For most lawyers, Microsoft’s Word, Outlook and other products are familiar parts of their everyday life. Should they follow the growing cloud software movement, and consider adopting Office 365?
When you open up a document, or start a spreadsheet, you probably don’t think too much about the software underpinning your task.
However, not all document management suites are created equal. For partners who are looking to help their legal team become more efficient, the Microsoft Office 365 suite can be a great place to start.
What Are the Advantages?
- Flexibility – an Office 365 licence can be downloaded on up to five devices at any time. This allows you to have your products on your desktop computer, laptop, tablet and mobile. (You even get free mobile apps). If you replace one of these devices, you can continue on your new device with no issues. Standard Office subscriptions are tied to one device, so a new computer would mean a new Office purchase of the whole Office suite.
Collaboration – have you ever wasted time trying to align different versions of the same document via email? With Office 365’s SharePoint, multiple people can edit a document simultaneously. This means all changes are immediately incorporated into the master version.
You can also share documents with individuals outside the organisation, such as clients, barristers or trial attorneys . The owner of the document can control who has access to edit the document. This ensures that only authorised people can make changes.
Much more than just documents – an Office 365 E3 plan comes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, SharePoint, OneDrive for Business, Teams, Planner, Skype and Access.
This allows you to do so much more than just creating Word and PowerPoint documents. You can communicate via Teams, plan workloads using Planner, store your documents in OneDrive or SharePoint and communicate with clients and colleagues via Skype. Office 365 can support communication on a number of levels.
Your Office 365 account can improve internal collaboration through digital communication. This means larger organisations can eliminate the need for other tools such as Slack or Asana.
Security – moving to the cloud can be seen as risky, but not with Microsoft. They are the most certified data centre provider in the world and offer enterprise-grade data security to all users. This is a great advantage for SMEs, who would be unlikely to afford the same level of protection on an in-house server.
Some of the key security features include: data encryption both at rest and in transit, email encryption, multi-factor authentication, administrative access controls, 24/7 threat management & security monitoring and built in antivirus and anti spam.
Up to date software – with Office 365, software updates happen automatically, so you always have the most recent version. This firstly is a security advantage – as patches for security issues are implemented automatically (reducing the likelihood of a WannaCry-style breach). It also means that you don’t have to spend a large lump sum each time the ‘next version’ of the software comes out.
Pricing – moving from a once-off fee to a continual subscription can be a difficult mindset change. Stable companies who are happy to use one set of core devices for many years may find that they are happy to continue making once-off purchases when required. Companies with growing or changing teams, a desire for flexible working, or an interest in keeping up with modern technology changes, would probably benefit from a subscription licencing model.
How do Law Societies feel about Office 365?
The Microsoft Office suite has long been a standard for lawyers, and Law Societies have also embraced the Office 365 platform:
The American Bar Association recommends the Office 365 E3 plan as a minimum standard for law firms, due to its data security and other features. Their Law Practice Division has released a book supporting lawyers transitioning to the Office 365 platform.
The Law Society of Singapore encourages every law firm to adopt a baseline of core technologies including Office 365 (the only office suite they recommend).
The Law Society of England and Wales recently moved to Office 365 themselves as part of an internal digital transformation programme.
Should I Make the Move?
That is entirely up to you! However, we do suggest that amidst the busyness of running a law firm, partners take the time to analyse whether their current packages are working for them. A move to Office 365 could not only save the company money, but improve client and employee satisfaction with more flexibility, better data security and enhanced collaboration.