Microsoft 365 users have access to Power Automate (f/k/a Flow) to create automated workflows that can save you time and help with efficiency and productivity in your firm, company or organization. They work with the Microsoft 365 applications, as well as many other applications outside of the Microsoft ecosystem. Once you get the hang of creating “flows” you can start getting creative with building custom automation.
Microsoft 365 Power Automate is similar to Zapier or IFTTT. It lets you connect and share information between two different applications through triggers. If you have ever created a rule in MS Outlook to handle moving an email to a specific folder or created a Quick Step to add an email to your calendar in one click, you have already explored automation. Power Automate takes that functionality and lets you connect multiple applications to run a workflow. Power Automate is part of Microsoft 365 Business Standard and Business Premium, or there are paid subscriptions for more expansive use.
To get started go to Office.com, login to your Microsoft business account and click on Power Automate. You can get comfortable using flows by using a pre-built template. You can also customize the template to make it more powerful and specific for your needs. Here are a few that might be handy for lawyers.
Save Outlook 365 Email Attachments to One Drive For Business
In this flow template, any time you receive an email that has an attachment in Microsoft Outlook it automatically saves a copy of the attachment in One Drive for Business. The flow also creates a folder in One Drive called “Email Attachments from Flow”. To enable this flow open the template, click “edit” and then “save” at the bottom of the Flow wizard. While this is handy and quick, you can add customization to the template to really make this a powerful tool.
To add customization, click “edit” on the template screen. It will open the flow builder. Click on each element to refine and customize the flow. For instance, if you want to only copy attachments from a specified person to a folder click in the “On New Email” box and then select “Advanced Options”. You can specify that the action is only taken on attachments from a particular person or with a specific word in the subject line.
In the next section “Apply to each attachment on the email” click on the “Create file” box and then in the folder path click the little folder icon to change the default location the attachment is copied to. If you create this flow for a client then if you get an email from Jane Smith you can have the attachment saved to the folder for the Smith matter. There is also a template for this automation for those using SharePoint libraries.
You can continue to add actions, like sending a message to the MS Team channel for the Smith matter that alerts everyone that there is a new file from Jane Smith in the One Drive folder. Once you have finished adding your steps click “Save”. You can go back to your list of flows and change the name of the Flow by choosing “Save As”. If you change the name don’t forget to also click “turn on” to enable the flow.
Send A Customized Email When A New File Is Added
If your firm is using SharePoint libraries you can set up an email to send to someone to let them know a new file has been added. Open the template and add the site address from SharePoint (which includes shared libraries in Teams). Add the recipient, including name and email address. Then click “Send an Email”. You can customize the subject line. The body of the message is already customized with the recipient’s name, though you can further refine this email. Then add the “From” (send as) coming from your email address. Test your flow by performing the trigger action (save a file in the specified SharePoint library) and then confirm it is working.
Send an Email to Responder When Response Submitted In Microsoft Forms
This automation template lets you send an email to someone who has submitted a form response. For instance, if you send a client satisfaction survey at the end of representation or with your invoice you can set up an automated response to the client to thank them for responding and ask if they have any additional feedback. First, set up the form in MS Forms, making sure to add a field to collect the respondents email address. Then in the Power Automate template select the form from the drop-down menu under “when a new response is submitted”. You can set up a condition to respond only if someone enters their email address. Then you can set up an automated email to continue the discussion.
Once you get the hang of creating automation you can start to build your own. Just click the “Create” button. For instance, if you flag an email from a specific client in your Outlook inbox you can have it automatically added to a shared task in To Do. Or create a flow that automatically forwards an Outlook email with specific criteria, such as sender or subject, as a post to a channel in MS Teams.
Testing Your Flows
Remember to test your automation. The test will show if it has succeeded and where in the automation logic the test has failed. To test your flow go back into edit mode and at the top right click “Test”. There is also a “Flow checker” to help you see where the flow might fail before you test it. In My Flows you can edit flows, share them, see the run history, and turn on or off the flow. The more complicated your automation the more opportunity for failure so start simple. If a flow fails, you (automatically) get an email notification.
Microsoft 365 already has a lot of automation built in, but to move information from one application to another or trigger an action, Power Automate has some interesting options. Start experimenting to help share information across the firm, automate processes, and reduce bottlenecks.