While the move to mass home working started as a necessary temporary lockdown measure, many law firms are now are planning to make flexible work arrangements a permanent feature of the working week. Dentons and Slater & Gordon have closed some of their offices and asked staff in those locations to work from home indefinitely, while Linklaters, DLA Piper and Baker McKenzie have adopted agile working policies that enable staff to work remotely 20-50% of the time. All of this strengthens the case for investing in technology to support the more dispersed workforces that firms expect to be managing in future.

The rise of Microsoft Teams as a business telephony solution for law firms

Microsoft Teams has seen rapid growth over the last six months, with over 115 million daily active users at the end of October. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and the new normal of remote working, Teams had 13 million daily active users. At present it is used mainly for internal collaboration, with few firms using Teams for external communication. However, this is expected to change over the next two years as firms realise the benefits of switching from traditional on-premises phone systems to cloud-based telephony solutions.

Teams can be used by law firms as a full enterprise telephony solution. Users can make and receive external phone calls directly from Teams on any compatible, internet-connected device, from anywhere in the world. How do you implement Teams telephony? Microsoft offer their own Calling Plans which are a quick and easy way for smaller firms to connect to the PSTN network but are limited in terms of geographic coverage and customer support. Larger firms typically use a third-party managed service provider. This approach, called ‘Direct Routing’, offers greater flexibility, wider geographic coverage, lower rates and increased levels of support. It is predicted that by 2022, over 90% of large enterprises using Teams for telephony will use Direct Routing for PSTN connectivity.

How can IT teams and users benefit from cloud telephony?

Typically, large law firms maintain a consistent set of IT solutions and tools for all their users globally, but telephony seems to be the exception. Global firms often have a disparate range of PBX equipment across their offices, and a different carrier in each country. Cloud telephony allows firms to standardise their approach across all their locations, minimising complexity and cost, and leading to better control, flexibility and compliance.

The specific benefits associated with moving telephony to the cloud include:

– No need to own and maintain on-premises PBX equipment – reducing operational complexity and cost

– One telephony platform for all users across the firm – improving compliance and reliability, and allowing user training and support to be centralised

–  A single managed service provider instead of multiple regional carriers – reducing the number of vendor relationships and generating economies of scale

– Call cost savings – firms can consolidate their spend with a single provider, implement Least Cost Routing and avoid international PSTN rates. Additionally, internal calls between global offices and forwarded calls are free of charge as they are not routed via the PSTN

– Centralised user management – users can be added, removed and managed centrally, which is flexible and secure and allows overall global data on usage and costs to be managed and measured.

By using Teams for external phone calls, users can communicate and collaborate more effectively when working remotely. Specific benefits include:

– Making and receiving voice calls using Teams on any compatible, internet-connected device, from anywhere – users can stay connected while working from home, on the move, or hot-desking, and can switch between computers, desk phones, mobiles and tablets

–  A consistent user experience for external and internal communications – external phone calls can be made from the same Teams interface used for chat, video conferencing and file-sharing, making it easier and more convenient to use

– Users can keep their business phone number – with number porting permitted in most major markets, existing direct-dial phone numbers can be retained when moving to Teams telephony

Using a managed service provider to implement Teams telephony

Implementing cloud telephony across large law firms can be a complex process, especially when migrating from a disparate mix of legacy solutions. Using a managed service provider, with deep expertise in Microsoft voice solutions and the global reach to support a multinational firm, typically means that the transition can happen faster, with less risk, and with a lower resource requirement on the IT team. It also means the migration is tailored to the individual firm’s needs. Firms can decide how they want to use phone numbers, voicemail, caller ID, advanced call routing, security and compliance. With a fully managed service, everything is included: system design, systems integration, migration, training and support.

Mary Nolan is senior marketing manager at LoopUp

To learn more, read LoopUp’s whitepaper “Adding cloud telephony to Microsoft Teams”.