Tag Archives: SharePoint

Using Teams and SharePoint in Law Firms

Upon request, we will have a closer look in this article at using Teams and SharePoint in law firms. In previous articles, we already talked about running your law practice in the Cloud with law firm management software. We also highlighted how Microsoft 365 was an essential part of that. (It was still called Office 365 at the time). For optimal results for a law firm, Microsoft 365 Business Premium is the recommended solution.

Since the pandemic started, Microsoft has been steadily improving Microsoft Teams. By now, it can be used as the central communication and collaboration hub of your law firm. It consolidates the available Microsoft 365 tools and streamlines business processes by offering team members a centralized location for all files, documents, and firm information. It allows law firms to share critical communications with their clients and their entire team, quickly, efficiently, and securely! It also enables seamless collaboration for all projects, from in-depth cases to day-to-day work by using SharePoint with other Microsoft 365 tools.

Teams as your communication and collaboration hub

You can use Teams as the dashboard from which you coordinate your communications and collaboration. Teams seamlessly integrates with the other Microsoft 365 apps, like Word, Excel, Outlook, SharePoint, but also with apps like Planner or To Do. Outlook allows you to directly access the ‘Conversations’ of the Teams site, so you can manage all your saved emails through the Outlook interface. Teams comes with its own video chat for virtual meetings, which can be recorded and shared. The free MS Bookings app allows to easily set up meetings. But note that integration between Microsoft 365 and your law firm management software is essential. So, make sure this is the case.

One of the main benefits of using the Teams / SharePoint combination lies in its collaboration functionality.  Your team and clients can share documents and collaborate on them, securely and in real time. It is perfectly possible for several people to simultaneously work or comment on the same document. And because this solution is perfectly scalable, it can be used by law firms of any size. Worth noting is also that collaborating on a SharePoint server is more secure than sending documents by email, and therefore a better solution.

Using SharePoint also offers other benefits

It comes with built in version control, where it keeps track of all changes to a document, and where you can see the full history of all versions. Needless to say, it also automatically keeps backups of all those versions.

SharePoint also offer in depth-search functionality. You can perform searches on the full text, but also on meta data. It even comes with optional wiki functionality, and its search and KMS functionalities can be further extended with third party add-ons.

Important is also that it is easy to use Microsoft 365 in a way that is compliant with EU privacy legislation. All law firms that use its software have to do, is choose local European servers as their Microsoft 365 servers. As there are no other intermediate servers involved, you are completely compliant.

Security considerations

in its articles on the annual Legal Technology Survey, Law Technology Today explicitly recommends using cloud-based solutions like Microsoft 365 as it is the most secure solution, both for law firm communications and for file sharing / storage. It notes “Many (if not the majority of) law firms that favor on-premise or hosted solutions to cloud-based platforms will cite security as the reason they refuse to move their data to the cloud. But the truth is, cloud-based solutions are considerably more secure than on-premise or hosted software.”

After all, Microsoft encrypts all data transfers as well as all the stored data, which are encrypted at both disk and file level. In other words, the data you share inside SharePoint is secure, and it is more secure than keeping your data on a local OneDrive. (Microsoft 365 administrators are recommended to switch off synchronisation with a local OneDrive to reap the optimal benefits, including enhanced security, from using the SharePoint & Teams combination).

In short, using Microsoft 365 Premium Business edition offers you a centralized and secure communications and collaboration hub, which maintains client privacy as well as legal compliance. It improves the productivity of your law firm by allowing you to collaborate more effectively, from anywhere you have Internet access.




Office 365 and SharePoint for Lawyers

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.