Teams Design Planning for Law Firms

Teams Design Planning for Law Firms

24 December 2020 · 5 min read
When planning for Teams deployment in your firm, questions come up around how the Teams should be structured for both legal matters and non-legal or administrative matters. Most firms have been through similar design processes before planning for their Matter-Centric DMS deployments. While the technology may be different, the planning process is pretty much the same. However, there are some key elements to think through as Teams offers more than just documents.
With any new system, it is strongly recommended that you start off small to adjust and grow over time. You want the end-users to adopt Teams and be enthusiastic about using it as the collaboration space. Making Teams too complicated will not help with that. Our suggestion is to keep Teams simple with just 3-5 channels to start and show the users how Teams can help make their lives easier by having everything in one place.

Legal Teams

Workspaces in a document management system are organized and structured around document types. For example, in a litigation matter, you might have folders for pleadings, legal research, discovery, and correspondence. Teams is a collaboration platform and does not necessarily need to be organized in the same way. In Teams, content is organized into channels. Within channels, you can have other collaborative assets, such as OneNote notebooks, Task plans, Files for documents, Lists for issue tracking, etc. That model doesn’t necessarily lend itself to be structured around document types.
Channels for legal matters can be organized instead around the phases of the matter. In litigation, you have phases, such as Case Assessment/Strategy, Pre-trial pleadings and motions, Discovery, etc. In corporate or M&A matters, phases are around Financing, Due Diligence, Real Estate matters, Closings, etc. This way organizing your Teams’ channel structures around matter phases may make more sense.
An example would be having a channel for depositions. You could create a Tasks tab to outline all the tasks people need to accomplish for the depositions. You need to think about (a) who is prepping, (b) who is organizing the exhibits and putting together the witness notebook, (c) who is taking the deposition, and (d) who is summarizing the transcript. You could also add a List tab to the deposition channel that has the exhibit lists for each deponent.
Each Team for a Legal Matter might also have a channel for Administration that could be set as a private channel accessible to just the partners on the matter. This channel could have folders under the Files tab for Engagement letters, Invoices, and Outside Counsel Guidelines (OCG).
Much like you do for matter workspaces in the DMS, you would want a more structured template for creating legal matter Teams. You would not necessarily want users to create ad hoc or custom channels. You want a consistent experience across all similar matters so users know what channel to go to for certain discussions or tasks. If you allow custom channels for each Team, it could quickly spiral into chaos.
In this way, you can turn a Microsoft Team into a true collaboration space for all matter Teams members who can access and organize everything that is needed for that matter.

Administrative Teams

There are lots of ways to approach how non-legal related Teams are designed and deployed across the firm. Each administrative department may have different requirements based on the type of work they do.
As an example, the IT department always has many projects going on and may cross with other departments. In those cases, a Team for each IT/Department might make sense. For example, you might have an IT/Accounting team that handles all things related to accounting systems. Maybe a channel for each system they use or joint projects, upgrades, etc.
Again, within each channel/project you could put relevant documents under the Files tab, a Tasks tab to keep track of relevant tasks related to the project, a OneNote to track meeting notes, and a List tab to track and prioritize issues encountered on that project.
Within each department, you might have a Team for each distinct group within that department. For example, Accounting might have a Team for each major area – AP, AR, Compensation, Audits, etc., as members within each of those Teams will likely differ. And within each Team a channel for each year, project, etc. Talent Management or HR might have a Team each for Recruiting and Employee Benefits.  Marketing might have individual Teams for Events, RFPs, Marketing Collateral, etc.
You could create a basic template for each department or group within the department, but then allow for more custom channels since generally users will be only using the Teams relevant to their particular group.

Committee or Practice Teams

Other types of Teams you might find in a law firm center around Committees or Practices. As with Department Teams, you could approach this in a number of ways. You could create a Team for each committee; then they can create more ad hoc channels for each project or event for the committee. Using Teams would be a good way to centralize all committee collaboration.
If they have items that are confidential, to say, just the partners such as partner compensation, you could create private channels within the committee Team for that purpose. For smaller firms, you could even create a Team for each partner/department combination so all the people who work with that partner in that group are on a Team together.
Again, you could use a basic template for each Committee or Practice team, such as channels for news, recruiting, events and compensation, but allow for more ad hoc custom channel creation to make it more relevant to that committee or practice.

Other Teams

In addition to matter, department, and committee Teams, you might have a Firm team where users can get relevant information about the Firm, employee handbooks, firmwide news, etc. Firms with multiple offices could have a Team for each office to centralize office-related information or alerts, such as cafeteria menus, office closings due to weather, etc.

Teams Design Planning

For each practice, department, or committee, find some key sponsors from within each group and give a short demonstration of Teams and options for organization and collaboration. It is also recommended to have some relevant examples prepared for your demonstration so the viewers do not have to imagine what it will look like for them.
Create a Team for each group with some standard channels and add a Task tab with sample tasks, some relevant document folders under the Files tab, and maybe a OneNote or Lists tab with some basic examples.
Demonstrate how users could essentially live in Teams by having relevant conversations, posting files, planning tasks, and keeping meeting notes. This will make the platform much more appealing than just showing users it is just ‘one more place to store documents’!

How Prosperoware Helps

Prosperoware CAM is a SaaS digital transformation and governance platform for collaboration systems in the cloud and on-premises. It enables organizations to improve adoption, enhance processes around management of office documents, and reduce risks related to privacy & cybersecurity.
Key features of CAM for Office 365 are:
  • Automatic provisioning of workspaces, Teams, Channels, and folders from Project Portfolio Management, CRM etc., or through human workflow using templates
  • Rich, custom metadata for project or document context
  • Unified directory for project location
  • Provision internal & external users, manage permissions, and integrate with ethical wall systems
  • Data Loss Prevention including activity monitoring and bulk security & metadata changes
  • Set data disposition policies or apply litigation hold
To see CAM for Microsoft Teams in action, watch this 3-min ONLY demo video here.

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