In this webinar with Repstor we discussed the trends around the legal industry’s adoption of Microsoft Teams – including some of the key challenges and how to overcome them. You can listen to and watch that conversation here between Legal IT Insider editor Caroline Hill; Repstor co-founder and executive VP of the legal division, Sheila Gormley; and CTO Fergus Wilson, who gives a comprehensive demo of Repstor’s provisioning and information governance solution for Teams. 

Repstor was founded in 2012 and is headquartered in Belfast. It has long helped customers to leverage their Microsoft Office 365 investment and most people will be familiar with Custodian for Legal. When it comes to Teams, Repstor is seeing increased demand to help customers to get on top of the data sprawl that can happen if Teams use is not used in a controlled way.

According to Gormley, a typical response from professional services firms is that they switch on Teams and it’s “so easy to use and so powerful” that everyone starts using it. She says: “And then suddenly you have a lot of Teams sprawl, so the beauty of it is also part of the problem. People start using it really quickly, and then your risk and governance team says you need to slow down, or the worst case scenario it is that they turn off a lot of the collaboration capability and everyone gets frustrated.”

In terms of where law firms are in the Teams adoption curve, Gormley said: “What we’re seeing is, at one end of the spectrum, you have the firms who are saying, ‘Right okay, we need to use Teams as the Skype for Business replacement for telephony.

“At the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got firms who are saying, ‘We are adopting Teams for a complete matter management system, even leveraging that solution for its DMS capability.’ So, they will work with us to help them provision Teams, perhaps integrating it with their practice management system or other intake systems and leveraging the collaboration and document management capability of the system, which has SharePoint at its core. They are also leveraging the wider capability, so the ability to integrate with Microsoft Planner is really powerful as well.

“Then in the middle you’ve got a lot of folks who have their existing system of record e.g. iManage, NetDocument and OpenText, and those aren’t going away. There is an absolute need to be able to integrate with those systems so firms can pull content into your collaboration space do all your wonderful magic in Teams and then publish that back to your system of record. That may not be just your documents but chat and anything else you need to manage within that space. It’s all about allowing your users to leverage the power of Teams but doing it in a controlled and managed way.”

In reality, many law firms are still at the beginning of their Microsoft Teams journey, typically using it for telephony rather than collaboration. Wilson said: “We are definitely seeing a variety of use cases. We think the power of Teams is much beyond a Skype for Business replacement but a lot of people are stuck and that’s due to their worries about, ‘this is a new content store, is it going to take away from my system of record?’” He added: “Hopefully we can put your mind at rest today.”

During the webinar we discussed a report from Forrester which clearly shows that using Teams has a significant ROI and impact on the bottom line. Wilson said: “Some of that was related to just improved voice communications but of course savings and efficiency savings were related to using Teams as the single view onto multiple systems. We all know that from a legal perspective there are lots of systems we’re using day to day, so the ability to bring all of that information into a single view really provides huge benefits to legal firms.”

Someone listening to the webinar asked why Repstor thinks that Zoom has been adopted quicker – is it that it has a much easier user experience? Wilson pointed to Microsoft’s huge investment to make it easier to connect across its entire platform and said: “My biggest worry with Zoom is its well-documented security issues whereas Microsoft has made a really big powerful play to make sure that the Teams environment is secure and that you don’t get that from other solutions.”

Gormley added: “I would look at it holistically, it’s about the wider platform capability video including the chat and collaboration functionality.”

Hill raised the fact that there are fears around data residency, that data will end up, for example, in the US, Wilson said: “This is another area I feel passionately about. Part of the problem with the Microsoft 365 platform is that there is a bit of a learning curve around some of the security aspects. Security is so much in front compared to everybody else. People in the olden days with the Microsoft 365 platform asked how security works but Teams simplify that into owners and members so it keeps life simple.

“As far as the geolocation side of things, that’s a big concern for professional services firms. If you have one tenant where all the Teams are, God help you if you share data from one member firm to another. But it’s a well-trodden path and there is good functionality in ensuring that data is not shared other than in the location you need it to be, and that’s an area that we have built into our product very carefully. Even if you have multiple member firms, the people requesting and where the Team gets created is where the data resides. It’s easy to do once you’ve set it up correctly.”

He added: “You should go and look at Microsoft Trust if you’re at all worried about Microsoft’s security credentials, because there is so much there around the certification they have the platform and how transparent it is.”

Hill observed that one of the biggest challenges is around provisioning: if you have a DMS such as iManage or NetDocuments, what happens if you bring those documents into Teams and how do you address provisioning? Wilson said: “People moved from allowing anyone to create a Team in the early days, to a panic stage where they say ‘all of this information is out there, we can’t tell from the Team that are chatting about lunch to the Team that’s chatting about a matter, and the immediate reaction is to lock everything down and have an approval team to approve the creation of Teams. We believe very strongly that you should drive the information to create your Teams from your existing systems – your practice management system is probably the most natural.”

You can watch the demonstration, including multiple audience questions and answers below.