atlas by clearpeople

7 ways law firms use digital workplace technology

21 September 2023

Innovative legal firms know that improving efficiency and better collaboration gives them a competitive edge. They are on the lookout for technologies that enhance their operations and provide high quality client experiences.

With examples from some of our legal customers, this blog explores how law firms use technology like Atlas to streamline their processes and enhance user and client experiences – and how this impacts productivity. 

In this blog: Streamlining legal operations through digital workplace technology

1. As an intranet

2. As a secure, user-friendly client portal 

3. As a knowledge management platform

4. For a flexible, improved work experience 

5. To increase efficiency and productivity 

6. To leverage their technology investment 

7. To enable the governed use of AI

In conclusion: how digital workplace technology works for a law firm 

Useful resources

Ebook download: Building a digital workplace for your law firm

1. As an intranet  

Employee engagement, effective internal communication and collaboration are all essential to a legal firm’s success. Atlas intranet solution for law firms enables legal professionals to connect, contribute and share knowledge and collaborate efficiently, and promotes equity, diversity and inclusion. A good law firm intranet actively drives knowledge sharing and collaboration and allows for information to be targeted and delivered to the people it is most relevant to, reducing noise and information overwhelm and ensuring the best possible cut-through of content.

Through its intranet functionality Atlas also enables people to easily find and connect with other people – for example, a lawyer in another area who has worked on a similar case or one working on a different matter for the same client.

African Legal Network (ALN), an alliance of leading corporate law firms in 15 key African jurisdictions, chose Atlas to provide a communication and knowledge hub to connect all member firms from one central digital location. ALNet, as ALN calls their Atlas intranet and digital workplace platform, provides the alliance with a centralized location for content, news and events that can be spliced and displayed by member firm or by practice area.

A law firm intranet should also allow people to easily create workspaces where they can collaborate and perform the tasks they need to without switching apps or toggling between different systems. Atlas enables this by streamlining a legal firm’s tools, systems and content into a single platform for work.

At ALN, Atlas enables each firm to find and share specific legal knowledge, and its users can securely access the entire M365 catalogue of apps and services from anywhere, on any device.  The outcome of ALN’s Atlas implementation is ALNet: “…a dynamic and powerful tool, whose impact on the cohesion and integration of ALN cannot be understated,” says Cheick Modibo Diarra, Chairperson of ALN .

A law firm intranet also fosters the company culture by reflecting the firm’s values and brands and creating a way for people to connect in virtual communities. By making it intuitive for anyone, of any digital skill level, to contribute information and to access knowledge, Atlas drives inclusivity and accessibility and democratizes knowledge. Apart from removing barriers to work and giving everyone a voice, Atlas also provides ways for the company to measure how its people interact with and use the tools and content on its intranet.

2. As a secure, user-friendly client portal

A critical aspect of any legal firm's operations involves collaborating with clients, stakeholders and external partners securely. Atlas shines in this area by offering robust extranet functionality. An extranet or client collaboration portal should provide a secure and user-friendly space where authorized external parties can access relevant information, share documents and collaborate. 

A law firm’s client portal should offer personalized user permissions via which the firm can control the level of access granted to each external user, ensuring confidentiality and data security. This feature enables seamless communication between lawyers and clients, accelerating decision-making processes and improving overall client satisfaction.  

In addition, a law firm’s client collaboration portal should allow for easy onboarding and offboarding of external users so that people only have access to a workspace when appropriate. 

A good legal firm extranet streamlines document sharing, allows stakeholders to view and collaborate on files in real-time and eliminate the need for back-and-forth email exchanges, and allows the firm to offer a stellar customer experience. After all, “... we need to be pretty efficient and be able to demonstrate value because the people who we are providing a service to are far more sophisticated that they used to be,” as one lawyer puts it in 'Managing information in law firms: changes and challenges' published in Information Research1.

By making content from disparate data sources findable and accessible within a single hub, Atlas improves the client experience, adding quality to efficiency gains.

3. As a knowledge management platform

As a lawyer, quoted in 'Managing information in law firms: changes and challenges’ says: “Our job is purely information. On a minute-by-minute basis, that’s all our job is […] 100% of it is information. So how do we find better ways to capture, catalogue, index, store, present our information? It’s really key.”

Law firms are prioritizing data analytics and data science, recognizing the advantages gathering data offers in terms of better decision-making. But information needs to be organized and made accessible to become knowledge. Which is why knowledge management is a cornerstone of success in the legal sector.

Atlas's comprehensive knowledge management tools enable legal firms to organize, access and share vast amounts of information efficiently. They significantly reduce the time spent searching for information and recreating content, allowing legal professionals to focus on higher-value activities, such as strategic legal analysis and client interactions. 

These are the reasons Weightmans LLP, a top 45 UK law firm, selected Atlas. As Kevin Brown, their IT director explains, they wanted to “remove the firm-wide reliance on network shares, duplications and out-of-date documents. Our aim is to help our people to manage their documents more effectively so that they retain their relevance and are accessible within our teams.”

A law firm’s digital workplace should include a robust document management system so that knowledge is made easily available to everyone who needs it. Atlas automatically applies metadata and categorizes information, making document management happen behind the scenes and without burdening people with the onerous – but essential – task of tagging every item of content. This means that with Atlas Search, lawyers can easily and quickly find precedents, legal templates and research findings across the firm’s entire technology estate, which streamlines the process of case preparation and ensures consistency in legal practices where every minute counts.

Weightmans' business services and innovations director, Stuart Whittle, says that while they weren’t entirely sure what the possibilities were, he has been pleasantly surprised “at how quick and easy the Atlas platform is in refining searches and enabling me to find the information I need within seconds.” By extending Microsoft 365’s powerful document management capabilities, Atlas brings document management, matter management and collaboration together, increasing a legal firm’s knowledge productivity.  

4. For a flexible, improved work experience

Lawyers often find themselves working on cases while on the move or outside regular office hours. Any legal firm digital workplace solution needs to be mobile-friendly so lawyers have access to critical information and can collaborate from anywhere, at any time.

A digital workplace for a law firm should allow lawyers to review documents, participate in discussions, and stay updated on case developments while on the go. This level of accessibility enhances productivity, allowing legal professionals to be more responsive to client needs, even outside traditional office settings.

Lawyers talk about feeling burdened by the proliferation of information and what they need to do to manage it. “Our biggest issue is the administrative burden […]. It feels like we’re not lawyers anymore, we are administrators; we are buried in information”1. By automating information management and knowledge management tasks, Atlas frees up valuable time and allows people to direct their effort towards more productive work.

In addition to being mobile-friendly, Atlas has been designed to offer a more intuitive interface to Microsoft 365, making it easy for users to navigate and find the features and information they need quickly (and thereby increasing the value of a law firm’s Microsoft investment). This emphasis on people-first design ensures that lawyers and other staff can adopt the platform with minimal training, maximizing efficiency from day one.

Additionally, the customizable dashboard allows users to personalize their workspace based on their preferences and priorities, improving productivity and engagement. The intuitive nature of Atlas significantly reduces the learning curve for new users, leading to faster adoption and optimal utilization of the platform's features. 

Building a digital workplace for your legal firm? Download this ebook today.

5. To increase efficiency and productivity

It’s not hard to imagine the productivity gains a unified digital workplace delivers for a law firm. In addition to the usual set of office applications, law firms have many specialized tools which makes for a complex and crowded desktop. A digital workplace solution that simplifies this and brings all the firm’s digital tools into one place, removes the need to toggle between systems, boosts efficiency and productivity and reduces frustration. Alongside improving efficiency, being able to work better and smarter also raises the quality of client work.

Automation is another surefire way to free people from boring, but necessary, tasks and to increase efficiency. Atlas allows critical processes and tasks to be automated so they tick over in the background in line with the firm’s policies and governance rules, letting people get on with the work that makes better use of their expertise. This makes a lawyer’s work more purposeful and engaging, which in turn increases productivity.

Provisioning is another area where efficiency can be gained. Atlas has a tool called ConneX Studio that enables people to create templated workspaces customized to their team’s needs. Lawyers can set up these provisioned workspaces themselves and IT can be assured that all the correct permissions and underlying taxonomy and information architecture have been applied.

6. To leverage their technology investment

Microsoft Teams is starting to replace Outlook as the main channel for communicating and collaborating with internal and external stakeholders at most law firms. In fact, many legal organizations have set reducing email traffic as a strategic objective. Reliance on email generates a lot of inbox noise; it’s easy to miss that critical message and managing email threads with multiple recipients gets messy and inefficient. And email is distracting. As this lawyer says in ‘Managing information in law firms’: “Every time my brain stops as a result of an email notification, there’s an impact... There is so much informational stimulation that you get overwhelmed.” 

Increased Teams usage though does result in numerous channels and siloed information – which is where Atlas steps in. Atlas improves the Teams user experience; makes it easier for people to self-serve while creating channels that meet the company’s policies; and extends it uses and capabilities, for instance by allowing people to search for information across Teams and other Microsoft 365 and third-party apps. 

In fact, Atlas makes all Microsoft tools easier to use, searchable and accessible in the flow of work by uniting them in a single digital workplace. Making systems easier to use increases compliance as well as adoption and usage, so companies maximize their Microsoft licensing.  

The legal sector is dominated by legacy systems for knowledge management, document management and other sector-specific needs. Many of these require specialized support and sit apart from other apps the firm uses, locking information in siloes. Atlas enables law firms to replace much of this legacy technology and consolidate their tech estate, reducing costs and realizing greater value from their Microsoft investment.

7. To enable the governed use of AI

Any innovative law firm is looking at AI and the potential it offers. But concerns about governance, data quality and reputational risks outweigh the advantages. We’ve all heard about the New York lawyer who used ChatGPT for legal research and referenced legal examples that didn’t exist. 

AI is only likely to become more enmeshed in our work so it’s essential that law firms prepare their people and their data for it, starting today if you haven’t already done so. AI is only as good as your worst data. 

The key to a law firm’s use of AI is governance. Governance gives us a framework in which to work safely and provides the assurance that the information being fed into AI is correct and appropriate. 

This blog about AI and information governance sets this out in detail, but its premise is that information governance is fundamental to how your legal firm works and how ready and able it is to leverage the technology. Atlas helps legal firms manage the tech by applying the organization’s governance policies automatically and managing your information and knowledge rigorously.

In conclusion: how digital workplace technology works for a law firm

A digital workplace like Atlas has proven to be a game-changer for legal firms [], providing a comprehensive suite of features that streamlines operations, enhances collaboration and optimizes knowledge management.  

User-friendly but secure extranet functionality facilitates client communication, while the intranet empowers internal collaboration and communication. Knowledge management tools enable efficient organization and access to critical information for better decision-making. 

The user experience and accessibility aspects of Atlas make it a preferred choice for legal firms. Its intuitive interface ensures a seamless onboarding process, and enables lawyers to stay connected and productive on the go or when working out of the office. As legal firms continue to embrace digital transformation, Atlas redefines how legal services are delivered and what law firms expect from their technology. 

A law firm’s clients want solutions, options, confidence and opportunities, says TJ Johnson in Peer to Peer (Spring 2021)2. We would add that a law firm’s people want and need those things too. But we wholeheartedly agree that law firms that meet these needs will succeed.


Useful legal sector-related blogs and pages:

1. Managing information in law firms: changes and challenges

2. Peer to Peer (Spring 2021) 




A guide to building a digital workplace for your legal firm with Microsoft 365

Building a digital workplace for your legal firm? ebook

Many law firms use Microsoft 365, but it can fall short in meeting some sector-specific needs. This ebook looks at how you can best use Microsoft 365, and solutions that bridge the gaps.

  • Knowledge management
  • Document management
  • Client collaboration / extranets
  • And more...

Author bio

Jeanne Davies

Jeanne Davies

From journalism to content marketing, I've always enjoyed learning and writing about a diverse range of topics, but the digital world has become particularly interesting to me over the last decade or so. ClearPeople gives me an opportunity to shape my work life and it's fascinating how technology allows me to create great working relationships with colleagues across continents and time zones.

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