While preparing for a recent consulting engagement I was reminded of the dominant role that Microsoft plays in the provision of key software to the legal industry. In our 2021 Legal Technology survey of 35 ANZ firms with 100 plus users, it was hardly surprising to find that 100% use Microsoft Office and Email, the major tools for production and communication. Looking at most ILTACON Surveys the result is much the same. But besides the two key products mentioned it is apparent that the significance of Microsoft solutions to the legal sector is only increasing.
The Pandemic has forced a greater reliance upon video conference platforms and, as the majority of firms will have Teams as part of their Microsoft Office licence agreement, it is hardly surprising that Teams has already become the platform of choice for many firms. After all, why pay for an alternative product if you already own one that is perfectly acceptable? The major competition to Teams in legal comes from Zoom, with both platforms enabling online meetings, chats, calls, screen sharing, and file sharing. Other than cost, Microsoft offers native integration between Teams and its Office 365 stack. A number of firms are currently considering their longer-term in respect to which platform they standardise on, including Colin Biggers Paisley where CIO, Sam Sofianos, suggests that Teams may well end up being the firm’s preferred platform.
Microsoft promotes Teams as a collaborative workspace within 365 that acts as a central hub for workplace conversations, collaborative teamwork, video chats and document sharing that is designed to be a unified suite of tools to assist worker productivity. However, we believe it is the extra functionality and integrations being provided by Microsoft and third parties that will ultimately make Teams THE preferred legal video conferencing platform for legal. In essence, with mikes, cameras and wireless connectivity a standard part of most worker kits, video and collaboration have become a software play. Hence, Teams and Zoom are also causing a major rethink of how firms deploy more traditional video platforms, such as Cisco.
An office move also presents an opportunity to rethink the traditional video mix. Someone who is currently considering his options is Neil Blum, CIO of Barry Nilsson, who in the last 12 months, has relocated their Adelaide, Perth and Hobart offices, with the Sydney office relocating now. Having fully embraced MS Teams as their national primary video conference platform, “audio-visual capabilities within the new offices have been built around the MS Teams platform, meaning it is here to stay for the foreseeable future”. Covid and consequent lockdowns have helped accelerate the move to the Cloud and the broad deployment of laptops, both of which have benefited Microsoft. Many firms have standardised on MS portable devices and are now using MS Azure, either directly or indirectly.
iManage is a major provider of document management to ANZ legal, with 85% of the firms in the IPS Survey being clients, and it has recently announced the release of a multi-tenanted version of its DMS, iManage Cloud, built on Microsoft Azure with extended integration with Microsoft 365. With their new iManage app for Teams, users now have easy access to iManage Work files from within the Teams interface, allowing users to search for iManage documents in Teams, and allowing content from iManage to be included in Teams communications. It’s likely that iManage will ultimately provide integration with Teams that is as deep as what they’ve developed for Outlook. As Gianni Giust, Director ANZ for iManage observes, “As the Microsoft platform continues to evolve in legal, DMS providers must innovate to stay relevant and drive value. Clients have been calling out for a more seamless integration into everyday collaboration tools like Teams whilst ensuring client data is protected. Leveraging the Microsoft Azure platform services enables iManage to deliver new functionality that was previously not possible, and the roadmap ahead is truly exciting.”
The other dominant provider of services to legal is Mimecast. Since establishing its presence in Australia in 2013, Mimecast APAC VP Nick Lennon and his team are now providing their platform to 94% of firms in the IPS Survey, and we have yet to hear from any CIO who is dissatisfied. As Pious Thomas, Head of Technology at Hall & Wilcox states, “Mimecast is a reliable and effective solution that we depend on as a crucial component of our security solution and of the firm’s Business Continuity Planning.”
Mimecast operates in the Cybersecurity space providing email security, archiving and continuity. It has been actively acquiring products that complement its core platform, and these include MessageControl, Segasec, Solebit and DMARC Analyzer. “The integration of these products has enhanced our capabilities to help businesses stay ahead of key cybersecurity challenges, including phishing, ransomware, business email compromise (BEC), and brand protection with sophisticated AI capabilities,” says Nick Lennon, Mimecast Asia-Pacific Vice-President. “This year Mimecast’s The State of Email Security 2022 research revealed 89% of companies in Australia reporting that they are bracing for the fallout from an email-borne attack compared to 80% globally, highlighting the need for a comprehensive prevention, detection and recovery strategy to best minimise the ever-increasing risk from cybersecurity in our region.”
Something that Microsoft and Mimecast have in common is that are both key providers of services that enable law firms to improve their ability to provide the components required for better mobility, communications, security, and business continuity. However, in our view, there is a caveat. Legal buyers, ever mindful that such sector dominance risks disempowerment will continually seek evidence of ongoing value. Such value, we believe, comprises commercial conduct respect for local values, continued innovation and reliability. The last requirement will in turn be measured in uptime, data security performance over time and ease of ownership from a licensing perspective.
John Duckett, Director of InPlace Solutions