I attended the Microsoft Office System Launch Event in St. Louis with my eyes open for the potential value to lawyers. I had read a number of articles suggesting that Office 2003 was an “unnecessary” upgrade and I wanted to see for myself.
I drew the opposite conclusion. There are aspects of Office 2003 that should be considered carefully by lawyers and law firms who either (1) wish to take advantage of some cool innovations or (2) want to improve productivity and business results. Those firms not interested in either category can go back to sleep now.
I’ll probably write an article with more detail at a later point, but I will note that the combination of Small Business Server and Office 2003 could be a dynamite package for a new small firm, and here are five observations I’ll share:
1. Microsoft has developed a standard edition of Small Business Server that provides most of the server software a small business needs (print and file sharing, remote access, et al) and some nice bonuses for $600 for 5 users (used to be $1,500). In addition, some hardware companies (I can’t remember which) are bundling a simple server plus SBS for not much more than $1,000. Additional users are added by 5-pack licenses. SBS can also be supported remotely, alleviating the need for a full-time IS person or on-site consultant.
2. Office 2003 (Small Business and Pro) has two programs built in that will have great utility for small law firms – a business contact manger in Outlook 2003 and Small Business Manager, an accounting and financial package. Both packages probably give you a solid 90% of the best stuff of what you’d expect from standalone programs (Act!, QuickBooks) and might (emphasize might) be alternatives to dedicated case management and legal accounting software in certain circumstances. Small Business Manager will allow you to create useful business analysis reports very easily.
3. Office 2003 (Small Business and Pro) once again contains Publisher, which can be used to create a variety of marketing materials and standard print items.
4. I continue to believe that the newest versions of Office have more features that are geared to the working lawyer. As other articles have indicated, Outlook 2003 is clearly the star of the new version. The integration between the office programs is pretty amazing.
5. OneNote – Very, very interesting application for lawyers. You’ll be hearing more from me about it.
Final Thought: I came out of the day-long session energized and seeing a lot of possibilities in the new versions. I think that’s a good sign. I’ll be curious to see what other legal tech experts think.