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Which Office 365 Package Is Right for Your Law Firm?

Don't fear the idea of switching to a subscription pricing plan.

By Ben Schorr

Lawyers reach out to me all the time to ask questions about Office 365, especially since I joined Microsoft. Perhaps the most common question is about which package (or SKU) they should get.

After talking with a lot of firms, in almost every case, I end up recommending Office 365 Business Premium. Here’s why.

One Size Fits Almost All

Business Premium includes the Office desktop apps — Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, etc. —that you can install on your PC or Mac. It also includes Exchange Server, which gives you enterprise-class email and calendar functions. And it includes SharePoint, which you can use to build client portals and shared file libraries. It does all that for just $12.50 per user per month. That’s about one billable hour a year for the software you’re going to run your firm on.

I’ve had attorneys cringe a bit at the idea of switching to a subscription pricing plan, but there are two things you should know about it.

  • First, the subscription version gets you the latest version of Microsoft Office and keeps you there with continual upgrades at no extra charge. The “perpetual” version — the kind you used to buy in a box at your computer retailer — doesn’t do that.
  • Second, and probably most important, the Office 365 subscription license lets you install the Office desktop apps on up to five devices at a time per user. If you’re like most attorneys, you may have a Windows PC on your desk, a laptop in your bag, a Mac at home … and you can install the Office apps on all three of those devices (and two more) at no extra charge. With the perpetual version, at best, you could install on a single desktop and a single laptop per user.

So. Much. Easier.

Traditionally, buying Office meant getting a product key code that would be associated with a particular machine. If you ever needed to reinstall Office on that machine, you’d need the specific code for that machine. When the user eventually upgraded to a new computer, moving Office to it wasn’t always easy.

Office 365 is licensed by the user, so you don’t have to track key codes. The user simply signs on to their new machine, goes to Office.com and clicks “Install Office.” Some minutes later, they’re ready to go.

To do that licensing, you use a central, web-based control panel where you can easily add or remove users, assign or remove licenses, reset passwords, and many, many more things. No more file cabinets full of yellowing product key cards or trying to figure out how to get another license for Bob’s second machine at the Tacoma office.

Business Premium is sold in quantities from one to 300. If you have seven people, you can get seven licenses. If somebody joins your firm, then you can add a license. If somebody leaves, you can subtract one.

And for Those Other Firms?

If your firm has more than 300 people, needs advanced e-discovery features, or wants to use Microsoft Teams as your phone system (like we do), then you’ll want to look at either the 365 E3 or E5 plan.

But for 80% of the law firms I’ve talked to, Business Premium is the easy choice.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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Schorr Ben Schorr

Ben M. Schorr is a Senior Technical Writer at Microsoft (@Microsoft). He is also the author of several books and articles on technology including “The Lawyer’s Guide to Microsoft Outlook,” “The Lawyer’s Guide to Microsoft Word” and “OneNote in One Hour.” He was a Microsoft MVP for 20 years and involved with management and technology for more than 25. In his free time, he’s an Ironman triathlete and a high school football coach. Follow him @bschorr.

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