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Law Technology

A survey of software useful for law students and lawyers, and tips to improve your productivity on programs you probably already use.

Outlook

Email

Outlook is a very common enterprise client for organizational communication. Its primary feature is email management, and emails are still the primary way that many offices communicate. Email has the advantages of being a standardized and universal way of sending messages, and for good and for ill, it lets users send messages across organizations. 

It will be important to learn how to manage your inbox and learn the etiquette of communicating with colleagues in long form emails.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/39730628_E-Mail_Netiquette_for_Lawyers

You should also be aware of some of the major limitations of using email for certain key collaborative functions:

  • When communicating with a group of people in an email thread, avoid breaking up the thread by replying to just one correspondent. Likewise, consider the problems that may occur if you reply to an older message in the thread. For group communications like this, a chat or project management application may sometimes be more appropriate.
  • When collaborating on a document or file, remember that using email to send versions of the file back and forth often creates issues with keeping track of the most current version. Consider using a cloud storage or document management platform.

Calendaring

Another crucial feature of email clients like Outlook is appointment management. Calendars are critical not only for helping individual workers manage the schedules, but also for making group appointments.

Learn to use meeting invitations to add appointments to everyone's calendars, and when scheduling meetings between individuals in the same organization, check for schedule conflicts.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYnd__Z_3RY

Chat Software

To facilitate group communication that is often difficult in email threading, some offices have turned to using chat applications. These make it easier to create topic-specific conversations for employees working on different projects where each message can be viewed chronologically. They tend to encourage shorter and more informal messaging, which may be viewed as less appropriate for certain workplaces.

Another major feature of chat applications is that communication is limited to members of an organization. This cuts out spam, malicious emails, and superfluous vendor messages, but it also means you cannot use it to communicate with clients or other people important to a case outside your firm. Email cannot be completely dispensed with even if it's not the preferred internal communication channel.

 

Microsoft Teams

DePaul University now provides access to Microsoft Teams, a collaboration platform that facilitates chat, audio conferencing, and simultaneous document editing. It can be a useful way to communicate and collaborate with your fellow students, especially given the need of social distancing.

This guide from DePaul's Information Services will help you get access to Teams, and provides links to Microsoft's tutorial videos.

https://depaul.service-now.com/sp?id=kb_article_view&sysparm_article=KB0010769&sys_kb_id=98f6dcb31b334450f15543f8bc4bcb39

Slack

One of the most common chat platforms is Slack, which is used across many contexts, from businesses to activist organizations. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s69uoRkm0WE

Document Storage & Management

When multiple people are working on the same document, the best practice is to have the document remain in one file location that each user can access and edit using a platform that lets the file be restored to previous versions. This way, there won't be multiple copies of the file stored on various computers without a single way to keep track of the changes. Common cloud storage platforms typically provide this type of service, but you may also want to look into document management platforms that are specifically targeted toward the legal services market.

Google Drive & Docs

Because Google Drive and Docs are free for individual users, many people already have some experience sharing their work through these platforms. Google Docs documents natively live on a cloud service, can be easily shared with and edited by others users, and have version histories built in. Other files can be easily shared through Google Drive.

Using Google Docs for Collaborative Work

Google Docs Collaboration Version Control

Box

DePaul provides users access to one of the major consumer and enterprise cloud storage services, Box. Box allows access to any file across any device, sharing between users, document collaboration, and version control. Documents can be accessed via the web or integrated into a computer's file management.

Accessing Box through DePaul

Teleconferencing

Zoom

You have likely used Zoom for remote classroom instruction, but it is useful to consider this versatile tool for any kind of meeting that must be conducted at a distance. If you use it to conduct your own meetings, you should get familiar with its scheduling features and how to share your screen with attendees. 

Scheduling a Meeting

Sharing Your Screen