ICYMI: Teams overtakes email for almost a third of legal sector users

First seen in the September Orange Rag

On LinkedIn in September, Legal IT Insider asked: ‘Has Teams overtaken email as your primary communication method?’

Out of the 250 people who voted – made up of a mix of vendors, law firms, and corporate legal teams – 30% said ‘definitely not’. But 29% said ‘it’s a close thing’ and 28% said ‘yes’. A further 13% said ‘no, but it’s on our radar.’

We’ve analysed what proportion of the responses come from law firms, corporate legal or professional services firms (which we’ll abbreviate to ‘legal & professional’), and what proportion comes from ‘others’ such as vendors (abbreviated
to ‘others’).

Here’s how it breaks down:
• Definitely not: 32% legal & professional/ 78% others;
• No but it’s on our radar: 28% legal & professional/ 72% others
• It’s a close thing: 19% legal & professionals/81% others
• Yes: 16% legal & professional/ 84% others.

Our survey is not intended to be scientific, more of a litmus test of the market – variables include the fact that just because some people who replied are using Teams, it doesn’t mean the whole firm is.

What’s more important is how visibly fast things are changing.

Speaking to Legal IT Insider, Howard Kennedy’s IT director Tony McKenna said: “If you had done this survey a year or two years things would have been very different. I joined Howard Kennedy in 2020 and Teams Chat was banned. Now for internal comms, it is the go-to mechanism.”

The bigger question is inevitably around external comms, and McKenna says: “Externally that’s a different matter. We’re still in the land of not being able to file a conversation in Teams to the virtual file.” He referred on our call to a message
from one of his team, who said: “Email feels more permanent and lends itself better to a system of record and reference.”

McKenna added: “We’re pushing vendors to think about creating the ability to save conversations to the virtual file. The functionality that is in email needs to be in chat.”

Commenting on our survey on LinkedIn, Alex Herrity, director of legal solutions at adidas, said: “I’d say for internal comms Outlook probably still edges it on average, but with some stakeholders, Teams dominates (and interestingly some stakeholders who refuse to engage via Teams because they don’t want more than one channel / they use their Outlook inbox as a task list). External comms (outside using Teams to host virtual meetings), I’ve experienced very little use for external / cross organisational collaboration – it’s very clunky and IT teams seem cautious on that front.”

Kyle Bahr, senior counsel, legal operations & technology and commercial litigation at WESCO Distribution, added: “Our in- house legal team had interesting survey results on this topic recently. The vast majority wanted either the same amount or less work email in the future, but there was mixed sentiment about exploring alternative communication methods (e.g., Teams Channels/Chat).

“I think a valid concern is that by having too many ways to communicate, there’s more to monitor and important messages will get overlooked. Despite the vision of “A World Without Email” by Cal Newport, and the mental and productivity impacts of context switching, folks want simplicity. And they perceive Outlook as providing that: a central hub for communication.”

We have a cloud governance report coming up in partnership with Litera, which takes a look at the uptake of Teams within law firms. To receive a copy make sure you subscribe to our reports and newsletters: CLICK HERE