This article belongs to the "OnePlaceLive Scenarios Unleashed" series that looks at how OnePlaceLive can be used to solve common challenges and issues associated with building business solutions (systems) on SharePoint/Office 365. Each article takes an in-depth look at a single realistic business solution (scenario) and how to apply OnePlaceLive to overcome the key challenges faced.
Before reading this article it is recommended that you have read the series introduction article that introduces the OnePlaceLive product and the Solution Profiles concept.
This article is structured into 3 main sections:
Legal Matter Management, Legal Case Management, Law Firms
This scenario depicts a Law Firm. The firm provides legal services to external clients on a matter by matter basis. Each legal matter is appointed a single attorney who is responsible for the matter, and also has an internal counsel (team of people) involved in performing work on the matter.
The matters typically contain a lot of documentation (both internal and in correspondence with the client, legal bodies, and other parties involved in the matter). Most sharing of correspondence outside the firm happens via email.
A SharePoint/Office 365 solution has been implemented to serve the needs of Legal Matter Management at the firm so that matters can be run in a consistent, controllable, and governed manner.
The Legal Matter Management solution has been implemented in SharePoint/Office 365 with the following structure.
A site collection is created for each client, with a subsite created per matter for the client. This results in the systematic growth of the solution at the following two levels:
A separate site collection called Legal Matter Management Home provides navigation and a high-level overview of matters across the system and serves at the main entry point for users into the solution. This site contains a list of all Clients and a list of all Matters within the solution.
Legal Matter Management Home Site
Matter sites are provisioned from templates and all adhere to the following structure:
Note: This is only one example of Information Architecture (design) of a Legal Matter Management system where OnePlaceLive is being used. It can equally work with many other Legal Matter Management system information architecture/designs.
Accessing My Matters from Outlook
Saving from Adobe Acrobat to SharePoint (and completing metadata)
Accessing matter documents using OnePlaceDocs Explorer for SharePoint
Save from Microsoft Office to a 'My Matter' location in SharePoint
OnePlaceLive solution profiles are the mechanism we use to define and deliver the Legal Matter Management solution to users within the business. Multiple solution profiles can be used if you want different views into the solution based on different user groups. For this scenario, we are going to create a single solution profile called "Legal Matter Management". Using the address picker we will also restrict this profile so that it is only available to the Legal group (Active Directory group). This group identifies the users of the Legal Matter Management system and is used for SharePoint security on the site collections that make up the system.
Ensure the Status of the profile is 'Published' and then Save the profile to make it available for members of the Legal group who will now start seeing the solution profile appear in Outlook, Office, Adobe Reader, Adobe Acrobat, and OnePlaceDocs Explorer.
Over time the number of client site collections will grow and the number of matter sites will grow even faster. This is what we term systematic growth at both the site collection level and the site level. In order to maintain a high level of usability that won't degrade with this growth, we will use a browse metaphor for accessing active clients and open matters (which remains at a fairly constant number) and use a search metaphor for accessing inactive clients and closed matters (which grow indefinitely over time). Here's how we achieve it:
To restrict the clients to just the active clients, the simplest way is to utilize a view on the client's list. By using the 'Base query on a Central Register view' button, we simply select the Active Clients view and the query xml is written for us.
Note that this is a one-time export of the query from the view. If you modify the view, the changes won't be automatically reflected in the solution profile item. You are free to then modify or extend the query, or you could enter the CAML query directly without basing it on an existing view.
Here's the result from the users perspective, we see a short manageable list of just the active clients.
The result from the user's perspective is now a search-based interface to quickly find any client (active or inactive).
The result from the user’s perspective is a navigable list of all open matters as shown below.
In an on-premises scenario, a simple method of isolating a solution beneath a common URL would be to use a managed path. So instead of the URL having a ‘sites’ component, you could use your own managed path called ‘legal’ which could give URLs such as:
Managed paths are not supported in Office 365.
The result from the user’s perspective is now a search-based interface to quickly find any matter (open or closed).
If we take a look at the Matter list we can see that each matter has a single Attorney assigned and one or more users listed in the Assigned Counsel.
In SharePoint the Attorney column is configured as:
In SharePoint the Counsel column is configured as:
We can use this information in our solution profiles to be able to personalize the matters that users are presented with. We will create a Central Register profile item to achieve this, but this time we are going to have to write the query ourselves as it's not possible to create a SharePoint view that can handle all the membership conditions we need to cover. It's beyond the scope of this article to discuss CAML queries in-depth so I'll just show the necessary query with some annotation to explain the different parts.
Using this query we are able to create the My Open Matters profile item.
From the user's perspective, the My Open Projects item includes all open matter where the user is the assigned Attorney plus any matters where they are a member of the assigned Counsel as shown below.
We have now achieved the objective of providing personalized views of the Legal Matter Management solution that are self-maintaining, and we've driven matter sites directly to the users that need them. As a user I no longer have to go to SharePoint/Office 365 and find the Legal Matter Management Homesite, then find the matter sites that are applicable to me or that I'm working on. They've found me and surfaced themselves inside the desktop applications I use (exactly where I need them), and because this is based on dynamic queries and search, my matters will keep finding me in the future without any ongoing administrative overhead.
Up to this point, we have been focused on getting the right matters to the right users. Next, we are going to take a look at the user experience navigating within a matter and discuss techniques for increasing efficiency in this area.
If a user expands a matter under My Open Matters, they are presented with the structure of the site (as expected) and can then drill down to a list or library within the site that they want to access or save to. Since our solution profile has context and we know the user is working with matters within the Legal Matter Management solution, and we know the site structure of each matter site, we are in a position to offer our users something better than just a generic SharePoint structure to navigate.
For this example, we are going to add a new Central Register profile item to our solution profile in the OnePlaceLive client and call it My Open Matters > Email. The purpose of this item is to give users a direct link to the email library within the matter sites. The configuration and query are exactly the same as for My Open Matters (so we are starting with a personalized list of matter sites). Now we can use the Descendant Locations section to tell OnePlaceLive that it's not the matter site (that the query returns) that we are interested in, rather it's a location within (descendant location) that we want. So we go ahead and add a descendant location providing the display name that we want to appear "Matter Email", the URL of the Email library relative to the matter site, and the type of SharePoint location that the Email library is.
Now back in Outlook, we can have simplified the process of transferring email to a matter by eliminating the need to navigate within a matter sites.
Following a save operation a Recent Location is created to the email library.
Allowing the user to interact with the Notes list within each matter site doesn't require us to configure anything in OnePlaceLive! Now that we've used OnePlaceLive to deliver the relevant matters to users, OnePlaceDocs gives the user the ability to:
Fee Invoices are issued to clients during the progress of a matter and the official Fee Invoice document is stored in the Documents library within each matter site. In this scenario, we have a content type called "Fee Invoice" that is used when saving these documents.
Accounts personnel need visibility of these fee invoice documents across all clients and matters. To solve this challenge we can create a consolidated view of fee invoice documents by adding a Content Search item to our solution profile. Here we can use the SharePoint search service to return all documents based on content-type:
From the user's perspective, the Fee Invoice documents are now collated into a single list (even though they reside in different sites and site collections) and can be worked with almost as though they live in the same container.
This is a great example of how OnePlaceLive can provide different user groups with totally different ways of looking at a solution built on SharePoint/Office 365 that makes the most sense to that user group and transcends the technical architecture of the solution in SharePoint.
OnePlaceLive provides the ability to query the Office Graph service for data and utilize the results in solution profile items. In this scenario, we are able to give users a personalized activity feed that shows items of the highest relevance to the user (the same as shown on the user's Delve Home Feed) but restricted just to those items that are part of the Legal Matter Management solution.
To achieve this we will add an Office Graph Content item to our solution profile.
This activity feed gives the user quick access to documents within the Legal Matter Management solution that are most relevant to them at any particular moment in time. This may include documents the user has worked on or viewed recently, or documents that colleagues have been working on. By delivering this through OnePlaceLive, these documents are now at the user's fingertips to use in Outlook, Office Applications, Adobe Acrobat and Reader, and OnePlaceDocs Explorer. Whether it be just to open and read quickly, or to send as links or include as attachments on emails or to edit and continue working on, or just to skim across an activity that colleagues have been conducting, having this activity feed readily available is a huge time saver for users.
This article has demonstrated how OnePlaceLive and Solution Profiles can be applied to overcome common challenges that are encountered by building robust and scalable business solutions on SharePoint/Office 365 that keep end users engaged and productive.
Microsoft Outlook remains the tool of choice for most lawyers, paralegals, and other team members within law firms and corporate legal departments when managing the flow of documents and information throughout a legal matter.
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