Over the past two years, Microsoft’s legal department set out to create an internal tool that didn’t exist—a way to organize its legal matters and collaborate on documents within the familiar Office 365 tools attorneys use most. So last year our Legal & Corporate Affairs Group (LCA) shared its vision for an Office 365 Add-in that would do just that. Since then, LCA has worked to turn this concept into Matter Center for Office 365, an Office 365 Add-in currently in use internally at Microsoft, and is becoming available to legal professionals at law firms and in-house departments of all sizes.
In fact, we have already shipped Matter Center to IT solutions providers who specialize in serving the legal community. These Microsoft partners are now offering Matter Center on a limited basis, and will begin offering it broadly in the coming weeks. These partners include Epona, Handshake Software, LawPoint365, Perficient, Ubiquity Wave, Project Leadership Associates and the PayneGroup. Microsoft Services will also offer for-fee consulting and support services for Matter Center beginning in September. And finally, we’ll be making Matter Center available broadly through GitHub this calendar year.
Once installed, Matter Center allows people to create or view legal matters right from Outlook; tie Word, Excel, OneNote and other files to those matters; and securely collaborate with other legal professionals inside or outside their organizations. There are a few benefits that make Matter Center stand out:
- Access anytime, anywhere—Like Office 365, Matter Center is available across PCs, tablets and phones, across Windows, Apple and Android devices, and allows you to access matters and documents either online or offline using OneDrive for Business.
- Real-time collaboration—Using the automatic version control feature of Office 365, you can simultaneously edit documents with multiple people inside or outside your organization.
- Intuitive search and data visualization—You can easily search, preview and find matters and related documents across all cases directly within Outlook and Word. Power BI can be configured to visualize your matter data.
- Pinning and tagging—You can track or pin frequently used matters and documents and connect to Delve to provide personalized experiences about who on your team is working on them.
- Compliance with security standards—Matter Center allows you to control who can access, review or edit a document and provides all the same enterprise-grade security, management and administrative controls as Office 365.
- Better flexibility and control—By offering Matter Center through an open GitHub repository, customers and partners can build or extend the solution to meet specific customer needs faster.
As part of developing Matter Center, LCA conducted a preview program with nearly 200 law firms, partners and others in the legal industry, as well as our in-house counsel. As a result of the feedback we received during the preview, we have improved the solution over the last year. And LCA currently has early pilot customers including Olswang; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; Ragen Swan; and Shook, Hardy & Bacon.
LCA is committed to continued investments in this modern, world-class collaboration solution. And as we make Matter Center available to our customers and partners, we are also rolling out the latest version to more than 1,200 Microsoft legal professionals globally. This is only the beginning. You can expect additional capabilities and features to be delivered over time.
Visit the Matter Center website for more information on the solution and how you or your organization can start using Matter Center.
Running Matter Center in the cloud will require Office 365 and Azure subscriptions. Matter Center has been designed to support multiple deployment configurations as well, whether on-premises or hybrid cloud. You can find additional information on Matter Center capabilities, case studies from partner law firms, and a complete list of partners making Matter Center available here.
—Nishan DeSilva, senior director for Technology Solutions and Evangelism, Legal & Corporate Affairs (LCA) at Microsoft