The vast majority of lawyers use the Microsoft Office suite. It comes in different versions, and Microsoft encourages everyone to switch to Office 365. If you have not yet switched to Office 365, it may be useful to consider this. For law firms, it is advisable to switch to Office 365 Business Premium because SharePoint is also included. In this article we give some more explanation.
Office 365 is the subscription version of Microsoft’s Office suite. It is marketed as a service (rather than a product) that ensures you always have the most up-to-date modern productivity tools from Microsoft. It includes all the Office desktop apps that CICERO LawPack users are familiar with, like Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Excel. It also comes with extra online storage and cloud-connected features that let you collaborate on files in real time. With a subscription, you’ll always have the latest features, fixes, and security updates along with ongoing tech support at no extra cost.
Office 2016 and Office 2019 on the other hand are sold as a one-time purchase. They don’t have the level of cloud integration that offers all the real time collaboration features Office 365 does. When a new version is released, you have to buy the new version, and often that means there are many new features at once to get familiar with. With a subscription version like Office 365, you get smaller updates several times a year that are included in the subscription price. This subscription model clearly appeals to customers: as of October 2018, Office 365 has 155 million active users worldwide, and each month three million more are added.
One of the reasons CICERO LawPack is moving its customers to Office 365 Business Premium is that it comes with SharePoint. SharePoint is a web-based collaborative platform that integrates with Microsoft Office. It was launched in 2001 and is primarily sold as a document management and storage system. It has 190 million users across 200,000 customer organizations. SharePoint offers the following functionalities:
- Enterprise content and document management: SharePoint allows for storage, retrieval, searching, archiving, tracking, management, and reporting on electronic documents and records. It also provides search and ‘graph’ functionality. SharePoint’s integration with Office 365 allows for collaborative real-time editing and encrypted/information rights managed synchronization.
- Intranet: A SharePoint intranet (or intranet portal) is a way to centralize access to enterprise information and applications. It is a tool that helps an organization manage its internal communications, applications and information more easily (e.g. via tools such as wikis).
- Collaborative software: SharePoint contains team collaboration groupware capabilities, including project scheduling (integrated with Outlook and Project), social collaboration, shared mailboxes, and project related document storage and collaboration. Groupware in SharePoint is based around the concept of a “Team Site”.
- File hosting service (personal cloud): OneDrive for Business allows storage and synchronization of an individual’s personal documents, as well as public/private file sharing of those documents.
- Custom web applications: SharePoint’s custom development capabilities provide an additional layer of services that allow rapid prototyping of integrated (typically line-of-business) web applications.
To structure and manage content, SharePoint works with:
- Pages, which are free-form pages that can be edited in a browser.
- Web parts and app parts are components (also known as portlets) that can be inserted into Pages. They are used to display information from both SharePoint and third-party applications.
- Lists, libraries, and content: A SharePoint library stores and displays files and folders, while a SharePoint list stores and displays data items. Each item in a library or list is a content item. Content Types are definitions (or types) of items. SharePoint allows you to create your own definitions based on the built-in ones (like, e.g., Contacts, Appointments, Documents, and Folders).
- Sites: A SharePoint Site is a collection of pages, lists, libraries, apps, configurations, features, content types, and sub-sites. Examples of Site templates in SharePoint include collaboration (team) sites, wikis, blank sites, and publishing sites.
If you use software for your office management, it is probably software based on Cloud technologies. In that case, it is possible that your data and documents are located on two different Cloud platforms: the software for your office management and the corresponding database are on your software provider’s Cloud solution, while all your documents are in a separate SharePoint DB instead of on a normal file server. This means that you can benefit from all the advantages of SharePoint: all documents are searchable; you can share documents instead of having to e-mail them (which is much safer), and once a document is shared you have access to all the real-time collaboration functionalities; it comes with access and version management, etc. The fact that the documents and data are on separate platforms also provides a safer and faster solution.