The legal space has been slower to adopt high-tech solutions as lawyers and partners focus on paid client work and, in Africa, this is often compounded by infrastructural obstacles. However, the rapid and dramatic changes to the digital work landscape in the last two years has forced all sectors to adapt.
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. Atlas enables each firm to find and share specific legal knowledge, helping cement ALN as one of Africa’s leading corporate law firms.
Success criteria and solutions
The Atlas effect: outcomes and results
A corporate law alliance, African Legal Network (ALN) consists of 600 – 800 people working for 15 independent law firms across local, regional, international and language boundaries. The alliance provides a one-stop-shop solution for clients doing business across Africa.
Apart from needing to empower all the members of the network to work effectively and efficiently across 15 key jurisdictions, ALN had further requirements:
- ALN needs information to be readily searchable, easily kept up to date, and have a user-friendly interface that can be accessed from anywhere.
- ALN required a Microsoft-based solution.
- Some firms within the network didn’t have access to the Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory that ALN was already using, and so required a form of ‘guest’ or external access to the group’s intranet.
Success criteria and solutions
ALN selected Atlas as the best fit solution for their current and future requirements. They needed a scalable solution to cater for the expansion and onboarding of potential new member firms, as well as high availability, data integrity and security.
Atlas is built for and on the Microsoft 365 technology stack, adding a layer of simplicity and user-friendliness to the array of Microsoft tools that appealed to ALN and the Microsoft 365 security, compliance and policy features that Atlas integrates with, are a critical requirement.
ConneX, an Atlas tool that allows users of all technical abilities to create new digital workspaces, provides versatility, reduces complexity and allows new member firms to be easily onboarded.
Here are some of ALN’s success criteria and how Atlas addresses these needs:
- A convergence point for information that is easily searchable
Atlas site templates and webparts are intuitive and allow end users to easily find content. When an Atlas Knowledge Workspace is deployed, information flows dynamically across teams and departments thanks to smart personalisation and tagging features. An advanced taxonomy and information model means up to date information is directed to the right people at the right time.
Atlas also leverages Microsoft 365 and Azure’s powerful search capabilities that index multiple millions of items and bring meaningful search results back to the end user, performing more effectively than out-of-the-box SharePoint search.
Atlas search scopes can also target specific content – documents, landing pages, events, etc. - so if you know the type of content you’re looking for, the splicing of results enables the user to find what they are looking for much more easily, saving time and energy.
- A way to keep information up to date
Each workspace within Atlas can be managed by a group of users, and the content wizard Add It makes adding content with tagged metadata (which allows it to be surfaced to others), is easier than ever.
Giving autonomy to teams and departments to manage their own space and content within Atlas provides immeasurable benefits to knowledge sharing and collaboration within ALN, freeing up internal marketing teams for other tasks. This democratisation of uploading and displaying content provides power to the user, allowing the building of open knowledge bases and easily findable and accessible documentation.
Atlas uses SharePoint permissions so making content or workspaces private is straightforward and easily reviewed and changed if necessary.
- A digital workspace that’s accessible and platform independent
Atlas is accessible from anywhere and, due to a dynamically designed interface, the experience flows seamlessly from one device to another. Atlas users can securely access the entire M365 catalogue of apps and services from anywhere, on any device.
The ‘My Atlas’ feature allows each ALN user to save useful links quickly and easily, while ALN can ensure important links are centralised and available to all users. Even when a user changes device, and might lose their browser bookmarks, Atlas will have their saved links on any device.
Atlas ‘Launchpad’ pins both internal and external links so users can access them from any device. These links can also be targeted to teams so HR can see their tools, for instance, while IT has their own quick links.
- A user-friendly interface
AA compliant to meet Microsoft’s Accessibility standards, the Atlas interface follows the latest industry best practice in Digital Design. Regular releases to Atlas ensure the interface is continually being improved.
Importantly, Atlas is configurable so ALN users built their own workspaces, leaning on ClearPeople for UX guidance and best practice. This ensured the interfaces are user-friendly and also reflect the language, branding and working culture of ALN in every page. ALN was able to build the workspaces they desired: clean, uncluttered, and well branded, with meaningful content.
Given ALN is a network of 15 African legal firms, ALNet needs to support English, French and Spanish. For these languages, Atlas uses Microsoft’s inherent translative capabilities. Other languages may be implemented later.
Training comes as standard with every Atlas project. ClearPeople have a ‘Modular Training Approach’ to ensures each area, tool, section and practice within Atlas, is covered in detail by our Implementation Consultants. Training was targeted to the specific roles within ALN and tailored to each audience.
ClearPeople is aware that new users have a lot of information to take in while still managing their daily work, so ensure that ALN can provide feedback on areas that need to be revisited. Bespoke training guides and material was also created to support ALN’s Champions Network.
The Atlas effect (results and improvements)
The outcome of the Atlas implementation at ALN is ALNet: “…a dynamic and powerful tool, whose impact on the cohesion and integration of ALN cannot be understated,” says Cheick Modibo Diarra, Chairman of ALN.
ALNet provides a digital workplace where 13 different firms meet on one platform, collaborate and share knowledge and documentation easily, even enabling external guest user access. ALNet provides a centralised location for content, news and events that can be spliced and displayed by member firm or by practice area.
Want to look for Real Estate Law knowledge from Morocco? Easy! Need to review 2021 Tax Law Case Law documentation from Kenya? Atlas has ALN covered.
Atlas provides a ALN with a powerful communication and knowledge hub they had not had before. Each firm within the network can find and share specific legal knowledge, helping to cement ALN as Africa’s leading corporate law conglomerate at the cutting edge of digital workspace and Microsoft technology.
Photo by James Wiseman on Unsplash