Peer to Peer Magazine

Winter 2014

The quarterly publication of the International Legal Technology Association

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Page 33 of 75

The legal document management system landscape has not changed much in the past 10 years. The major players introduced a few new features and plenty of bug fixes. Some cloud-based vendors have seen moderate success and seem to be gaining momentum. There was some stir about SharePoint 2010 being a possible candidate to dethrone those major DMS players, but it never saw widespread adoption. Even firms not completely satisfied with their DMS felt they had no better option, and that it would take a significant change in the market to make them consider a DMS replacement. That's why the big news from ILTA's 2014 conference in Nashville was Microsoft's announcement of their own DMS: Matter Center for Office 365. Matter Center is a document management system built on top of SharePoint and Office 365. This is Microsoft's first product geared specifically to the legal vertical — a niche it had previously left to partners. Ultimately, Matter Center is designed to replace the traditional legal DMS with a solution that tightly integrates with the growing variety of Office 365 applications and services. At its core, Matter Center leverages SharePoint to handle its back-end search and storage, and it provides a matter-centric interface for the front end. Users can save and retrieve documents and email, much like with any other commercially available DMS, but Microsoft has seized the opportunity to offer functionality that meets the needs of today's legal market. TECHNICAL OVERVIEW At press time, Matter Center has only been provided to select partners and clients, so technical details are still scarce and subject to change. Matter Center is not a standalone product and has several key integration points and dependencies: SharePoint 2013, Exchange 2013, OneDrive for Business and Office 2013 (including Word, Outlook access, but the cloud app controls in Word and Outlook could lose some degree of functionality without cloud connectivity. WORKING WITH MATTER CENTER Part of Microsoft's marketing around Matter Center is that it grew out of the needs of its Legal and Corporate Affairs (LCA) group. While this message should underscore the idea that the product is built for lawyers, it also brings up the point that lawyers in a corporate setting work differently than lawyers in a law firm. Depending on the area of law in which they practice, an attorney can have hundreds of open matters at one time, needing access to all of them. Consequently, there has been debate as to whether Matter Center's user interface is aligned with the needs of today's law firms. Microsoft has steered away from listing matters in Outlook's left-most pane, where users are used to seeing them listed with their email folders. Instead, they have opted to use a grid layout which might not lend itself well to the traditional hierarchical client-matter structure. Instead of merely mimicking the interface of the major DMS players, Microsoft has elected to change the paradigm entirely. Filing an email, for example, takes place in the same pane as the content of that email, rather than via drag- and-drop or a right-click menu option. These kinds of changes might require retraining for existing DMS users. In a conversation with John Anderson, Chief Information Officer at Shook, Hardy and Bacon, he described the iterative process through which Microsoft collected feedback from half a dozen law firms over the last several months to refine the user interface. Anderson is confident that "while the user interface is a departure from the past, it will be a welcome change from the conventional approach." Another interesting feature of the Matter Center interface is the Mail Cart, WWW.ILTANET.ORG 35 About the Author Joe Davis is the Applications Manager at McCarter & English, LLP. He has spent 15 years in legal IT, the last eight of which have been in his current role. Joe is a member of ILTA's Enterprise Content Management Peer Group Steering Committee, and he recently published an article titled "Five DMS Changes for the Next Five Years" in ILTA's ECM white paper. Joe received an MBA from NJIT. Prior to his IT career, Joe was a teacher, an entrepreneur and a DJ in a flea market. Contact him at and OneNote). In order to run Matter Center, your firm will likely need all these products, with at least some portion of this infrastructure running in Office 365. Microsoft has committed to supporting hybrid environments with Exchange and SharePoint on-premise, but it is not yet clear what other parts of the infrastructure can be run on-premise and what must run in the cloud. The front end of Matter Center offers a significant departure from Microsoft's traditional approach. Nishan DeSilva, Senior Director of Technology and Strategy at Microsoft, says: "We are running our entire Matter Center solution today with no code on the desktop so we can be cross-platform and we can write on any device. With the way we are looking at innovation and how we want to evolve, we feel very confident that this is the future." Microsoft is quick to point out there is already a native iPad app, and an Android app is in development. THE "CLOUD APP" MODEL Prior to Microsoft Office 2013, extending the capabilities of any Office product typically involved using add-ins (sometimes referred to as plug-ins), which were installed on each user's computer. Matter Center uses the cloud app model to extend Office rather than add-ins, leveraging the same underlying technologies used to build Web applications such as HTML5, JavaScript and CSS. Apps like Matter Center have a very light footprint because they do not install directly on the user's computer. Instead, they run in the context of a browser control, so they can be maintained and updated easily. This will go a long way toward avoiding the "blame game" sometimes played by vendors when troubleshooting issues. While management and deployment become simplified with the cloud app model, external dependencies expose a potential downside. OneDrive for Business allows users to synchronize files for offline

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