Case Study: How Miller Johnson Implemented SharePoint-Based Email Content Management

7 minute read
Erik B. Goltzer avatar

In my last article, I described the challenges that most law firms face when it comes to managing email, and set up the case study of Miller Johnson. In this article, I go over the details of the SharePoint solution that Miller Johnson eventually implemented.

This solution, if not an industry “first,” is definitely one of the pioneers. We deployed a MS SharePoint-based lifecycle email management solution leveraging Handshake Software’s Email Management Director (EMD) and Miller Johnson’s SharePoint-enabled content pipeline. Users are empowered with a feature-rich system that enables profiling of email into SharePoint via attorney-friendly “drag and drop” folders plus the retrieval of content by Power Centricity, our enhanced client/matter centric portal, embedded within Outlook.

This new approach to dealing with email in-line with other critical matter content and data has been well received. In 20 years of deploying technology solutions, I have never had so much positive and unsolicited feedback as I have for this system. From new associates to senior partners with 30+ years, their imagination has come alive with ways to improve an already powerful capability. Because we have used SharePoint for several years now, we were able to turn around improvements in a matter of days or weeks, which would have been virtually impossible in a traditional legal industry niche DM (document management) solution. Even today, we continue to add new capabilities to the system.

Initiative’s Fun Facts

1. 1.5 years of development and planning

2. 95 attorneys, 55 secretaries and 50 staff converted in two months

3. At implementation, MS Exchange 2003 was burdened with over 450 GB of email with six retention policies, which included then 30% of the firm on “keep forever” retention

4. Imported 7.1 million content items (4.5 million email messages w/ 2.6 million attachments) from MS Exchange 2003 to MS SharePoint

5. Aggregate 24,000+ client entities, hundreds of thousands of matters and a dozen firm LOB systems into a client/matter centric view (we call this “Power Centricity”)

6. Top dogs for mailbox sizes?

  • One user had 130,000+ email messages in their root inbox and 120,000 emails in their root sent items
  • The largest mailbox was 15+ GB in size

7. Implemented a 180-day uniform retention policy for all firm personnel, which reduced our mail stores from 450 GB to 75 GB

Outlook with Embedded Handshake Email Management Director:


Solution Benefits

1. Attorney-friendly email archive: We imported 450+ GB of email into SharePoint and created a folder-friendly email archive for each user. This helped overcome many objections that attorneys would not be able to find email they had previously stored in Outlook folders for many years.

  • Mirrored users Outlook folder structures into a duplicate SharePoint archive mirroring their Outlook folder structure.
  • Users appreciated this duplicate view within SharePoint of their imported mail, as it allowed them to locate mail in the new system without having to learn something new.
  • From this archive the email content can easily, at the folder level, be profiled with a client and matter number, as well as shared with other individuals or groups. In three simple steps you can tag an entire folder of email content with a client and matter number.
  • Once tagged with a client/matter number these folders now respond to client/matter search queries from anywhere within the Miller Johnson enterprise content pipeline.
  • Attorneys have commented since training that, after they tagged their folders, they hardly ever look at their archive because those emails return at "folder click" everywhere. This was good news.

Outlook to SharePoint Email Archive:



2. Supports denysecurity by individual or group entity -- a capability not available in SharePoint -- is provided as part of the Handshake product

3. Provides a method to apply predefined security via security plans for designated client and matter entities.This ensures client transactions that require unique security restrictions have those applied as a default without user interaction required.

4. Based on our ECM, framework leveraged Handshake to build an understanding of the firm’s users, practices, clients, etc.

  • With this internal BI of the firm, we built a variety of pre-made smart folders targets to facilitate drag and drop content profiling and at click content retrieval.
  • Users can create custom folders of their choosing; however, many forgo that process and use the smart folders.
  • This tailored user experience ensures:
    • Attorneys only see their clients and matters along with their assigned practices, sections and committees.
    • Secretaries only see their assigned timekeepers with separate trees views for each timekeeper’s clients and matters, along with that timekeeper’s assigned practices, sections and committees.

5. Drag and drop profiling into structured smart folders

  • Frequently in training we heard, "That’s it?” We definitely hit the ball out of the park on ensuring a similar user experience as they traditionally had with their Outlook folders in the new system for drag-and-drop profiling into smart folders

6. All email content stored going forward is stamped with client and matter number, along with a wealth of other metadata to facilitate retrieval

7. Items stored within SharePoint are retrieved at the client or matter level via one click on a folder target

8. With a click on a smart folder, Power Centricity details email and document content in an Outlook-enabled portal skin that enriches the view with Accounting, Records and Docket content

9. Single-click lookups for email threads, sender and client/matters

Learning Opportunities

10. Standard 180-day email retention policy for Exchange 2010

Example of “Smart Folders”:



One click, many results!


Users double-click an item to open it, or they can use context menus

Handshake Item Context Menu:


This view transitioned in a period of weeks from a document/email content list and continues to evolve. With SharePoint as the foundation of this solution, we can embed any content from any system within our environment and return matter-, user- or attorney-centric views, as we see fit. Unlike our old DM, this is only the beginning; we are now empowered to manage views, content and context ourselves.

What do we see next for this view? Contact centricity from Client Profiles CRM4Legal via MS Dynamics: Contact, industry and matter type data welded to matter content in a contextual view that makes sense to attorneys. Attorneys are thrilled they do not have to jump to numerous applications/systems and can stay in Outlook.

Handshake EMD Edit Profile Screen:


Users can re-key the client matter number if they know it, or they can click on a folder target that updates the client matter. In this example, I changed it from 26888.405 to 26888.400 with one mouse click.

Single Click Client/Matter Metadata Update:


Finding Content

There are many ways to find content within EMD. For example, the Find tab provides a sophisticated “point-and-click” (user-friendly) method to find profiled content. This in-line search allows attorneys to find content without the need to launch the content search tool, and, unknowingly to the user, leverages a wealth of metadata and native Outlook email properties.



EMD consumes the metadata stamped at save and Outlook’s native message and thread IDs


You can choose a variety of ways to find email content related to the selected item


In Summary

As you can see, there are many powerful capabilities within this solution that push content at users in a meaningful context. This allows them to spend less time looking for content and more time consuming and reacting to it. Archiving email merely moves it from one storage point to another and would have failed to leverage our firm’s portfolio of technological capabilities. This approach to email management allows attorneys to be more efficient and tears down artificial barriers of having the largest content stores in our organization buried within individually maintained Outlook stores. Additionally, we are embedding a solution that we can stream a wide variety of data and content into that is becoming ubiquitous for our users. This is email management the way it was meant to be.

Editor's Note: You may also be interested in reading:


About the author

Erik B. Goltzer

Erik Goltzer has been the Chief Information Officer for Miller Johnson since 2004.He has lead numerous strategic initiatives for the Firm which have positively impacted revenues, increased client satisfaction and brought a level of sophistication to the Firm’s practice and administrative teams typically not seen in 95 attorney Firms.