Lawyers In New Media
Dec 29th, 2008
I’ve just finished a project: DigitalHHR – a WordPress blog for the Intellectual Property department of a big law firm. The IP department, consisting of 4 lawyers, wanted a online platform to promote their ideas and opinions about intellectual property and generate good press for their firm. I was under contract to a wonderful creative agency, Aha! Insight Technology and was working again with Howard Greenstein. Howard provided the strategic direction, project management and training for the client while I provided the technology.
Howard proposed a robust set of features to showcase their familiarity with leading edge, social media technologies and services. The specifications called for an integrated BBs, an event manager, feature-rich videos, a Flash-powered header with a customized navigation menu tying it all together. Howard and I knew we were pushing the limits of WordPress and that’s what the client wanted to show off.
We started with a three column theme, Seashore by Sadish Bala. I added a video presentation space on top of the sidebars and a game space below. With a bit of work, I was able to shoehorn the custom flash video the lawyers designed into the header code and replaced the generated navigation menu with a two-level structure.
The four lawyers were already blogging on other sites. This was their first opportunity, not only to write under their own brand, but to actually craft that brand as publishers and editors. As they began to post articles, they became concerned about their authorship rights —they’re IP lawyers, remember, and important ones at that! So, as we neared completion of the project, new feature requests started creeping in.
They wanted special lawyer profile pages so they could edit in additional content about themselves. These page would feature a portrait image and an expanded contact section with a download-able, virtual address card. For these special pages, I cloned the standard single page template and modified it to fetch the page author’s portrait photo from a sub directory of /wp-content. I setup custom fields for the contact information and displayed those next to the portrait image. Following that, I formatted a box to display the most recent posts by that author. Finally, I displayed whatever content they wanted to add via the post editor. Click here to see some of the code.
The head partner of the IP division liked the profile page so much that he wanted a special version just for himself that also displayed any press articles written about him. I figured out how to accomplish that using a custom post field and some more template programming.
They also wanted to post co-authored articles. I know that there was third-party plug-in that did something like that, but at this late stage of the project, it was easier to add more template modifications to get exactly the functionality the client wanted. The solution we devised features a double portrait image, double email links and a hook to pick up the post for the special lawyer profile pages.
It’s been exciting to watch this blog progress from it’s initial launch last month. Everything we did is being used by the client and it’s all working well.