The Legal Layer

How Microsoft Is Quietly Streamlining Your Law Firm

How Microsoft Is Quietly Streamlining Your Law Firm

The Microsoft Power Platform can help law firms to ‘Analyze, Act, and Automate’. Here is an overview of how your law firm can benefit.

You are probably not surprised to hear Microsoft Word and Outlook are two applications most used by attorneys during the course of their working day. Would you be surprised to learn that lawyers spend roughly 60% of their day in those applications? During the September Microsoft Ignite conference, Microsoft made news by sharing 60% of knowledge worker’s days are spent in Office 365 or in a web browser. That number jumps to an astounding 90% if the user leverages Microsoft Teams. With usage numbers like that, you might ask yourself what else does Microsoft have up their sleeve to make the last bit of a lawyer’s day more productive. Enter Microsoft Power Platform.

Typically, legal “non-techies” are not familiar with the Microsoft Power Platform but there is a good chance that you might have used pieces of the Power Platform in your personal or professional life without even knowing it. The Power Platform comprises four applications: Power Apps, Power BI, Power Automate (formerly called Flow), and Power Virtual Agents. Microsoft created these products to help companies embrace the value of using data to help drive positive business outcomes.

Analyze, Act, and Automate is the simple way Microsoft positions these tools. Each of the four tools plays a critical part of the Analyze, Act, and Automate process. The best part is that you don’t need to start with all four. Each one can be used independently based on the productivity challenge. Here is a brief overview of each one and how they can impact your law firm in the months to come.

Analyze:

Microsoft Power BI is the Power Platform tool best known in legal thanks to the introduction of Thomson Reuters 3e Data Insights. Power BI is a data visualization and analytics tool that empowers organizations to dive deep into their data. It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and Power BI makes good on that phrase. With tons of predefined visualization and limitless ways to define dashboards, law firms quickly jumped on Power BI to solve their business intelligence challenges. Add to the mix that Power BI was designed for the average Excel user to be able to build visualizations and it was just a matter of time before finance, operations, and knowledge management teams fell in love with it. This is the easiest way to get critical KPI data points and dashboards in front of key audiences inside your law firm. Power BI is just getting started in legal, but I believe it is well on its way to becoming the industry standard for analytical insights.

Act:

Microsoft Power Virtual Agents is Microsoft’s entry into the chat bot arena. You may have already encountered the Power Virtual Agents in your personal life. One common use case is to have a virtual agent appear on a website, on Facebook or other social media platforms to engage with the user to get quick and relevant information into their hands. Personal injury law firms have been the quickest to adopt this technology to help drive their legal business development efforts. Chat bots quickly engage website visitors and turn leads into new matters for their firm. Since 2008, doing more with less has been a challenge for the support staff at many law firms. Power Virtual Agents can be a great way to augment the staff behind the scenes so that law firms can improve on their level of service to their clients. This can lead to happier clients and a reduction of stress on the internal staff.

One of the most interesting parts of the Virtual Agents and all the Power Platform tools, is that it is built on Microsoft’s no-code framework. That makes it easy for the non-technical user to build out tasks for these agents to help the firm. With lawyers spending a large part of their day in Microsoft Teams, it becomes a logical spot to deploy the helpful virtual agent. Some easy use cases might be to configure a bot to give the attorneys a quick copy of an invoice for a client, ask a common question that a finance team member would typically answer, or maybe proactively be notified when that important invoice has been received for that very important but late paying client.

Microsoft Power Apps is a rapid application development tool that enables law firms to quickly build custom apps for your unique business requirements. Like the rest of the Power Platform, Power Apps empowers “citizen developers” with the no-code tools to deliver high quality applications in a short amount of time.

One of the big reasons why Microsoft Power Apps will be a big hit with law firms is that it can greatly improve the work life for the attorneys at the firm. Many firms now outsource application development activities, and many CIOs prefer to buy-off-the-shelf systems that are easier for the firm to support but cannot always meet the unique requirement of the firm. Power Apps is a perfect fit! IT teams can build applications or tools that solve these key business issues for the attorneys that would be too costly to build and maintain with a traditional custom-built application.

Automate:

Microsoft Power Automate is Microsoft’s megastar to streamline repetitive tasks and to create paperless processes. At first glance, Power Automate might look familiar to the law firm community because it acts similar to Intapp’s Flow toolset. Is it the same? No. Can it accomplish similar tasks? Yes. Automating tasks like holiday requests, document approvals, notifications, systems administration, or data management are in the Power Automate core wheelhouse. Historically, the issue with process automation tools for the legal vertical was their complexity. You really needed to be a coder or have plenty of time on your hands to keep pace with the versions from each vendor. Power Automate really shines here because it is so easy to use. One thing that I personally love about it is that you do not have to execute Power Automate at an enterprise level. Your own inbox tasks or processes that impact your team can simply be tackled with this intuitive tool. Power Automate also has a large collection of third party connectors that have been introduced to make connecting to other applications seamless. One recent addition to the connector library that will excite the legal community was NetDocuments. I am sure that you will see more and more legal applications added over the months to come.

The Microsoft Power Platform might have burst onto the legal scene in a stealthy way, but it is clearly not a secret anymore. Many law firm IT teams are busy bringing the work product from these tools to their end users. By the middle of 2021, you can expect the Power Platform at the center of numerous IT initiatives at many of the midsized and larger firms. It is just a matter of time before you have one of these Power Platform tools in your hands.

Having this insight into how Microsoft has made empowering your law firm a simple productivity conversation, you might ask yourself why your firm isn’t using the Power Platform to drive change? It is an easy question with a bottom-line answer. If you are using Power Platform, let me know what tools you are using and how.

 

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