South African Law Firm Adams & Adams Improves Firmwide Agility with OnePlace Collaboration & Content

When Adams & Adams needed a solution for better email and matter management, firm leaders chose OnePlace Collaboration & Content to streamline Microsoft SharePoint, creating a better front-end experience for its lawyers.

Established in 1908, leading South African firms Adams & Adams provides intellectual property and commercial services across Africa. It serves many of the world’s largest corporations and organizations as well as small- to medium-size companies. The firm employs around 600 people across four locations.

Rethinking Legal Document and Matter Management

In 2019, Adams & Adams migrated the firm’s general office systems to Microsoft 365, a move that prompted a rethinking of its legal document and matter management. “Although we had a document management system, it wasn’t doing its job,” explained CIO Colin Short. “Half of the workforce didn’t like it, so it had never been fully deployed. And, from a governance and compliance perspective, we couldn’t continue as we were.”

Initially, Adams & Adams considered replacing the system with a legal enterprise content management system, but the firm’s steering committee felt that continuing to run a more bespoke system would be expensive without necessarily fulfilling the firm’s broader plans to transform the way it operated.

“Functionality, cost, security, and information privacy were our key priorities, so we decided to consolidate our legal document management and use SharePoint,” Short said. “We’re a Microsoft house and had already invested in Microsoft 365, so, economically and practically, it made sense to make it the basis for our legal DMS. In my opinion, Microsoft is leading the way on information management security and privacy, too.”

Optimizing Microsoft 365 SharePoint for Legal DMS Purposes

For help navigating the options, Adams & Adams contacted Cloud Essentials, an established Microsoft partner known for its experience in migration and content management. Short already knew the Cloud Essentials team, and had spoken with them about easing the complexities of legal information management.

“I liked their way of thinking, so they were the obvious port of call, especially as we don’t have extensive in-house SharePoint skills,” Short said. “Cloud Essentials assisted with a proof-of-concept exercise to show whether we could functionally replace the existing system with SharePoint for legal email, document, and matter management.”

At that point, the firm had no fixed view on the best solution to enable its email and matter management. Adams & Adams conducted the proof of concept with Cloud Essentials and a third-party solution provider, but that software wasn’t what the firm was looking for. “There were questions around the mobility and web access side of the solution, as well as its taxonomy restrictions,” Short noted. “Everything seemed a bit rigid.”

“The speed of communication between Microsoft SharePoint and the front-end user experience is fantastic, ensuring easily and seamless syncing of matter document and emails. All of this clinched OnePlace Collaboration & Content as the way to go — a decision that was unanimous.”

COLIN SHORT, CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER, aDams & Adams

Evaluating Intapp OnePlace Content & Collaboration

The CIO at another major South African law firm recommended OnePlace Collaboration & Content. “He had met with the [Intapp] team in the U.S. and had been impressed with what he saw,” Short said. “Following his suggestion, I watched the demos and discussed [the solution] with Cloud Essentials. Although it was quite late in the planning of the project, we agreed with [Intapp] that they would run a proof of concept.” The outcome of that process confirmed the decision in favor of Intapp.

“We ran some good tests and were blown away by two things in particular,” Short said. “First, we were impressed with the simplicity of the application. “Second, the customer service from the [Intapp] team was just amazing. For example, they agreed to match the already-approved budget.”

Additionally, OnePlace Collaboration & Content has been optimized to work with SharePoint Online. “The speed of communications between SharePoint and the [Intapp] front-end user experience is fantastic, ensuring easy and seamless syncing of matter documents and emails,” Short explained. “All of this clinched [Intapp] as the way to go, a decision that was unanimous.”


Executive Summary

South African firm Adams & Adams used OnePlace Collaboration & Content to capitalize on its Microsoft 365 investment to improve matter management. As a result, the firm has been able to reassess its office footprint across four offices and better serve its staff working remotely in a country with communication infrastructure issues.

Challenges

  • Replacing an expensive, bespoke document management system that half of the staff didn’t like or use and was not fully deployed
  • Finding a solution that worked with Microsoft 365, specifically SharePoint and Microsoft Teams, to leverage the value of the firm’s existing investment
  • Matching the need for better email and matter management, particularly with strong mobile and web access to serve teams with less-than-optimal web infrastructure

Results with Intapp

  • Seamless Integration: Optimized Microsoft SharePoint as the firm’s legal DMS, working smoothly with Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Office 365
  • Data Migration: Safely relocated information from ​the firm’s legacy document management system with the assistance of an Intapp implementation partner
  • Simplified Remote Work: Implemented technology that lets users continue working offline, syncing work in progress as soon as they reconnect 

Intensifying Transformation Due to the Pandemic

The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic further cemented the firm’s choice of SharePoint Online and OnePlace Collaboration & Content. With Cloud Essentials close at hand to provide Microsoft expertise and data migration services, Adams & Adams was able to roll out OnePlace Collaboration & Content to two of its four practice areas during lockdown.

Given that the majority of the firm’s users were now working from home, defaulting to Microsoft 365 for legal document access and management made even more sense. As well as vital migration experience, Cloud Essentials provided a proven methodology and attention to detail that would ensure a smooth and seamless transition for Adams & Adams.

Paving the Way for a New Partnership

The potential of a combined OnePlace Collaboration & Content and Microsoft SharePoint approach was deemed so significant, especially in the light of the pandemic, that Cloud Essentials and Intapp entered into a formal partnership. This will pave the way for other law firms in South Africa to benefit from an intuitive, streamlined, and agile take on matter management, harnessing their existing Microsoft 365 investments.

The Adams & Adams implementation experience is feeding into this partnership, and will help others to optimize the migration to SharePoint-based matter management fronted by OnePlace Collaboration & Content. “The Cloud Essentials team have seen the strategic importance of doing this properly so that others, too, can benefit from this flagship approach,” Short noted. “They also provide the all-important, ongoing local support.”

“We had been worried about a lack of synchronization between Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, but [Intapp] has demonstrated how quickly and reliably this happens — we won’t have different versions of content existing in different places with users having to hunt for them.”

COLIN SHORT, CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER, ADAMS & ADAMS

Overcoming Connectivity Challenges

The rollout includes quick and useful 15-minute Microsoft Teams web training to encourage adoption. Fortunately, Intapp scores highly with user acceptance because its Microsoft 365-based approach to matter management feels intuitive and integral to the way people already work.

Adams & Adams is also exploring the seamless mobile capabilities of OnePlace Collaboration & Content, which offer enhanced value as remote work continues. “It was a big plus that this option was available. Before the pandemic, we’d already started to plan for scenarios in which everyone might need to work from home, which demanded agility and the freedom to work from anywhere,” Short noted.

South Africa has its challenges for remote working, which OnePlace Collaboration & Content can help address. “There are infrastructure, connectivity, and power infrastructure issues here, which means that supporting remote working is not as straightforward as in more developed countries,” Short explained. “But [Intapp] masks all that. Users can continue working work offline and sync everything as soon as they reconnect.”

Building for a Brighter Future

The fact that Intapp legal document and matter management capabilities work closely with Microsoft 365 will be important for the firm’s longer-term strategy, too.

“That they are innovating on top of the Microsoft suite, taking advantage of the latest features, is a fantastic strategy,” Short said. “It has put us in a better place, too. For example, we’re now reassessing our office footprint and assessing the scope for people to work remotely for the long term. OnePlace Collaboration & Content and Microsoft SharePoint are the key to enabling this.”

Capitalizing on Microsoft Teams is a priority as well, as teams continue to be dispersed. “I’m very eager to see how this could progress,” Short said. “We had been worried about a lack of synchronization between Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, but [Intapp] has demonstrated how quickly and reliably this happens — we won’t have different versions of content existing in different places with users having to hunt for them.”

Above all, Adams & Adams feels valued as a client by both Intapp and Cloud Essentials. “They give me that sense that I am at the center of their universe, and that what I want matters,” Short said. “This has been very refreshing. And Cloud Essentials have been not just an implementer, but a trusted partner. They’ve effectively become our ‘SharePoint arm’ within Adams & Adams. They haven’t taken a cookie-cutter approach with something from another environment, but have genuinely wanted to find the best way to help us.”

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