Microsoft 365 is heavily relied upon by many legal professionals, and with its numerous and frequently updated tools, it’s always good to re-up your knowledge of its capabilities! Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway welcome Ben Schorr to discuss 10 features lawyers especially enjoy about Microsoft 365. Ben discusses some of his favorite hidden gems in the software, and shares lawyer-specific insights on its licensing structure, security, mobile access, email encryption, and more.
Ben M. Schorr is a senior content designer at Microsoft.
Special thanks to our sponsors, Scorpion, Blackletter Podcast, Alert Communications and Nota.
Intro: Welcome to The Digital Edge with Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway, your hosts, both legal technologists, authors, and lecturers, invite industry professionals to discuss a new topic related to lawyers and technology. You’re listening to Legal Talk Network.
Sharon D. Nelson: Welcome to the 161st edition of The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology. We’re glad to have you with us. I’m Sharon Nelson, president of Sensei Enterprises, an information technology, cybersecurity, and digital forensics firm in Fairfax, Virginia.
Jim Calloway: And I’m Jim Calloway, director of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Management Assistance Program. Today, our topic is 10 Features of Microsoft 365 That Lawyers Love, but first we would like to thank our sponsors.
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Thanks to Scorpion. Scorpion is a leading provider of marketing solutions for the legal industry. With nearly 20 years of experience serving attorneys, Scorpion can help you grow your practice. Learn more at scorpionlegal.com.
Our guest today is our good friend, Ben Schorr, a senior content designer at Microsoft. His primary area of focus these days is Microsoft 365 cybersecurity. Ben is an author, speaker, and columnist who has contributed to several books as well as writing multiple solo books for the American Bar Association, including The Lawyer’s Guide to Microsoft Outlook, The Lawyer’s Guide to Microsoft Word, Office 365 for Lawyers, and OneNote in One Hour. Thanks for joining us today, Ben.
Ben Schorr: Thanks, Jim it’s great to be here.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, we’re happy to have you, Ben. It’s been a little while. This is a good subject to talk about. It’s on lawyers’ minds a lot, and I know that one thing lawyers do love about Microsoft 365 is its licensing structure. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?
Ben Schorr: Yeah, absolutely. So, I think the biggest thing really is that, as one lawyer told me, it helps convert CAPEX to OPEX. So, instead of big investments in hardware and software and physical facilities, you can basically pay as you go for exactly the amount of Microsoft 365 you need. I’ve told this story before, but I had an attorney come to me a few years back and he was the managing partner of an — about a hundred-person firm, and their old Exchange Server was about ready to be replaced, and they called one of the big server vendors and got a quote for about 24,000 dollars for a new server, software licenses, and so forth, which wasn’t an unreasonable price for the time to be honest, and he thought, “Well, okay. We might have to write that check, but maybe there’s an alternative.” So, he called me and he said, “Could we move just our Exchange Server to Office 365. We don’t want to move our documents, we don’t want to move our practice management. We just want to move Exchange. What would that cost us?” And I said, “100 users, about 400 dollars a month,” and there was a long pause and he said, “400 dollars a month per user?” And I said, “No, 400 dollars a month total, four dollars per user,” and he thought about it and said, “Took me a long time to spend 24,000 dollars at 400 dollars a month.” I said, “Yeah, that’s right.”
So, you know, that was their introduction to moving to Microsoft 365, and because it made the licensing so much less expensive for them, really, I let them spread it over time. The other thing is that a lot of lawyers, they have multiple devices and especially now in this sort of hybrid environment that we’re in, and Microsoft 365 lets each user activate the Office apps, so Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and so forth, on up to five devices at a time. So, maybe they’ve got, you know, a PC on their desk, a laptop in their bag, and they’ve got a Mac at home. You can install it on all of those with the same license for no extra charge, and there’s no product keys to manage either because you just assign the license to the user in the online admin center, and then they install from the internet. Super easy.
Jim Calloway: Well, that sounds great. I have to share a story with you, Ben. I talked to one lawyer recently who’s a solo practitioner with one secretary. He said because of OneDrive for Business, he now has all of his files together in one location for the first time in the last decade. So, how about OneDrive for Business? It’s been pretty useful in a work-from-home world for certain.
Ben Schorr: Yeah, definitely. It’s, you know, being a cloud-based file storage platform, it means you get your — you can get your files from anywhere that you’ve got internet connection on any device. With Microsoft 365, you typically get one terabyte of space for each user, which is quite a bit.
And it makes it really easy to go from the office to your new office, which is your dining room table these days. The other thing is the user can choose to sync files or folders to their local hard drive with OneDrive. So, they can always have a copy locally if they’ve got unreliable internet, or if they’re just nervous about having their only copy in the cloud. Files stored in OneDrive for Business are private by default. I get that question a lot from attorneys.
So, nobody else in your firm, or especially outside your firm, can access them unless you choose to, because you can choose to share individual files or folders with people inside or outside the firm if you want to collaborate, but unless you choose to share them they’re not shared. Whether your business also has file versioning built in, so if you mess up a file, you make an edit you don’t like or somebody else makes an edit you don’t like, or if the file gets accidentally deleted, you can just restore the previous version of that file, and the other thing that’s handy about that is of course we all know, Sharon and John, I’m sure you guys have been talking about it on your security podcast that ransomware is, you know, one of the biggest threats we see these days, and OneDrive has built-in ransomware detection and remediation. So, if you did happen to get hit with ransomware, even if it did make it to your OneDrive files, you should still be able to recover them.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, that’s pretty nice indeed. I’ve been calling a ransomware the other pandemic.
Ben Schorr: Yeah.
Sharon D. Nelson: Which is pretty much what it is. But I have noticed that the popularity of Teams is rising very steadily, especially I think as it has adopted some of the more popular features of Zoom which people like. So, tell us what’s happening there and why some people, and I don’t say they’re right, but some people say it’s more effective as an in-house tool. I’m not exactly sure why they say that but I figure you would know, and by the way on our last podcast, our lawyer and friend, Mary Vandenack, told us how Teams was a godsend to her firm during the pandemic, which I thought was high praise indeed.
Ben Schorr: Remind me to give Mary a hug next time if I’m allowed to. So, Yeah, Teams has gotten big for a whole bunch of reasons but for one thing it does, it lets you create and organize collaborative teams, teams with a lower T — lowercase T.
So, maybe you have a large client for example and within your firm maybe there’s two or three attorneys, a couple of paralegals, maybe a few other professionals in your firm who are working on that client’s matters, you could create a team for that client that all those people are a member of, and that creates a shared file library, collaborative chat space, persistent chat space so the history is preserved, Planner for tracking tasks, a SharePoint site. You get a bunch of other tools in there too, and they’re all in one place, which is great, and it makes it really easy to kind of focus on the work you’re doing for that particular client, and of course people can be members of multiple Teams within your firm. I think I’m a member of dozens and dozens of Teams here at Microsoft.
You can choose to invite guests to your team, and a guest is what we call anybody outside your firm, so you know, co-counsel or experts, or even the client if you really wanted to. So, they could all collaborate as well and access the tools and things that are in the Teams, and any of those outside guests that you invite, they don’t need a Teams license to access those resources. So, you don’t have to worry about licensing them into your tenant or anything.
Most people are familiar with the meeting capabilities in Teams, either with or without video. You can even use Teams as your phone system, which we do here at Microsoft, with or without VoIP desk phones. That’s one option you have, and the last thing is a lot of people don’t realize that you can add third-party apps to Teams. So, things like Jira or YouTube, or NetDocuments, and there’s also some legal specific ones like LawToolBox or Clio. Has recently added a third-party Clio app to Teams, which is pretty exciting. Could do a whole session on Teams. In fact, I did at Techshow.
Jim Calloway: Well, Ben, Microsoft Forms seems like a great tool for lawyers to use for client intake forms and many other purposes. It’s a little bit the undiscovered country for most law firms, so why don’t you tell us a little bit about that tool?
Ben Schorr: Yeah, it is. I often refer to it as a hidden gem in Microsoft 365. So, Forms lets you create electronic forms, any kind of form, you like things like client intake or surveys, information gathering. You can customize the form, put all kinds of different controls on it like check boxes or text fields, radio buttons, and you can pre-populate. So, you can give people a dropdown of choices if you want to or let them type in freeform responses, and when the responses come back you can view those responses either in the Forms interface, which is in your browser, it’s a browser app, or you can open those responses in Excel if you get a lot of responses and want to do some data analysis on them, and you can find Forms if you sign into office.com with your Microsoft 365 account, you should see Forms listed among the apps there.
Jim Calloway: Before we move on to our next segment, let’s take a quick commercial break.
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Welcome back to The Digital Edge on the Legal Talk Network. Today our subject is 10 Features of Microsoft 365 That Lawyers Love. Our guest is Ben Schorr, a senior content designer at Microsoft. His primary area these days is Microsoft 365 Security. So, let’s go there.
I am really, really impressed by Microsoft 365 Security and as you know, Ben, I watch software security like a hawk because there are so many dismal stories every day in the headlines.
Ben Schorr: You do.
Sharon D. Nelson: So, I am especially pleased by the fact that multi-factor authentication is turned on by default. Give us some idea of how secure Microsoft 365 really is and how some of its features really help lawyers to preserve the confidentiality of their sensitive data?
Ben Schorr: Sure. So, I think there’s two things we can say for sure about Security, and I’m sure you’ll agree with this, Sharon. One is that nobody’s ever 100 percent secure. If an adversary has the resources, the skills, and the patience, they’ll probably find a way in it eventually. So, our goal isn’t to make it impossible to get in. It’s to make them have to dangle Tom Cruise from your office ceiling to do it. You now?
Sharon D. Nelson: Now, there’s an image.
Ben Schorr: So, that’s – so more serious though, I mean we want to make it very difficult and expensive. Nobody’s going to spend millions to steal thousands. So, that’s the first thing. Nobody’s ever 100 percent secure. We just want to make it super difficult and expensive for them to get to you.
The second is that security is a process not a product. You could buy every security product ever made, but if you don’t set them up correctly, use them correctly, maintain them correctly, train your users, follow up, establish and follow sound processes and procedures, the bad guys are still going to find a way in. So, it’s really about that process, and as you know, Sharon, one of the most common ways to get in now isn’t even an elaborate technical hack. It’s tricking one of your users to let them in, with a phishing email or a text message, or a scam phone call, business email compromise, something like that. Social engineering is one of the most common ways to get in these days, and very few products are going to solve that problem, but Microsoft 365 does give you a lot of tools to help.
So, multi-factor auth is a big one. That’s probably the most important thing you should have turned on everywhere. Second, Azure Active Directory can ban common passwords. So, your users can’t use 12345 or open sesame as their passwords. We have anti-phishing tools built in. Now, we have tools for managing remote devices securely. So, Defender for Endpoint, including mobiles, with conditional access capabilities that lets you set specific conditions that a client device has to meet before they’re allowed to connect to your data and system, so things like having the latest updates installed, having an anti-virus turned on, things like that.
We have Safe Links and Defender SmartScreen, which tries to block malicious web links, and then lastly we have Learning Pathways, which a lot of people don’t know about. It’s a free training platform that comes with Microsoft 365 that trains your staff on all sorts of Microsoft topics including cybersecurity. So, and if you just google or bing for learning pathways, you’ll find out how to turn that on. But you’ll still have to use them properly. Our support sites have a lot of content, articles, videos to help you do that. We could do a whole session on this, and of course I’m going to do one at the Arizona Bar in a couple of weeks. So, but remember the goal is to make it difficult and expensive for the bad guys to get in, and we’ve got a lot of tools for that.
Sharon D. Nelson: It’s the people, as you say, that are usually the weak point.
Ben Schorr: Yeah.
Jim Calloway: Let’s go a little bit different direction on security. Encrypted emails is often discussed, but let’s just say less often used. Talk to us about how lawyers can use Microsoft 365 to encrypt their emails.
Ben Schorr: So, first of all, Microsoft 365 email through Exchange Online is encrypted in transit and at rest automatically. It automatically gets TLS encryption when your email server and Exchange Server is talking to another email server that supports TLS, which most of them do these days, but you can add additional encryption. If you have a business premium or an E3 or E5 subscription in Outlook, when you’re typing your email before you send it, and I realize this is radio not TV so I can’t show you how to do this, but before you send it go to the options tab on the ribbon and select encrypt, and when you do that it’ll automatically encrypt it with Office 365 message encryption which adds another layer of encryption on top of the TLS. You can also choose to flag that email as do not forward. So, the recipient won’t be allowed to forward the message to anybody else, and yes, you can send it to people on other email systems like Gmail or whatever.
The second thing you can do is you can set up a mail rule in Exchange Online that watches for specific kinds of text, like Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, other kinds of PII, and then it automatically applies encryption to any outgoing message it sees that contains that kind of info. So, we’ve got those two tools in to help encrypt your mail.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, I’ve heard a number of my lawyer friends tell me about Microsoft Bookings which they really love, but I suspect a great many lawyers don’t know about Microsoft Bookings.
So, tell them what they’re missing, Ben.
Ben Schorr: It’s actually one of the most common feature questions I get on Microsoft 365 from lawyers. Bookings is a neat little service in Microsoft 365 that it’ll create a custom web page for you that you can link to from your regular website or from your blog, link in your email signature, wherever, and that page lets clients or prospective clients book an appointment with you automatically, and you can set up what times you’re available, how long the timeslots are, et cetera. So, if you don’t want people to book you at lunch time or on Fridays, or whatever, it won’t offer those timeslots, and it also integrates with your calendar so it won’t let anybody book a time that you’re already busy at. So, that’s what Bookings does, and you can also find that in office.com, sign in with your 365 subscription, your account. You’ll see it.
Jim Calloway: Well, Outlook has been a powerful tool and a greatly utilized tool in the legal profession for a long time. In fact, the three of us have always found it remarkable when lawyers are surveyed about their practice management solution how many still designate Outlook. What are the baseline features we’ve known about for a while and what is new these days that lawyers might like to know about?
Ben Schorr: So, yeah. I definitely don’t recommend using Outlook for practice management, but I know a lot of people do. It wouldn’t be my first choice. It has so many great features. Probably my favorite is the to-do bar, which you can turn on from the view tab, and that’s not super new. We’ve had that for a little while, but a lot of people still don’t know about it. If you go to the view tab to-do bar, you can turn it on from there, and it shows your upcoming calendar appointments, and your task items if you want it to, a pane on the right side of the screen. So, even if you’re in your inbox, you can still see what your next appointment is. That’s probably my number one favorite thing. Second would probably be color coding the calendar. Those are two really great organizational productivity tools.
Jim Calloway: Before we move on to our next segment, let’s take a quick commercial break.
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Sharon D. Nelson: Welcome back to The Digital Edge on the Legal Talk Network. Today, our subject is 10 Features of Microsoft 365 That Lawyers Love. Our guest is Ben Schorr, a senior content designer at Microsoft. His primary area these days is Microsoft 365 cybersecurity.
Ben, lawyers spend so much time on their phones these days. How can they securely access Microsoft 365 from their phones, which is this is a common problem that they worry about using their phones to access things?
Ben Schorr: So, we’ve got a couple of things you can do on mobile. First off, our Outlook app is available on both Android and IOS. It’s pretty robust at this point. We’ve had it for quite a while. We’re continuing to improve it and add new tools to it, but for accessing your email and your calendar, you really just can’t beat the Outlook app on your phone, and that’s a free, easy download from the app store, and by the way speaking of secure mobile access, please don’t get any apps outside of the official app stores on your devices. That’s one of the biggest ways we see malware show up on mobile devices, is people installing apps, what we call sideloading apps from non-official app stores, but we do Outlook again in the App Store.
The second thing we have is we have a Microsoft Office app which is available on Android and IOS, and that that builds Word, Excel, and PowerPoint into one app basically. So, you can read and edit your Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. It supports multi-factor authentication. So does Outlook. It supports sensitivity labeling for security and compliance which is another security tool I forgot to mention earlier in Microsoft 365, and it incorporates the features of Office Lens, which basically turns your phone into a scanner which is kind of cool.
In fact, one really fun trick with the Office app is if you’ve got a printed table of information, maybe it’s in a book or maybe somebody produced a document in printed form that’s got a table of data in it and you wish you had that in Excel, if you open the Office app on your mobile device, tap the little plus sign there which is the, you know, create new, choose Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and then choose scan table. Office will have you point your phone’s camera at that printed table and it’ll scan that printed table into a fully functional Excel worksheet, which is pretty impressive to see happen. So, I encourage you to give it a try even if you’re just fooling around.
Jim Calloway: I’ve tried that. It seemed like magic, Ben.
Ben Schorr: It’s unbelievable.
I was tangentially around when they were developing that feature and it just blew my mind every day.
Jim Calloway: Ben, you’ve been a great resource for the legal community and my personal go-to guy for hard questions on Microsoft for many years. So, I appreciate that, but what’s your favorite tool from Microsoft 365 that we haven’t had a chance to discuss yet?
Ben Schorr: So, I briefly mentioned sensitivity labels. I think that’s something especially in legal that firms aren’t using as much as they should and that’s something, you know, that we could do a whole session on but I would encourage you to go to support.microsoft.com and search for sensitivity labels. You’ll find all the info there. Basically that lets you label either manually or automatically content that might be sensitive that should have some rules applied to it, like don’t forward or don’t print, or things like that, to prevent data loss basically.
The second would probably be Power Automate, which lets you automate a lot of repetitive functions. So, you could do things like if you’re using Microsoft Forms, if you’re using Forms for client intake, you could have a Microsoft form that when it comes back, Power Automate could look at what the client put in, prospective client put in as the practice area, and then automatically route that to the person in the firm who handles that practice area. So, Power Automate lets you automate a lot of those things, but I think probably my number one thing would be Microsoft To Do, which is our task management tool, and the great thing about To Do is it aggregates task items from both Outlook and Planner.
So, like for me, I usually use Outlook as my number one task management tool because I flag emails for follow-up or I use the Outlook tasks. I’ve done that for 20 years. But also increasingly we’re using planner from Microsoft 365 and To Do lets me see all of those tasks in one place, and you can create multiple task lists. There’s even a mobile app for IOS and Android, so your to-do list can go with you. Really makes it a lot easier for me to get a handle on the barrage of tasks being thrown over the fence at me on an hourly basis.
Sharon D. Nelson: You know, I’ve learned so much today. I can’t believe how much I didn’t know of what you said. So, I know that our listeners probably feel the same way. They’ve just gotten a treasure trove of great information, and I know you got up early to join us today, Ben. So, we want to thank you for that, as well as for all the wonderful information you shared. Thanks for being with us.
Ben Schorr: My pleasure.
Sharon D. Nelson: And that does it for this edition of The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology, and remember, you can subscribe to all of the editions of this podcast at legaltalknetwork.com or on Apple Podcasts, and if you enjoyed our podcast, please rate us at Apple Podcasts.
Jim Calloway: Thanks for joining us. Goodbye Miss Sharon.
Sharon D. Nelson: Happy trails, cowboy.
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Podcast transcription by Tech-Synergy.com