Ballard Spahr LLP.
Launch Site

Ballard Spahr is a large law firm from Philadelphia, with offices in other cities, and a long legacy. The project entailed implementing a redesign, building the site with Sitecore and porting content from an existing database: Hubbard-One. They wanted easy access to their lawyers through a search tool throughout the site was going to be a focal point for visitors. The results would draw upon a pool of professional bio pages. This would make sure that visitors could find a lawyer and contact them easily.

I started by working to port the content from the Hubbard database. This proved to be fully challenging considering that many of the tables were named almost identically to each other leaving me to guess which was the most up-to-date. I basically had to determine which tables were related to other tables by their foreign keys to know how to build the join queries and retrieve the data. Once I mapped the data correctly I ended up building a tool that would automate the import process and allow me to delete the content and reimport it if there was a problem with the import. It was a case of necessity being the mother of invention.

One challenge aside there were still a lot left to contend with, not the least of which was making sure that the design wasn't compromised by the limits of IE6, which we had to support. The design was provided by Cahan, a agency in California. It was a bright, clean design. One that really gave a reboot to the image of a storied institution. There were of course unconventional elements. The office and careers section stand out among them. Ballard and the designer wanted to give a fresh look. The careers section would have a bright yellow background to give it it's character. The office section on the other hand would start with a flash map of the country with selectable office locations and would lead into a completely different design from the rest of the site. This section proved to be very challenging with small content area that had to contain many of the page types elsewhere in the site, (search, article listing) only with a new styling. Then there was also the challenge of making the entire site printable in all browsers. I will at least say that I find it much easier debugging print stylesheets these days.

Some other notable highlights from the project were the Bio PDFs, VCards, and VEvents that are generated for each lawyer on the fly and prompted for download. I ended up using an open source PDF generator but the VCard and VEvents were custom built to write the generated XML to a file. There were several searches also custom-built and integrated to make a rich site full of accessible information.

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