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Microsoft Copilot for Microsoft 365 — What’s Ahead for Law Firms

Balancing AI-driven Productivity Gains and Readiness Considerations for Law Firms

In this episode of the SecurityANGLE, I’m joined by fellow analyst, engineer, and member of theCube Collective community Jo Peterson. We welcome Jason Thomas, CIO of Cole, Scott, Kisane, one of the AMLaw 200 and Florida’s largest law firms, to the show for a conversation about Copilot for Microsoft 365 and balancing productivity gains and readiness consideration for embracing AI for law firms.

Microsoft Copilot for Microsoft 365

Before we dive in, let’s set the table. In case you aren’t familiar, Microsoft Copilot for Microsoft 365 is an enterprise-grade generative AI assistant and part of the Microsoft application suite designed to enhance user productivity. Microsoft Copilot works in conjunction with Microsoft Teams, Outlook, SharePoint, etc., and it’s probably safe to say that it’s being quickly and widely adopted by Microsoft users. It’s probably important to note that there is a per-user subscription for Copilot, in addition to a Microsoft Enterprise license.

Thomas has been the CIO of Cole, Scott, and Kisane for the better part of the last decade and in that time, it’s safe to say he’s seen some things. We especially enjoyed noting in his LinkedIn bio, Jason’s comment that: “We’ve been doing AI before it was a thing” — which is exactly why we were excited about this conversation.

How Microsoft Copilot for Microsoft 365 Can Empower Lawyers and their Teams

In exploring how Microsoft Copilot for Microsoft 365 can empower lawyers and their teams, Thomas shared that it can be something as simple as helping to craft simple email responses. While lawyers probably don’t do as many PowerPoint presentations or pitches as many of us might, Microsoft Copilot can assist by helping them develop something to present graphically. It offers flexibility and options that can help lawyers present information differently.

Watch or listen to our full conversation on How Microsoft Copilot for Microsoft 365 Can Empower Lawyers and Their Teams here or stream it wherever you get your podcasts.

Thomas’s hottest hot take on this topic was his view that Microsoft Copilot is going to crush most of what’s out there in the legal AI space. He shared that every day that he uses Microsoft Copilot, he finds new functionality and new use cases that continue to impress. “This is different. This is something that they do. And they don’t even announce it anymore, they’re moving so fast.” His feeling is that Microsoft is so far ahead of the game and is moving so quickly that others in the AI space will have a difficult time matching Microsoft’s speed.

Jo and I talk about this often, and it’s clear Microsoft has an advantage. In addition to and beyond its early alliance with OpenAI, there’s a bigger advantage. Microsoft 365 and other Microsoft products are so deeply embedded throughout the enterprise landscape that it’s a given that it’s going to gain adoption more quickly than other options simply because it’s there. It’s kind of like comparing Microsoft Teams to Zoom and Webex. When you talk with users, many prefer Zoom or Webex to Teams, but Teams is there, so it’s what we use. And not to take anything away from the capabilities of Microsoft Copilot, it’s simply a reality that Microsoft is entrenched in the enterprise and that provides a significant adoption/use case advantage.

Clifford Chance Takes a Big Chance

Earlier this year, global law firm Clifford Chance, with 34 offices across 23 countries and about 3,600 lawyers rolled out Microsoft 365 and Viva Suite at scale across its entire workforce. This is probably the first and largest of the international law firms to integrate Microsoft Copilot.

In an interview discussing this rollout, Clifford Chance CTO, Paul Greenwood, cited the availability of live transcripts via Teams Premium as being important as well as Microsoft Copilot summaries. He stated that AI helps the firm stay on track with explicit tasks and implicit commitments that were made.

Thomas shared that while he has much respect for Clifford Chance taking this leap, his primary concerns, as it relates to his own organization, is all about having an AI strategy and guardrails in place. While naturally everyone wants to try the newest, shiniest thing, without really good change management and training policies in place, alongside AI strategy and AI security guidelines, it could spell trouble.

Thoughts on What’s Ahead for AI in Law Firms

As our conversation shifted to what’s ahead for AI in law firms, Thomas shared that the conversations he and his team are having on this front are all about how AI is going to help on the business side, how it will help generate business and revenue, the cyber risks associated with gen AI, and helping to figure that out. The second part of the conversations they are having are with clients who are curious about what their firm is doing with AI. They want to know whether it’s being used and, if so, how it’s being used. That’s an indicator of the importance of transparency for clients we can all learn from.

When it comes to eDiscovery, we wanted to know how legal CIOs are educating lawyers and their teams about Microsoft Copilot and its capabilities and how discovery teams are defining processes for these new eDiscovery tasks and maintaining them. Thomas shared that today a big part of their internal discussions are around what a firm might actually want to be discoverable (which is probably not everything). Policies are in place when it comes to emails and retention policies and the like, which must also be applied to AI. So putting policies and guardrails in place, along with permissions, confidentiality, data labeling, data exfiltration guidelines and beyond, are key.

Thomas touched on a concern that Jo and I discuss often, which is the fact that while AI security should be a foundational element of all AI solutions, in many instances that does not appear to be the case. We also touched on the fact that it’s also a little convenient that Microsoft also has security platforms and solutions that they are upselling, which probably should have been built into their offerings to begin with. As it is today, organizations can pay for the enterprise instance of M365, then for Microsoft Copilot, then add on for security. Not ideal: upsell me on your other features, but for me, security is not a feature, it’s a requirement.

What’s Ahead for the Vendor Ecosystem?

Our conversation shifted to a look at what’s ahead for the vendor ecosystem. While in these early days, Thomas shared thoughts that perhaps we will see a bit of a vendor collaboration ‘explosion’ within the legal field largely, as solution providers pretty much have no choice if they want to be on the bandwagon. Solutions that “work with Microsoft Copilot” are becoming more common. That said, Thomas reiterated that he feels strongly that Microsoft “will crush” the competition in the enterprise law firm market simply because of its dominance.

Thomas also touched on the fact that pricing is a significant discussion point. Some vendors have approached this with more legacy-type pricing, charging per employee/seat and requiring annual upfront payments. Comparatively, Microsoft Copilot’s pricing allows for charging only for the specific users identified, payable monthly. Vendors trying to compete against that with old-school pricing and requirements make absolutely no sense.

The Path Forward is Simple: Adapt or Die

As we wrapped the show, I asked Thomas for his best advice for fellow law firm CIOs trying to get arms around AI throughout the enterprise, the costs associated with that, the security risks involved, the training needed, and the like. His response was simple: “I saw an interview with Mark Cuban a few months ago. He said either you’re going to get on the AI train or you’re not. And the ones who do are going to be successful; the ones who do not won’t. I’m not saying Mark Cuban is the God of, you know, technology or whatever, but he’s made a few billion and he understands it. That’s my take: You have to do it. You adapt or die.”

It was great to have an insider’s look at thoughts about generative AI in general and the adoption of Microsoft Copilot for Microsoft 365 in law firms, the challenges and opportunities that presents, and what this savvy CIO sees in the market ahead.

Image credit: Pexels Pavel Danilyuk

While you’re here, be sure and hit that “subscribe” button, over on YouTube, or here at theCUBE Research (or both) so that you’ll be sure and never miss an episode.

Find and connect with us online here:

Shelly Kramer on LinkedIn | Twitter/X    Jo Peterson on LinkedIn | Twitter/X

Jason Thomas on LinkedIn | Twitter/X

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