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SharePoint 2010 Impressions

September 13, 2010

In my recent exploration of SharePoint 2010, I’m finding the new features and enhancements to existing features poised to be welcomed with open arms across industries – even law firms. 

SharePoint has been growing in popularity since its initial release and only continues to gain momentum in user adoption.  Microsoft recently announced it is one of the fastest growing products in company history with more than a 20% growth in the last year alone.  To date, most law firms are using SharePoint for intranets and extranets, but the potential to leverage it further in the legal industry is huge. So how does SharePoint 2010 bring new value to a law firm?

Find it now, Find it FAST

Today most firms are using third party document management systems for their document stores. However, we know of a handful of firms who are actively exploring the possibility of using SharePoint as a DMS. Key to document management is the ability to quickly find things with little effort. Search improvements in SharePoint 2010 give attorneys and staff the ability to spend less precious time searching through a sea of documents for the one they need.  The two main search options SharePoint 2010 provides include SharePoint Server 2010 Search and FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint.  There are significant improvements to SharePoint Server 2010 Search over previous versions that may suit your firm’s needs perfectly.  If you are looking to employ a search that provides greater scalability, more search refinement and meta-data extraction, then there is the FAST search option.  Keep in mind however that the option to integrate the FAST search technology in SharePoint 2010 may mean an additional licensing fee. 

Support for Larger Document Libraries

One of the complaints about SharePoint 2007 was the limited scalability of document libraries, especially by law firm standards.  It appears Microsoft was listening and has improved made substantial improvements in this area.  SharePoint 2010 now provides more robust document management features that include document IDs, ratings and notes along with rule-based submission settings.

SharePoint 2010 is More Social

Although previously available in SharePoint 2007, many of the social aspects were viewed to be an afterthought by those using the technology and who sought to leverage the social features.  The social features of SharePoint 2010 appear to be better integrated and more user-friendly.  With Sharepoint 2010, wikis, tagging, newsfeeds and more are all available.

 

Have SharePoint. Will Travel.

Most law firms are grappling with this growing need for access to content anytime, anywhere. This is where SharePoint workspaces come into play.  A SharePoint workspace allows you to save a local copy of a SharePoint site along with all of the content on that site.  These workspaces can be configured to synchronize automatically or manually the next time you are connected to your network.  Workspaces also provide the ability to check out content in order to avoid conflicts with other users while you are offline.

Workflow Improvements

I used workflows extensively in SharePoint 2007 and found them to be a huge time-saver for my team.  Looking at the workflow improvements in SharePoint 2010 only puts a big, geeky grin on my face.  While I enjoyed creating workflows in 2007, I can see now that at least some subconscious level I was wanting more.  Being a non-programmer, I had a hard time visualizing the entire workflow process, especially when it involved tasks that I was not responsible for outside of my team.  SharePoint 2010 takes better advantage of SharePoint Designer 2010 to work across sites and can even be visually manipulated in Visio 2010.  For me, working visually always aids in the understanding and development process.

Just the Tip of the Iceberg

There are many additional features and areas of improvement to SharePoint 2010.  For a full listing of SharePoint 2010 features, take a look at Microsoft’s SharePoint site.  If you have the resources I would highly recommend downloading the trial and having a go at it yourself.  At this stage I find SharePoint 2010 is a wonderful achievement for Microsoft but too large to evaluate properly without hands on testing.

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