How top law firms transform their practice with purpose-built firm collaboration software for Microsoft Teams

The technological problems that slow down lawyers at top law firms may sound very familiar to you:

  • Lawyers lose too much time hunting in their inboxes for the latest email relating to a matter.
  • Partners and associates worry that they’re not working in the most recent version of a critical contract or document.
  • All users have point solution fatigue because their firm uses a labyrinth of different applications that don’t integrate.

The good news is that some top U.S. law firms have discovered that the right firm collaboration software can eliminate these problems.

Below, we share how these organizations use firm collaboration software to solve these challenges, transforming the way they work.

We also reveal how these firms elicited their partners’ enthusiastic buy-in to using collaboration software — despite the partners being skeptical of change. That resistance may sound familiar to you too.

Use Microsoft Teams to create a central location for matter-specific communication and information

The problem with using an email inbox as a repository of matter information is that there are just too many messages to sift through, including marketing emails, newsletters, and other communications. As a result, lawyers have to craft just the right search phrase to find information on a specific matter.

A better approach to storing matter information is to create an individual dashboard for each matter, where lawyers can find all the related documents, communications, and other information. Law firms can achieve this with Intapp Workspaces, which optimizes Microsoft Teams to become a single streamlined platform that contains everything relating to your matters, including information from other firm systems.

“With Intapp Workspaces, a specific matter team really becomes that convenient dashboard for work,” says Tara Saylor, Senior Manager of Collaboration Services at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner.

Team members at Nelson Mullins appreciate this convenience too. “It’s so much easier having everything in the client matter team,” says Torie Carrillo, Applications Manager at Nelson Mullins. “Those thousands of emails are now part of the post to the Microsoft team.”

Because the matter team serves as the central repository of information relating to that matter, firm professionals can onboard new team members to a matter by having them review the team’s content. “We often receive feedback from our lawyers, who say, ‘Now I don’t have to invest [the time] in bringing someone up to speed. We add them to the team and tell them to read the history. And then they’re ready to go,’” explains Faith Drewry, User Experience Architect at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner.

Moreover, being able to work within the matter team eliminates the fatigue of going into and out of multiple software applications and programs. “Our team members increasingly treat Microsoft Teams as a pane-of-glass dashboard into all the systems and places that they need to go,” says Saylor.

Securely collaborate in real time to help manage version control and meet client expectations

The combination of Intapp Workspaces and Microsoft 365 not only organizes matter information but also facilitates version control. With Intapp Workspaces’ content connector, your team can pull documents, spreadsheets, or presentations from your document management system (DMS), whether SharePoint or a legacy DMS, such as NetDocuments, into Microsoft Teams. Once the asset is in Microsoft Teams, your team members can co-author, or simultaneously edit, these assets in real time. In this way, the most current version of the asset is always available and easy to find.

As soon as your lawyers are done working on the asset, they can publish it into iManage or NetDocuments without leaving Microsoft Teams.

Lawyers at Dykema often operate in this way. “People need to work on a very elaborate Excel file with a lot of changes that need to be made by multiple people, and they co-author it through a team,” says Myka Hopgood, Senior Director of Strategic Legal Innovation at Dykema. “Working this way is a real game changer because it’s so much easier than any other approach.”

Moreover, the collaboration is always secure. By using Intapp Workspaces along with the Intapp Walls add-on, your team can apply consistent information governance standards across all your assets and enforce ethical walls across teams. Thus, only the lawyers with the right permissions can view specific matter information.

“Intapp products create a cohesive, secure environment that allows us to adhere to our information governance policies,” says Carrillo.

Nelson Mullins and other law firm clients also appreciate that Intapp Workspaces enables their clients to collaborate too. “Allowing our clients to see matter-related content and truly be collaborative was huge,” adds Carrillo.

Clients appreciate and expect this kind of collaboration. “A big reason we’re using Microsoft Teams is that our clients want us to use it,” says Saylor. “And so we’re providing the service that our clients expect from us.”

Create teams for more than just matters

In addition to collaborating on matters in matter-specific teams, top law firms create teams focused on specific practice groups, affinity groups, topics, or work teams.

“We have an affinity group for women in law, Black lawyers, and other areas of focus,” explains Saylor. “They’ll use the team to coordinate and communicate between meetings and move their projects forward.”

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner has also created a team organized around the topic of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). “That is something that is changing rapidly within their industry, and it’s changing at national, state, and local levels,” says Saylor. “A team is a useful tool for keeping team members updated on this fast-moving topic.”

Utilize other tools from the Microsoft 365 suite

Top law firms further enhance their collaboration experience by using other Microsoft 365 programs, such as Whiteboard and Planner. For example, lawyers at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner regularly use both these applications.

“With Microsoft Planner, we have list templates that our project management teams use over and over again,” says Saylor. “Microsoft Planner keeps us organized, and its automated reminders help us to get that work done.”

Microsoft OneNote, Power BI, Forms, and Tasks are other applications that are favorites with the professionals at top law firms. At Dykema, “Microsoft OneNote has been very popular and very useful for teams,” says Hopgood.

Encourage adoption of firm collaboration software with these strategies

Even when they understand the advantages of firm collaboration software, your partners may be reluctant to try something new, so it helps to implement the new software solution in a very strategic way.

Carry out consultations

At Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, legal technology professionals consulted with their firm’s lawyers, asking them about the pain points of the legacy technology and what types of solutions would be helpful to them. Based on the answers, the technology professionals would then configure each lawyer’s teams within Intapp Workspaces to best fit their needs.

“The more that we did that, the more our lawyers would say, ‘Oh, I see how this is going to fit into the work that I do every day,’” explains Saylor.

Enable self-directed learning and training

Another effective tactic is to create teams within Intapp Workspaces specifically for training. “With the training teams, our lawyers can experiment and play with the whiteboards and everything else,” explains Hopgood. “This approach both trains them on Microsoft Teams as well as gets them excited about how they can use Microsoft Teams in other ways.”

You might also consider creating short training videos, which is a strategy that the professionals at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner used.

During any trainings, whether videos or webinars, it helps, of course, to present how the firm collaboration software will make your lawyers’ work easier. You may often have to educate your lawyers on the advantages of particular capabilities, such as co-authoring.

“When we first introduce the idea of co-authoring during a training, lawyers don’t see how it would fit into their workflows because they want to manage when and how changes happen for legal documents,” explains Saylor. “However, when we talk about having 15 people editing the same PowerPoint for a pitch, they make the connection. They realize how convenient it could be to have everyone working from the same file and always seeing the most current version.”

Promote self-sufficiency

A last piece of advice the professionals at top law firms shared is that your lawyers will appreciate learning how to create a team for each client matter.

“Our lawyers don’t need to contact any IT personnel to create the Microsoft team for that client matter,” says Carrillo. “Any of them can do it themselves. There’s a form that comes up, they fill out the form. They click ‘submit,’ wait a moment, and the team is created. They’re good to go. And they’re as happy as can be about it.”

Collaborate with Intapp and Microsoft

Ready to experience the benefits of firm collaboration software at your law firm? Learn more about how Intapp Workspaces optimizes Microsoft Teams for law firms so your lawyers can find information faster, simultaneously work on shared assets, and efficiently disseminate information about important legal topics.