Paying for an Office 365 Subscription

– By Jeff Richardson

A frequent presenter at ABA TECHSHOW, Jeff Richardson is a partner in the New Orleans office of Adams and Reese LLP, where his practice primarily involves representing defendants in class action and complex litigation, appellate litigation and products liability litigation. He practices law in Louisiana and Florida. Mr. Richardson is also the publisher of iPhone J.D., the oldest and largest website devoted to the use of iPhones and iPads by attorneys. Mr. Richardson graduated from Emory University in 1991, summa cum laude, and Georgetown University Law Center in 1994, magna cum laude.

This post is excerpted and adapted from the materials he prepared for his ABA TECHSHOW 2015 session “iUse Microsoft Office on My iPad®”.

Microsoft has several different Office 365 subscription plans available, including Office 365 Business Essentials, Office 365 Business and Office 365 Premium. The later two plans give you full access to the iPad and iPhone apps. The Office 365 Business plan costs $8.25/month per user ($99/year) and includes all of the Office applications for up to five PCs or Macs plus the iPad apps. If you also want Exchange, you’ll have to get Office 365 Business Premium, which is $12.50/month per user ($150/year).

Do you need to pay for an Office 365 subscription? After all, Microsoft advertises that you can use most of the features in the iOS apps for free. I think that attorneys ought to have a subscription, for two reasons.

First, the subscription gives you access to more features. For example, while you can edit documents in the free version, you need an Office 365 subscription to track changes on the iPad and accept or reject tracked changes made by others. Inserting section breaks also requires a paid subscription.

Second, it looks like you need to have a paid license to comply with the Microsoft Software License Agreement. That agreement includes the following in the “Additional Terms” section:


“Home and Student” edition software may not be used for commercial, non-profit, or revenue-generating activities.

If you are an attorney, presumably you are using Microsoft Word for “commercial” or “revenue-generating” activities. Even if you are doing purely pro bono work, you would still seem to be doing “non-profit” activities. Thus, if I am reading the license correctly (and I think I am), attorneys are not supposed to use an Office 365 Home or an Office 365 Personal subscription to use Microsoft Word for iPad to view and edit work-related files.

I suspect that many attorneys are already paying for an Office 365 subscription to use the desktop software, and if that applies to you, then you can think of the iPad apps as a free add-on. If you are using older versions of Microsoft Office software on your computers, consider whether you want to upgrade to Office 365 to get a license for the iPad apps. If you cannot yet upgrade, I recommend that you talk to a Microsoft sales representative about the best options for your law office.