Microsoft has recently announced that it's making its new law office management platform to the public. If you use Office programs such as Word, Outlook, and Excel -- and everyone uses Office -- MS's new Matter Center will allow you to share access to and collaborate on legal documents and other matters across devices.
Matter Center has an unusual origin story. According to Microsoft, Matter Center was developed by its in-house legal department, which has been using the product for the past two years.
Cloud-Based Document Sharing and Collaboration
The idea behind Matter Center is pretty simple. It integrates cloud-based document sharing into the Office suite. So, if you're typing away on a Word doc, you don't have to email different versions over to a colleague or upload it to something like Dropbox. Instead, you can simply tag others to view or co-edit the piece. Matter Center lets you control who has access to documents, both for viewing alone and for editing, and it keeps a detailed record of edits and changes. Other features include integrated searching, tagging and tracking.
Matter Center's main benefit is that it's integrated directly into Office -- once you purchase the add-on, that is. Microsoft is currently planning on making Matter Center widely available by the end of the year. To use it, you'll also need a subscription to Office 365 and Azure, Microsoft's cloud computing platform.
By Lawyers (and a Giant Software Company) for Lawyers
According to the marketing materials coming out of Redmond, Matter Center comes straight from the company's legal team -- all 1,200 of them. Apparently, MS lawyers were looking for a way to make document sharing and collaboration more efficient when they came up with the idea for Matter Center. The program was initially used only in-house until Microsoft released a preview version at last year's International Law and Technology Conference. Since then, almost 200 firms have experimented with Matter Center.
Given the slow roll-out, others have already had time to make improvements and add-ons for Matter Center. Take, for example, the LawToolBox Court Deadline SharePoint App. (That name just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?) LawToolBox works in sync with Matter Center and SharePoint, part of Office 365, to attach deadlines to documents.
If Matter Center takes off, other such helpful tweaks and additions might become more common.