Deadlines can be complex. Its critical to get them right. Manually entering deadlines is risky. Missed deadlines are the number one cause of attorney malpractice claims. Errors are easily made when legal professionals manually calculate deadlines on their fingers, and then manually enter these deadlines one-at-a-time into their calendars. LawToolBox addresses the risk of a missed deadline, is integrated with Office 365, and creates a matter-based backbone inside Microsoft Teams that empowers legal professionals and modern law practices to manage their deadlines with confidence and certainty.
The LawToolBox app for Teams provides an important new tool to manage compliance deadlines wherever and whenever legal professionals want them. Jack Grow, the President of LawToolBox, says “This integration with Microsoft Teams is a powerful and crucial step in our mission to help good attorneys become great attorneys, and to deliver next-generation deadline management tools for law firms and corporate legal departments.”
What it does
LawToolBox is an all-in-one court rules provider and deadline management system that offers deadline solutions used by law firms and legal departments to automatically calculate deadlines based on the rules of procedure for state and federal courts in all 50 states. For example, an attorney in California can select the rules set for Los Angeles Superior Court, they then enter the trial date, of which LawToolBox then calculates, in this case, over 50 deadlines. By automating these critical workflows, attorneys can focus on the substantive issues that will determine the outcome of the case.
The LawToolBox integration for Microsoft Teams transforms a generalized collaboration product into a vertical solution specific the needs of legal professionals. The intuitive combination of a BOT and TAB provides easy and powerful access to upcoming deadlines across all matters the user is working on. Users can jump back and forth from quick insights in the bot to more robust tools in the tab.
First, the LawToolBox BOT for Teams gives users a bird's eye view of their deadlines and matters: For example, you can retrieve important Microsoft Delve insights on team members you work with. You can also retrieve valuable statistics on the average length of time it takes to litigate a matter, or prosecute a motion, by venue. Another important function is that users can retrieve matter deadlines and filter by search terms, calculate and edit deadlines, then add matter deadlines to Outlook calendars.
Second, when users want more robust deadline management tools they open the LawToolBox TAB in Teams, from which they can access existing matters or create new matters. When a new matter is set up, the user assigns the applicable deadline calculator, and then LawToolBox uses the Microsoft Groups to automatically creates a matter-specific document folder, calendar, notebook, and shared Inbox inside Microsoft Office.
How we built it
This new LawToolBox app for Teams builds on our award-winning LawToolBox365 Office for Legal which is an Outlook add-in that is sold through select Microsoft partners in the CSP program (Cloud Service Provider program) via Microsoft’s Partner Center. The LawToolBox Outlook add-in is Co-Sell ready and can be installed directly from Microsoft AppSource.
We first started exploring the Teams structure almost a year ago at a Teams Hackfest at Microsoft Headquarters in Redmond, and slowly built out pieces of the app so we could understand the strengths and extensibility of this new collaboration environment. We quickly realized that the bot was a great feature for summarizing information and giving quick insights, but that we would need to combine it with robust tools in the tab for users to be able to have at their fingertips all the tools they need to confidently manage deadlines.
Challenges we ran into
One of our biggest challenge was adjusting the authentication flow for both the bot and tab to accommodate the "app reviewers" because no other company had submitted an app where the bot and tab were so closely tied together.
Secondly, the deep link from so that users could jump from the bot into relevant and dynamic content on the tab was a huge challenge, but it was vital to give users the best possible experience managing their cases.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
- Building and maintaining rules-based calculators for federal court in 50 states and more
- We implemented a sophisticated authentication flow (the SSO in our Teams integration allows users to login from the bot, and then messaging extension/compose extension and it will automatically sign them in tab)
- Seamlessly using Graph APIs to manage matters and deadlines from inside our app (creating group, add/remove users from group, add deadlines to group, authentication)
- Jumping into Delve so our clients can get insights on who they are working with
- Using Graph API to synchronize important deadlines to users calendars
- We integrated document search by using SharePoint online APIs that allow user to search across the tenancy for the files which user has access to
- Quick links to open SharePoint Online files and calendars, the shared Inbox for the group, and the group OneNote
- Users can effortlessly jump back and forth between our Outlook Add-in or the new Teams app to manage the same matters and deadlines
- We needed to design our own tables to surface information in the bot because the standard cards available were too bulky and hard to sort through
- Deep links in the bot that when clicked open full webpages in the tab with dynamic content (we implemented deep link so that user can move from bot to Tab to see the contextual data in tab, where users can see the large amounts of data without having to go through convoluted navigation process)
- We implemented deep links in static tab in 1:1 chat to navigate to LawToolBox tab, which was not officially documented by Microsoft
- We surfaced incredibly valuable statistics on the average length of time it takes to litigate a matter, or prosecute a motion, by venue
What we learned
The bot is a great place to surface quick insights but you shouldn't try to put too much info in their because it is hard to look at. The tab is a great place to surface full-blown apps because there is much more "real estate' to work with. It takes a ton of effort to make something complex look simple and easy-to-use. Microsoft has great resources to unblock developers when we got stuck.
What's next for LawToolBox Deadlines App for Microsoft Teams
One of our primary goals is to extend LawToolBox to other industries. Deadlines and timelines are not unique to the legal vertical, and LawToolBox is positioning to extend its product into other verticals, including commercial and residential real-estate closing deadlines, and regulatory deadlines.