For Toronto law firm Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, the goal is simple. All the firm’s lawyers should have access to the information they need, wherever they are.

The approach the firm has chosen is an information portal based on Novell Portal Services. Currently, the portal is accessible directly

from the firm’s five offices in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver. Employees who need access while traveling or outside the office can connect using Metaframe client software from Citrix Systems Inc. Joel Alleyne, Borden Ladner Gervais’ chief information officer and chief knowledge officer, says that by early next year, he hopes to eliminate the need for the client software, making access possible through any browser.

That will make it easier for lawyers to get at the information they need wherever they are. “”The browser could be your handheld,”” Alleyne says.

He adds Borden Ladner Gervais has three key enterprise applications: financial information, client relationship management and document management. Today, the portal provides access to financial data and limited access to the firm’s customer relationship management (CRM) system. It also connects users to the corporate directory and phone book. Soon, the firm plans to upgrade its document management system and make that accessible through the portal as well.

“”The purpose of the portal is to serve up information and knowledge artifacts as well as to give people access to applications,”” Alleyne says, adding security is important, especially for a law firm.

While security requires constant vigilance, Alleyne says, the technology currently available does provide an acceptable level of security if properly used.

Borden Ladner Gervais is finishing work on a single sign-on system that will let it establish once that anyone connecting to the portal is who he or she claims to be. Due to be working this month, the system will allow more convenient access to corporate information while preserving security.

Eventually, says Alleyne, the firm wants to be able to extend access to some data to clients as well as employees. For instance, if the firm is acting for a client in an ongoing court case, the client could have electronic access to court documents as soon as they become available. Clients would also have immediate access to the most up-to-date versions of legal documents, such as leases, maintained for them by the law firm.

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