Microsoft Matter Center – Office 365 Legal Industry Case Management Add-in

Microsoft Matter Center is a (free) add-in to Office 365 to support the legal industry in case and content management leveraging the core capabilities of Office 365 and Microsoft Azure.  Microsoft developed this solution back in 2015 and has been updating the solution to fulfill on the ongoing case management needs of law firms leveraging the core functionality of secured and protected content storage, search, and collaboration. 

Key functionality in Matter Center:

  • Creation of Matters:  From a case management perspective, users of Office 365 can create cases that includes case description, case conflict verification, inclusion of the legal team (internal and external), and the upload and management of documents and emails relative to the case (Office 365 email, OneDrive, search, and SharePoint Online)
  • Ongoing Information Tracking:  Matter Center provides a centralized information tracking mechanism (OneNote) for all individuals working on the case to enter in conversations and share meeting and conversation notes to all members of the team
  • Shared Calendars and Conversations:  Leveraging group calendars and groups, Matter Center provides a centralized method of viewing and managing important filing dates, response timelines, individual and group meetings, deposition schedules, and tracked conversations.
  • Security and Encryption:  Content is protected using role-based security to allow and block access between cases, actively prevent matter materials to be accessed by individuals noted with case conflict, encrypts content both in transit and at rest, and logs and tracks content modifications and changes for ongoing review
  • Direct Integration with Outlook:  Matter Center leverages Microsoft’s Outlook add-in model that integrates directly into Outlook so that participants can access matter content (documents, past conversation documentation) and directly save content right into specific matter repositories without having to “toggle” between multiple applications

Video Demonstration of Matter Center

The best way to experience Matter Center is to actually see it, so I’ve uploaded a Video of Matter Center and a “day in the life” scenario usage of Matter Center.

As you’ve seen in the video, the simplicity of Matter Center is that is leverages native features in Office 365 that organizations with the Office 365 E3 license owns all of core functionality (Outlook emails, SharePoint document libraries, SharePoint team site landing pages functionality, Rights Management content encryption, integrated Search)

Key Benefit of Matter Center

The key value of Matter Center is its integration of all of these components and embedded access right within Outlook where legal teams have directly in their email interface the ability to access and save messages and documents without having to constantly toggle between interfaces.  Members of the legal team can also go to a landing page from any browser and search for cases and documents while in the office or remote, with selected (or all) content encrypted and accessible through user by user content rights protection.

Installation and Implementation of Matter Center

Since Matter Center is provided at no charge to organizations that already have and use Office 365 and Microsoft Azure.  The installation code can be downloaded off of GitHub with a step-by-step implementation guide available.  However I’d highly recommend that if you install Matter Center that you are pretty familiar with Office 365, SharePoint administration, PowerShell, Visual Studio application build and publishing, and both the Microsoft Azure classic and Portal consoles.

The documentation makes a lot of assumptions that you have familiarity of all these tools, if not, you can quickly get a bit overwhelmed with the implementation process.  The GitHub “issues” tab is well moderated with the most common questions answered, however consider leveraging the support of someone who has already implemented Matter Center to smooth out the implementation experience.  Also, it is HIGHLY recommended that for your first implementation of Matter Center that you install it in an Office 365 test/trial tenant against an Azure test/trial subscription.  That’ll allow you to fumble through the implementation without polluting a real production environment in your first go around of the solution.

If you have experience implementing Matter Center or working with someone who has experience and expertise with Matter Center, then most certainly implement it in your live production environment as the best way to experience the solution is to have it integrated into real working email, file sharing, and collaboration settings used on a regular basis.

For those implementing Matter Center, here’s a video where I walk through some of the various components you’ll be working with as part of the implementation and integration of Matter Center in Office 365 and in Azure (note: this is not a step-by-step implementation video, just a “fly by” of the tools and components that are part of the Matter Center environment).

And as an extension to the documentation that Microsoft provides for implementation, I’ve compiled a download that notes some of the “additional things” that I would supplement their document with (problems/issues you’ll likely encounter during the implementation that you’ll need to overcome to get the thing fully operational).

Summary

Matter Center is a good example how a simple interface can consolidate several tools built-in to Office 365 and Microsoft Azure to solve the specific business use case of matter management for an industry like the legal industry.  Users can go to one place to store and access documents that are securely encrypted in organized content libraries, and the users don’t even need to “go somewhere else” as Matter Center’s Outlook add-in brings the content straight into the Outlook screen.

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