Case 4: Small Business

Case Overview:

You have just been hired as a technology director for a small law firm in West Rogers Park, Illinois. The firm is comrpised of four partners, an assistant for each partner, an office manager, a billing manager, and two paralegals. The firm is located in a restored Victorian house. The firm has been losing clients over the past two years in part because the partners and paralegals are billing for library time at Loyala, Northwestern, and DePaul law libraries. The firm has a small reference library section and no electronic library or informatin resources. You have no experience with legal computing, and your first task will be to become familiar with the technology needs of a standard law office.

Your job will be to design, develop, and implement a network that support the functions of the law offices. Specifically, document preparataion (briefs, cases, legal forms, etc.), appointments, scheduling, billing, and accounting software will run on all desktops. Internet access, access to Lexis and Westlaw, and access to purchased CD-ROM based case law will also be required. Part of your responsibility will be to survey the software resources available and help to educate the firm in the options they have. Finally, each member of the firm (partners and staff) will require extensive training. You may want to survey training options (contracting out, buying videos, buying software, or doing the training yourself) to see which options might be right for the firm. Don't just assume that you have to do the training.

All staff must be able to share files and data, and to access shared resources such as a fax server, high-speed high-resolution (1200 dpi) laser printer, and CD-ROM tower. Security will be a concern to the partners, as client confidentiality is critical.

Functional Specifications:

Partner Offices:

Partner offices should be equipped with state-of-the-art multimedia capable computers and network connections. Since no technology currently exists in the building, you have free reign on your recommendations. Partner workstations must include storage devices that can be physically secured (e.g., a PC-card-based hard disk, removable hard disk, etc.).

Staff Offices:

Staff offices should be equipped similarly to partner offices, though top-of-the-line equipment is not necessary for these offices. Staff offices must also have access to the network, but do not require removable permanent storage.

Conference Rooms:

There are three small conference rooms in the office. Each should be equipped five network connections placed around the room, along with adequate power. LCD-based projection devices will need to be purchased, as well as high-intensity, low-heat overhead projectors.

Library:

The firm's library is currently rather small (less than 2,000 volumes) and contains no technology. The firm has committed $350,000 of its technology budget for the purcahse of digital information and reference resources. As stated earlier, Lexis and Westlaw access is critical. Access to the Federal Code of Regulations, case law compendia for state, federal, and international cases, the constitution, and other legal resources is also necessary. You must wire the library and locate a beginning set of resources for the library. The resources available for the library portion of this project may very well drive the specifications for all other aspects of the project.

Remote Access:

All partners have stated a strong desire for remote access to applications and files at the office from their home or laptop computers. One of the paralegals is pregnant and has agreed to continue working from home three days a week after her baby is born, so some staff will also need remote access to technology resources at the firm. Investigate and recommend a remote access system that ensures security and robust, low-maintenance remote access for each user in the firm.

Budget:

Library Resources $350,000
Infrastructure, workstations, servers, etc. $250,000