By Gina Johnson, Supervising Attorney, San Joaquin County DCSS
For the past few years, LCSA attorneys throughout California have been using a platform called Slack to get answers to questions, determine best practices, find alternatives and strategies for processing legal issues, and discussing new and developing case law. Recently, we migrated our discussions to a new platform from Microsoft called Teams. MS Teams is described by Microsoft as a “true chat-based hub for teamwork.” Essentially, MS Teams brings together people, conversations, and content that is integrated with other Microsoft products like Outlook, One-Note and Skype. MS Teams is available as part of the Office 365 suite. If your LCSA isn’t using Office 365, it is still possible to access it from your LCSA with the help of your IT department.
Some question why use chat when we have email? While email has long been a tool for group collaborations, chatting allows for real time discussion that doesn’t result in a long email chain. Much faster and easier than opening 38 emails on the same subject. If you aren’t online when the chat is taking place, just scroll up and read the thread. MS Teams works toward the goal of state uniformity by allowing communication between LCSA attorneys to be more productive, enabling us to work and collaborate more effectively.
The structure of the application is based on the creation of teams and within those teams, creating channels. The LCSA attorney team is called “Child Support Attorneys” and was designed so that each channel reflects the topics in the CSDA Attorney Sourcebook. Each team space automatically has a general channel, but we have added topics like establishment, parentage, inter-jurisdictional cases and multiple topics under enforcement for a total of 25 topics. This gives the users guidance about where to post their questions as well as where to search for previously posted answers. The posts create a searchable archive of legal knowledge, tips, and best practices.
MS Teams also provides a document sharing feature. Users can quickly upload documents to share with all team members. They can be downloaded to your computer or viewed within the app. No matter how long most attorneys have been practicing, there is always a time when you need a sample pleading on an issue that is new to you. MS Teams document sharing creates an online reference library for all LCSA attorneys.
MS Teams has been live since late July 2018 and many users are finding it helpful. Napa County DCSS lead attorney, Doug Durward, who was a frequent user of Slack and has transitioned to MS Teams, finds it to be “…an ideal means for collaborative education without having to pause for a meeting or phone call.” Meetings and phone calls can be time consuming. Trying to find a time when everyone is available or playing phone tag with the one person who has the information you need is time consuming and impractical. MS Teams gives users the option to decide when they want to jump into a conversation.
Learning to navigate in MS Teams is easy given that there are videos, blogs, and visual aids to help you get started. MessageOps.com has a free comprehensive visual guide that explains all the links and tabs and gives you everything you need to get started. Quick Start Guide Microsoft Teams There are several other resources downloaded to the CSDA Attorneys team on MS Teams including a quick start guide created by CSDA Communications Specialist Danielle Wermund.
The CSDA Attorneys team on MS Teams is for all LCSA attorneys. The goal is to have attorneys of all experience levels using the platform. Experienced attorneys can mentor attorneys new to the IV-D program. The knowledge and information left on the site by the experienced attorneys builds a database that ensures their knowledge stays in the program. It is a great tool for improving collaboration, productivity and customer service among all LCSAs. I encourage all attorneys to sign-up and log in. You can contact Danielle Wermund at email@example.com for more information on how to get started.