Microsoft is quietly preparing to formally launch a new practice management product for lawyers in the coming months. The product was scheduled to be announced this month but the announcement has been delayed. It now appears that the product will be rolled out at or around the time of ABA Techshow in April.

Search and find matters directly in Outlook. (Click for larger.)

Microsoft executives have not responded to my inquiries about the project. Presumably, the launch is for Matter Center for Office 365, a document management and collaboration product for law firms. Microsoft unveiled a preview version of Matter Center during the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) conference in August, but has said virtually nothing about it since, apart from what is said on the product’s web page.

Based on what Microsoft has said about Matter Center, it will be built around a SharePoint interface and integrate with OneDrive for document storage and collaboration and with Office 365 for word processing, email and other office functions. Much of its functionality will exist directly within the Office programs Word and Outlook.

Matter Center landing page in Office 365

“Working seamlessly with Office 365, Matter Center offers those in the legal profession a way to intuitively find and organize files without leaving the familiar productivity tools they use the most—namely Microsoft Outlook and Word,” product manager Tejas Mehta said at the time of the ILTA announcement. “Matter Center for Office 365 enables professionals to quickly locate and collaborate on legal matters from virtually anywhere, anytime—from any device. In essence, a one stop shop for all your document collaboration and management needs.”

Features will include:

  • 1 TB per user of OneDrive document and file storage, synchronized to the user’s devices for online and offline access.
  • Search for matters and documents directly within Outlook and Word and pin frequently used matters and documents.
  • Document management directly integrated into Outlook, allowing users to drag and drop emails and attachments to save them to matters directly within Outlook.
  • Matter Center will automatically apply document attributes when documents are saved in Outlook, Word or the web and collaborators will have immediate access to documents without having to email them.
  • Edit and save documents to matters directly within Word and securely share documents with colleagues and clients.
  • Set access and permission controls for different users for different matters.

The product will also integrate with other productivity applications, such as Lync for online meetings and instant messaging and Yammer for enterprise social networking.

Microsoft has not said so, but I would be willing to speculate that the product will also take advantage of Office 365 integrations with third-party apps of use to lawyers, such as the LawToolBox court deadlines app and the DocuSign for SharePoint app.

Another company, Handshake Software, has begun marketing a product, Handshake Converter, that converts documents and other files from legacy document management systems to SharePoint so that they will work with Matter Center.

For larger law firms, a key selling point for Matter Center will be that it can be deployed as a fully cloud-based application, as an on-premises application using SharePoint, or as a part-cloud, part-local hybrid.

To my knowledge, Microsoft has not previously adapted Office 365 to a specific industry vertical. The launch of Matter Center for the legal industry would be a significant move for Microsoft and will certainly have repercussions across the legal industry.

  • Sam Glover

    I wish something like this would have existed when I started my own firm. I used Outlook for a while without any of these features, but it was hacky. If Microsoft does a good job, this could be amazing.

    Since it’s based on SharePoint, I’m guessing it is targeted primarily at larger firms. For a small operation, SharePoint is painfully clunky. It doesn’t really make sense until you scale it. (Which is also why the Office 365 plans are so broken for solosmalls. You aren’t supposed to use the “home” plans for business, but the business plans force you to use the SharePoint version of OneDrive instead of the regular consumer version. It’s a pretty bad experience, and I ultimately decided it is probably better to violate the terms rather than use the business plans.)

  • Nikki

    All of the options available for law firms these days are incredible. It really helps with those who may just be starting out and need all the help they can get!

    One thing to consider before you go to the “cloud”. Make sure you understand the cloud, and know that no two people are going to view it the same way. This article from Abacus Law provides a lot of helpful information for anyone thinking of the “switch” 🙂

  • we are struggling with systematizing a three attorney elder law/estate planning firm. Two offices 120 miles apart. Document-heavy…handle Medi-Cal (Medicaid) VA applications, very document intense. Have tried Credenza, needed cloud-based, does not work with Sharepoint. We are really based on Outlook, email, contacts, calendar. Have gone to Sharepoint, 365, discovered does not work with Credenza!

    What we need/want: input client info, creates Matter, Contact…emails connected to Matter…phone log…documents connected to matter…any other parties, in Contacts connected ( could be connected to multiple Matters)…simple, invoice producing Billing…Tasks for processing, staff accountability, communication.

    Is MS Matters there? Asking the right questions? Any help very appreciated. Member of NAELA (, California Chapter past prez, know an issue for all and ready to share your observations, links to blog, site. Thank you for insights

  • My company, Camino Information Services, does a custom case/document management system that is ideal for larger companies for whom 365/SharePoint isn’t a realistic solution.

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