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Office 365: Why A Law Firm Switched

A lawyer-slash-IT chief explains how his 14-person law firm is realizing good ROI after its move to Microsoft Office 365.
Microsoft did gain an early edge simply because of Office's historic hold on business environments, PVW included. While the firm looked at competitors, Williams said some of Office's core applications have a continued allure for the firm's users.

"The reality is we were very focused on the continued use of Word and Excel," Williams said. "We're very comfortable with those products, [and] we're very comfortable with the Outlook product. Our ultimate solution, within the way our law firm operates, needed to be able to use those products specifically. When you start getting down to what these other companies were doing, they were creating essentially -- and this is my view -- scaled-down versions of those products."

Williams said there have been some minor learning curves for new users of the Web-based Office apps. "Yes, a little bit," he said. "But what we've found is when we're doing our heavy work, we're doing [it] on desktop versions of software. Where the Web-based versions come in handy is when you're remote and you're trying to review documents or making simple changes."

PVW's cloud strategy supports an increasing amount of that remote work. Williams himself has found that Office 365 in particular enables him to set up shop at a client site and bring the office to them. Cloud services assist in a related area, too: The firm embraces the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) era. Attorneys and staff use iPads, iPhones and Androids. Williams brings his own Mac to work. Company-purchased PCs run Windows, though even there they're still in the process of syncing everyone on the same version.

"We're trying to get everyone out of Windows XP at this point; it's kind of a dying-breed software," Williams said. "We're moving everybody into Windows 7 and are still kind of in a hold pattern with respect to Windows 8, at least until all the other software platforms we utilize are fully supporting Windows 8."

Cloud platforms better serve the firm's mix of operating systems and devices. They also ease some of its BYOD-related security concerns. "When the actual document is sitting on a server in the cloud or in our office, there's a lot less security vulnerability," Williams said. "If that laptop gets stolen, one there's not much data on it, [and] two you can wipe the data from it. We don't encourage people to take documents and just save them on their laptops."