named Walter after Walter Heller, who founded Heller Financial 80 years earlier. The Extranet is built on client research. David Hambourger, Of Counsel and Director of Practice Support for Winston, spent months meeting with the client s personnel, to determine what they wanted to accomplish. On January 1, 20000, Walter was launched at http://www.hellerlegalservices.com .
Winston administers and provides tech support for the Extranet under a contract with Heller. Content on the site is the property of Heller.
In a live demonstration of the site, Mary Riedesel, a Legal Assistant with Heller Financial, showed that visitors to the site must log in with a user name and password. Heller gives out passwords to lawyers at some 25 law firms. Ordinary user access is read-only, meaning a visiting lawyer can view, download and copy documents, but not edit, add or delete them.
A navigation bar remains visible on the left side of screen throughout the site, making the site easy to use. A document can be examined to show its profile, date last update and the name of the editor. Only those with editor access can post, change or delete a document on Walter.
Documents include a credit agreement, equity documents, guaranty documents, letters of credit, loan agreements, organizational due diligence documents, payoff documents, third party debt documents, standard pre-closing documents and many more. There s even a list of Heller acronyms.
Now we have one place to fix a form, Ohringer said. It used to be that it was so onerous to change a form that we wouldn t even bother to try. With Walter, we can keep our law firms current and make changes in minutes.
Interestingly, the forms are organized by business groups at Heller, not by area of law (as a law firm would organize things.) Most of the content is driven by the client, which is a little reversed from what you normally see, with the law firm advising the clients, Hambourger said.
Ohringer added, Outside counsel are an absolute extension of us. The challenge is how to get them to know us, know what our business lines are and know who our officers are. How do we communicate this to hundreds of outside lawyers? How do you get new lawyers oriented? We wanted to have one place where we could send people. Walter was our answer.
Ohringer and Hambourger said that the Extranet is a work in progress. For example, the site is a copy of the actual forms, not the live data on Heller s computer system.There is no encryption and there could be security breaches. Nothing on the Extranet is covered by attorney-client privilege or work product protection. However, there is no highly sensitive data on Walter. We don t have the formula for Coca-Cola on there, Ohringer said. We just decided we wouldn t lose sleep that our customers could shop our forms all over the place.
Extranet Marketing Power
Winston s Extranet capability has helped us get a couple of clients, or keep a couple of clients, that we wouldn t have gotten before, Hambourger said. Winston has more than 10 Extranets in development now.
The Extranet works on so many marketing levels, because it:
Welds a client to the law firm
Markets the tech capacity of the law firm
Differentiates the law firm Solves a business problem for the client
Deepens the relationship with the client
Empowers the client to manage its legal work Is built on client researchExtranets of Tomorrow
For long-term, high-value clients, an approach like Walter makes sense, said panelist John Fish. Most law firms don t have Extranets today, Fish assured the audience. Law firms that do have them, use Extranets for document exchange and archiving, bulletin boards, chat and e-mail forums, announcements, team and collaboration efforts, and joint editing of documents.
Fish said that in the near future, Extranets will feature video conferencing, status reports on legal matters, and the integration of databases for billing and contacts. A law firm s Extranet will become the central information portal for clients. When a client visits the firm s Web site, they can identify themselves and everything they will see going forward will be customized. Everything will be in the context of what s interesting to them.