How Lawyers and Law Firms Are Using Microsoft Office 365

For a busy lawyer or a law firm, taking advantage of all the tools available to streamline and increase productivity is vital. Continuous innovations in cloud services and software geared towards handling various business services have paved the way for businesses across all industries to grow and succeed. For law firms, it’s becoming increasingly important to incorporate cloud computing into infrastructure and daily processes; Not only does this optimize day-to-day operations within the law firm, but it helps legal teams better support their clients. 

One important productivity tool the legal industry is beginning to use more is Microsoft Office 365. Below we’ll take a look at how law firms are using Microsoft Office 365 and how it can benefit your legal team.

What is Microsoft Office 365?

Microsoft Office 365 is one of the most significant software as a service programs (SaaS) available for home and business use online and via desktop. Launched in 2010, Office 365 quickly became a staple in company offices and computers due to its versatility. Not only does this software offers an array of options to support functionality within a business, but it also continually updates and improves to maintain relevance. Essentially, your law firm will always have the latest version without having to lift a finger.

This cloud-based software has five main applications that make up its main functions: Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Powerpoint, Microsoft Word, Microsoft OneNote, and Microsoft Outlook. Outside of these applications, however, users have the benefit of a variety of web-based tools that can be used across various platforms and devices easily. These tools are easily downloadable on an as-needed basis when you and your team see fit. 

With so many options, it’s essential to have basic knowledge of what each tool and app can offer. Below is a comprehensive list of tools available for use:

  • Word - A word-processing program that can create, design, and collaborate on documents.
  • OneNote - Notes, drawings, web screen clippings, and audio files can be gathered and collaborated on within OneNote.
  • Outlook - An all-in-one email application that includes a task manager, notes, web browsing, and a journal.
  • Powerpoint - Slides and presentations can be developed and shared through images, videos, animations, and text through this application.
  • Excel - Data, calculations, and tables are organized and gathered through this application.
  • Exchange Online - This is a cloud-based email and calendaring server.
  • Skype for Business - Chat and meet through video and audio utilizing this application.
  • OneDrive - This is cloud-based storage for documents and files, and can be easily accessed anywhere.
  • Sharepoint - With Sharepoint, users can store, organize, and share information across multiple devices seamlessly.
  • Power Bi - This is a suite of tools used for business analytics and organization and data.
  • Project - Project managers can plan, develop, design, and track tasks and workloads through this application.
  • Access - This is a database management system that proves useful to software developers as an easy-to-use tool for creating applications and templates for businesses.
  • Yammer - Yammer essentially acts as a social network that businesses can use for communication within their company,
  • MilelQ - This is a mile tracking app.
  • Bookings - When businesses need to track appointments regularly, this is a great tool to use for management and scheduling.
  • Connections - This is a great tool to manage, build, and track business contacts for use with campaigns, promotions, newsletters, and more.
  • Listings - Listings is a tool used by businesses to publish business listings on search engines and social media like Google, Facebook, Yelp, and more to make your company easier to locate.
  • Invoicing - Create, edit, send, and track business invoicing through this application.
  • Todo - Todo is an app used to track and prioritize tasks. It also syncs with Outlook.
  • Customer Manager - Tracking customer communication history and tasks is made easy for businesses through this app.
  • MyAnalytics - This is a tool to track and analyze everyday business activities to easily see where things can be improved. 
  • Flow - With so many applications often in use by businesses, Flow makes it easy to track and automate workflows across applications.
  • Planner - Plan and organize work within teams. Chat, file sharing, and due dates can all be managed through this application.
  • Graph API - This is a reliable tool to build and develop apps to support workflows throughout your businesses.
  • StaffHub - Through this app, employees and managers can stay in touch and organize and track schedules.
  • PowerApps - Employees can build and share apps across devices and with multiple devices through this service.
  • Sway - This is like a digital meeting presentation board. Employees can produce and share presentations and reports through this application.
  • Stream - Videos can be uploaded and shared within the company with this application.
  • Teams - This is a hub developed to support everything needed to help teams succeed, such as video calls, live meetings, chat, content sharing, and more.
  • Delve - Using personalized insights, Delve allows users to experience and find content within Office 365 that they need.
  • Groups - Groups is an application that allows users to communicate within private groups.

What is the Consensus of Microsoft Office 365 Use Within the Law Community?

While the legal community often remains hesitant in using cloud-based services and software due to cybersecurity concerns, Microsoft Office 365 retains its popularity in use. While there isn’t exact information pertaining to how many firms are utilizing Office 365, NCVSCPA concludes their best guess is that 35-50% of law firms are using it in some form.

Microsoft doesn’t have exact numbers on usage either, thinks a decent amount of law offices are utilizing its services. Brandon Koeller, Principal Program Manager Lead at Microsoft, explains:

“So it’s often difficult to categorize organizations by lawyers or not lawyers and Microsoft has surprisingly little information about exactly what all of our customers do as their day-to-day business. I do know that 90% of the Fortune 500 companies are on Office 365 and that 100% of those companies employ lawyers in some form or fashion.

So my sense is that there is a lot of lawyers that are using it, there is a lot of features that are built into Microsoft 365, including data loss prevention, e-discovery, a bunch of compliance features and retention and legal hold and things like that that lawyers are very, very interested in and that are very useable in the Office 365 platform.”

What Benefits Can Your Law Firm Expect from Using Microsoft Office 365?

Within a single day at a law firm, a lot goes on, and Lawyers and their teams are expected to balance a lot. Microsoft Office 365 is proving itself useful in making things more accessible in the legal field online and via desktop. Here’s how:

  • Document Storage and Management - Safe and efficient storage and management of files and documents is essential within a law firm. Files, emails, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and more can be stored easily within Office 365 applications. You also gain the ability to track the sharing and modifications of files and documents. Various Office 365 tools are utilized to effectively manage document storage, including SharePoint, OneDrive, and Exchange. These tools are also seamlessly integratable with other Office 365 products, such as Delve, Outlook, Power Bi, and others.
  • Improved Workflow and Functionality - Because various team members and colleagues often have different roles, responsibilities, or projects going on at any given time, it’s crucial to be able to share and manage and integrate workflows. Through the tools available in Office 365, individuals and teams can share data and documents, collaborate on projects and tasks, and coordinate on legal matters. Skype also proves useful as an easy tool for easy web meetings between coworkers and clients.
  • Mobility Usage - Lawyers often have to work outside of the office and on-the-go. Because of this, having the capability of accessing relevant information and completing work on various devices is key. With Microsoft Office 365, your legal team has the resources they need available when and where they need them.
  • Better Client Relationship Management - Client relationship management (CRM) is an essential portion of growing any business - especially law firms. Through various services, such as SharePoint and Dynamics, legal teams can store, manage, and track communications with clients as well as enhance and run dynamic marketing campaigns geared towards client needs. Excellent CRM software like Office 365 can also improve client acquisitions within a law firm.

What Microsoft Office 365 Apps Are Geared the Most to Law Firms?

Ben Schorr, Senior Content Developer at Microsoft, has a very informative article on AmericanBar.Org about how law firms can get the most out of using Microsoft Office 365. He discusses several key features of the popular SaaS that he feels lawyers and firms can benefit the most from; Office 365, Flow, and Forms are three services he feels law firms can benefit the most from. Here’s a brief breakdown on how:

Flow - Ben Schorr believes this service to be important because it can automate various actions and workflows within the law firm. He gives an example of how this could potentially work for law firms:

“For example, you can create a flow that when a new document is saved in a particular folder on your firm’s SharePoint site, it starts an approval process that requires one or more people in the firm to approve the document.”

Forms - Through Forms, Ben Schorr explains, law firms can obtain feedback from clients through the creation and utilization of questionnaires, intake forms, and surveys. 

Groups - Ben Schorr describes law firms as “sets of circles” that deal with various practice areas, administrative, and other support teams. Because of this, he feels that Office 365 Group has a lot to offer. Through Planner, Notebook, SharePoint, email, and calendars, members of each formed group can share resources and collaborate.

How Secure is Microsoft Office 365?

Security is crucial within the legal world and often a prevalent concern among lawyers when using any online service. It can be said that the documents and data within a law firm are its most valuable assets - and one that needs to be protected at all costs. Microsoft addresses the security of Office 365 directly on its website on a page directed towards its use in the legal industry. They state the following:

“Office 365 is compliant with world-class industry standards, including ISO 27001, EU Model clauses, HIPAA BAA, and FISMA. It has built-in capabilities such as permissions, versioning control, eDiscovery, and records management to ensure documents are managed, controlled, archived, and can be retrieved in one place with reduced overhead.”

Microsoft further explains that data is protected through its built-in security that protects against various threats, such as malware, phishing, and spam.

What Microsoft Office 365 Plan Should Your Law Firm Sign Up For?

Microsoft has several different business and enterprise plans available to choose from. The plan you choose will come down to the size of your law firm and what your individual needs are. All plans include access to the basic functions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and require an annual subscription. Here is a brief synopsis of the difference between the three main plans:

  • Office 365 Business

Price: $8.25/user

This plan includes Outlook, Word, Excel. OneDrive, PowerPoint, Publisher, and Access. It does not include company email use, calendaring, team apps, Bookings, or MileIQ.

  • Office 365 Business Essentials - 

Price: $5.00/user

This plan includes OneDrive, Exchange, Teams, and Sharepoint. It does not include Teams, Bookings, MileIQ, or desktop versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

  • Office 365 Business Premium - 

Price: $12.50/user

This plan is the most expensive includes all services and is available both on desktop and mobile.

Conclusion

Because of all the versatile services encompassed within Microsoft Office 365, it has a lot to offer in the form of solutions for law firms. This SaaS has the versatility and capabilities needed to support individual law firms in the capacity required to accomplish what needs to be done on a day-to-day basis. While law firms should always be vigilant in regards to security, Microsoft is an established cloud service provider and seems to stand behind their security efforts, including spam and phishing protection, and understand how important it is to the individual law firm.

____________________________________________________________________________

References

  • American Bar Associatio, Obtaining the Most from Office 365

https://www.americanbar.org/groups/law_practice/publications/law_practice_magazine/2019/january-february/JF2019Schorr/

  • Microsoft, Get the Most from Office with Office 365

https://products.office.com/en-us/compare-all-microsoft-office-products?&activetab=tab:primaryr2

  • Law Technology Today, Time for Law Firms to Take a Closer Look at Office 365

https://www.lawtechnologytoday.org/2017/12/a-closer-look-at-office-365/

  • Tekmanagement, Microsoft Office 365 Applications List - Business Premium

https://tekmanagement.com/microsoft-office-365-applications-list-business-premium/

  • Legal Talk Network, Securing Office 365: An Ethical Imperative for Lawyers

https://legaltalknetwork.com/podcasts/digital-detectives/2018/09/securing-office-365-an-ethical-imperative-for-lawyers/

  • Sherweb, Reasons Why the Legal Industry Needs Office 365

 https://www.sherweb.com/blog/office-365/office-365-legal/


Hire Us to Manage Your Tech

With Exceptional Tech Support

24 / 7 Help Desk

Let's face it, downtime, hiccups and technical challenges are unavoidable in every business and they can be frustrating and downright costly.

Our Solution

  • Any time 24/7 access to live person that can help
  • Proficient help desk staff means quick resolution
  • We are very friendly
  • Dedicated consultants that understand your environment

Software Challenges

  • Every small business relies on a handful of software to operate smoothly  (Outlook, Office 365, G-Suite, MS Office, Word, Excel, Adobe Acrobat, Cloud Software, QuickBooks)
  • Software needs updates, can be buggy and just simply doesn’t always work
  • Employees may need a hand in getting something done (exporting printing as PDF, shrinking an image, etc.)

Our Solution

  • We manage your software 
  • Your users can open tickets and we can help them live 
  • Software updates are all done by us

The Challenge with Laptops

  • Computers Break
  • Laptops get lost or stolen
  • Need to be replaced periodically and requires budgeting and installations costs

Our Solution

  • Desktops are Automatic and cloud based
  • No desktop or stolen laptop issues
  • Hardware is seamlessly upgraded
  • Performance is guaranteed

Malware is a Real Problem

  • Small Business are infected by viruses and malware at unprecedented levels
  • Malware can cost you money to fix if you are lucky to recover your data
  • Data leaks and breaches can put you out of business

Our Solution

  • Our seucirty packages are standard and include anti-malware
  • Employee controls are in place to prevent installation or download of malicious software
  • We are fast at identifying and responding to incidents to minimize any damage
  • Backups are automatic with every plan so you will never lose your data.

The Challenge with Printers

  • Printers run out of ink
  • Printers suddenly stop printing
  • Printers fall offline

Our Solution

  • Our staff is on standby to support your printers 24/7
  • We identify root causes to printer issues to avoid recurring problems.

Vendor Challenges

  • Too many tech vendors to manage (ISPs, Software vendors, hardware, apps)
  • Creating tickets is time consuming and frustrating process
  • Many issues are left unresolved with vendors because of poor support

Our Solution

  • We provide 24/7 support on your vendors
  • We open tickets for you and follow up till resolution
  • Our existing relationships with vendors allows us to efficiently navigate the vendor support process

Employee Management Challenges

  • Employee on-boarding is time consuming (emails, desktops, software) all need to be setup for new employees
  • Employees may encounter issues with access, logins, password. Their downtime can be costly
  • Departing employees require data to be transferred, laptops returned, accounts locked, etc, passwords changed

Our Solution

  • Our cloud option provide quick user setup for new employees meaning quick employee on boarding
  • We lock down the employees that leave and document the changes made

The Need for Monitoring

  • Monitoring is an essential component of any technology-dependent small business
  • Small businesses don’t usually invest in monitoring although it is a key component in preventing issues from happening (such as disk space, updates, high CPU pegs, and other connectivity issues)

Our Solution

  • Monitoring is built into our service, therefore you don’t have to plan, invest or worry about setting things up
  • Monitoring means smoother business operations, we reach out to you before a problem occurs

The Audit Challenge

  • As a small business owner, it is important to be able to prove accountability for compliance or employee reviews
  • Today’s small business don’t have any insight into who is doing what on the system and lack of visibility can mean higher risk

Our Solution

  • Our system is equipped to log every user’s account access from email access to desktop log-ons
  • We can provide you with reports that you need 

Learn about Legal Workspaces