Many believed it to be the major news story at last year’s ILTA conference: Microsoft announcing a SharePoint-based document management solution for law firms and corporate legal departments: Microsoft Matter Center for Office 365.
The news raised some eyebrows in the industry. After all, Microsoft axed its legal vertical marketing team a couple of years earlier and let go of Norm Thomas, the “public face” of the team.
Although both stories (Matter Center and Microsoft’s legal vertical) are not really lining up (to say the least), the 3 years since might have been just long enough to let people think that Microsoft was changing strategy again and re-focusing on legal.
But it now appears that Matter Center will never be officially released as a commercial product. Rumors about this in the market are getting stronger each day and circumstantial evidence supports what is really going on at the moment: Matter Center for Office 365 was nothing more than an internal tool for the company’s legal department, which with over 1,000 lawyers is a law firm in itself.
Looking at Microsoft’s Matter Center website last year, this was their story:
Matter Centric Legal Document Management
Matter Center for Office 365 is an intuitive document management and collaboration solution accessible from any device at any time, all delivered in a secure and easy-to-manage package.
We’re improving the way law firms and attorneys work together by making it easier to organize files by client and matter, review documents, and find information when needed without ever leaving Microsoft Word or Outlook.
The same web page now reads:
Boosting Productivity for our Legal Professionals
Matter Center is a solution developed by Microsoft’s Legal and Corporate Affairs group to improve the productivity of our in-house counsel and legal professionals. It is a great example of using Office 365 as a productivity platform, and has generated tremendous interest from the market.
Pay extra attention to the words “our” and “example” in the text. Moreover, last year interested law firms could sign-up for the Matter Center Pilot Program with the click of a button. The same button on the page now has different wording: “Subscribe to updates about Matter Center”.
The question remains why Microsoft announced Matter Center at the legal technology industry’s leading global conference? We can only speculate about this. Perhaps they thought it would be a viable product, but then realized otherwise. Another answer might be that the company is trying to show what Office 365 apps in combination with SharePoint are really capable of.
We welcome your ideas and thoughts!
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