Custom Intranet Dev: Is It Worth the Risk?

As a CIO or CKIO of an Am Law 200 firm, you’re facing a critical decision: how to modernize your on-premise intranet by moving to the cloud.

You might be considering custom development, believing it will give you a tailored solution that addresses all your firm’s specific requirements. After all, who knows your firm’s needs better than you and your team?

You’re likely grappling with several key questions:

  • Can out-of-the-box SharePoint Online truly meet the unique needs of a large law firm?
  • What are the hidden costs and long-term implications of custom development?
  • How can you balance the desire for a tailored solution with the need for sustainability and future-proofing?
  • What can you learn from other firms that have already navigated this decision?
  • Are there alternatives that offer the best of both worlds—tailored functionality with reduced risk?

The Hidden Costs and Risks of Custom Development

Some firms have invested years and significant resources into custom solutions, only to later pivot to off-the-shelf products. Others have found ways to bridge the gap between standard offerings and their specific needs without the burden of full custom development.

Let’s examine the pros and cons of various approaches, drawing insights from real-world experiences of law firms that have faced similar decisions. Our goal is to provide you with the information you need to make an informed choice that aligns with your firm’s strategic goals and technological needs.

As you read through this page, you’ll have a clearer understanding of the options available to you and be better equipped to lead your firm’s intranet modernization efforts, ensuring that no stone goes unturned in your decision-making process.


Time and Resource Intensity

Custom development isn’t just a project—it’s a long-term commitment. Many firms underestimate the time and internal resources required not only for initial development but also for ongoing maintenance and updates. You may find yourself dedicating years to the project, pulling valuable IT staff away from other critical initiatives.


Escalating Costs

The total cost of ownership for a custom solution can be difficult to predict and often exceeds initial estimates. Beyond the upfront development costs, you’ll need to factor in ongoing maintenance, troubleshooting, and updates to keep pace with SharePoint Online’s evolving features.


Keeping Pace with Technology

Microsoft regularly updates SharePoint Online, introducing new features and sometimes deprecating old ones. Your custom solution will require constant attention to remain compatible and take advantage of new capabilities. Can your team keep up with these changes while also addressing your firm’s evolving needs?


Bridging the Gaps

Out-of-the-box SharePoint Online functionality often falls short of meeting the specific needs of large law firms. You’ll likely need to develop custom solutions for areas like document management, matter-centric workspaces, and ethical walls. Identifying and addressing these gaps can lead to scope creep and extended timelines.


Risk of Obsolescence

Technology and business needs evolve rapidly. There’s a risk that by the time your custom solution is fully implemented, it may already be approaching obsolescence. This can lead to a cycle of continuous development that strains resources and budgets.


Knowledge Retention

Custom solutions often rely on the expertise of specific team members. If these key personnel leave, you may face challenges in maintaining and evolving your intranet. This creates a long-term vulnerability for your firm’s digital infrastructure.


Compliance and Security Challenges

Ensuring that your custom solution meets all necessary compliance and security standards can be complex and time-consuming. You’ll need to continuously update and test your system to maintain compliance with evolving regulations.

Real-World Insight: The Pivot from Custom to Off-the-Shelf

Consider the experience of Ogletree Deakins, a leading labor and employment law firm. They invested three years in developing and implementing a custom intranet solution, even winning ILTA’s Transformative Project of the Year award. However, the ongoing resource requirements for maintenance became unsustainable, leading them to pivot to an off-the-shelf solution.

This case underscores a crucial point: even successful custom implementations can become burdensome over time, potentially necessitating a costly and time-consuming shift in strategy.

Before committing to custom development, it’s essential to thoroughly evaluate all options and consider the long-term implications for your firm.

We invested 3 years of our time and money getting to that point [with a custom solution] only to pivot [to an off-the-shelf solution].

Exploring Alternatives: The Case for Off-the-Shelf Solutions

While custom development may seem like the only way to meet your firm’s unique needs, there are compelling reasons to consider off-the-shelf solutions designed specifically for law firms.


Rapid Implementation

Off-the-shelf solutions can often be implemented much more quickly than custom developments. This means you can start realizing benefits sooner and with less disruption to your firm’s operations.


Predictable Costs

With a pre-built solution, you’ll have a clearer picture of both upfront and ongoing costs. This predictability can make budgeting and resource allocation more straightforward.


Continuous Improvement

Vendors of specialized legal intranet solutions are constantly updating their products based on feedback from multiple law firms. This means you benefit from collective industry insights and best practices without having to drive all innovations yourself.


Built-in Compliance and Security

Many off-the-shelf solutions for law firms come with robust compliance and security features built-in, reducing the burden on your IT team to develop and maintain these critical components.


Scalability and Future-Proofing

Leading off-the-shelf solutions are designed to scale with your firm’s growth and adapt to changing technology landscapes. This can provide better long-term value compared to custom solutions that may become outdated.


Reduced IT Burden

By opting for a vendor-supported solution, you can free up your IT resources to focus on strategic initiatives rather than maintaining and updating a custom intranet.


Best of Both Worlds

Some off-the-shelf solutions offer extensive customization options, allowing you to tailor the platform to your firm’s needs without starting from scratch.

Real-World Perspective: Addressing Complex Legal DMS Needs

Chad Ergun, CIO at Lewis Roca, offers valuable insights into the challenges of custom SharePoint development for Document Management Systems (DMS) in law firms.

His experience highlights the complexity of integrating SharePoint with other critical systems and the importance of dynamic metadata management. Chad emphasizes the need for advanced search capabilities and robust security features.

Chad’s perspective underscores the value of purpose-built legal solutions that address these specific needs out-of-the-box, potentially offering a more sustainable and scalable alternative to custom development.

Off-the-shelf solutions often come with pre-built integrations for financial systems and matter intake processes, addressing a key pain point of custom development.

Introducing Infodash: The Smart Choice for Am Law 200 Firms

Infodash is a purpose-built intranet solution for Am Law 200 firms, offering the best of both worlds: the power of SharePoint Online with legal-specific functionality.

After exploring the challenges of custom development and the benefits of off-the-shelf solutions, it’s clear that law firms need a purpose-built intranet platform that combines the best of both worlds. This is where Infodash comes in.

Infodash is a comprehensive intranet solution designed specifically for Am Law 200 firms. It leverages the power of SharePoint Online while addressing the unique needs of large law firms. With Infodash, you get legal-specific functionality out of the box, including advanced document management, matter-centric workspaces, and robust ethical walls. This means you can have your new intranet up and running in months, not years, without straining your internal IT resources.

One of the key advantages of Infodash is its ability to evolve with your firm. Our team continuously innovates, delivering updates and new features driven by insights from our network of leading law firms. This ensures that your intranet remains cutting-edge and aligned with industry best practices.

Infodash seamlessly integrates with your existing legal tech stack, enhancing your firm’s overall digital ecosystem. As your firm grows and technology evolves, Infodash grows with you, ensuring your investment remains valuable for years to come. Moreover, Infodash offers the flexibility to tailor the platform to your firm’s specific needs without the risks and long-term maintenance challenges of full custom development.

By choosing Infodash, you’re not just getting a product – you’re partnering with a team that understands the unique challenges of legal technology. Our experience working with Am Law 200 firms ensures that you’ll have a solution that meets your needs today and evolves with your firm in the future.

Don’t just take our word for it. Reach out to learn how other leading law firms have transformed their digital workspaces with Infodash. Let us show you how we can help your firm achieve its intranet goals without the risks and burdens of custom development.


Predictable TCO

Transparent pricing with no hidden costs, unlike custom development projects.


Rapid Time-to-Value

Deploy your new intranet in months, not years.


Seamless Integration

Effortlessly connects with your existing legal tech stack and workflows.

Ready to see how Infodash can transform your firm's intranet? Contact us today for a demo.