Microsoft is expanding its Office 365 service with a new add-on specifically created for lawyers.

Announced at the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) annual conference earlier today, Matter Center for Office 365 can be best described as Microsoft’s OneDrive file-sharing service, but with law firms in mind. And while the product is only a preview build, it already touts a number of useful features, including 1TB of storage, simplistic file searching within Outlook and Word, as well as real-time edit tracking.

“Microsoft has built a security-enhanced, cloud-based document management application that allows our professionals to quickly locate and collaborate on documents with our counsel from virtually anywhere,” said John Frank, vice president and deputy general counsel at Microsoft. “We’ve decided to make this solution more broadly available at the request of our outside counsel, who want to utilize it in their own environments.”

Matter Center provides users with a ‘personal briefcase,’ which automatically syncs documents and prepares them to be accessed from any compatible device, regardless of if you’re online of not. Files can also be shared with those outside of your job, though there’s always the option to set restrictions on who can see what. Additionally, more than one user can access and work on a file simultaneously, thereby saving the time that would’ve otherwise been used emailing files and explaining why particular edits were made.

And while the preview version is aimed at lawyers, IT professionals can also use Matter Center and set it to be used in the cloud. One benefit of doing so comes in the form of faster and more cost effective upgrades and migration. It also includes enterprise-grade security and management controls, which Microsoft reassures is “compliant with multiple industry standards.”

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“Matter Center for Office 365 is the product of months of collaboration between Microsoft’s Legal and Corporate Affairs (LCA) division, outside law firms, and our Office 365 product engineering teams,” said Tejas Mehta, group product manager for Matter Center at Microsoft. “We are very excited to bring Matter Center to market in the near future.”

Microsoft claims it took the necessary steps to make Matter Center as intuitive as possible, without sacrificing what made services like OneDrive so useful. That said, it’s still unsure how the full release will compare with other products and services already in use. In terms of both functionality and security.

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The company also neglected to provide pricing information or details regarding the launch of the full version. Those interested in trying the preview themselves are encouraged to sign up for the beta program, which seems to only consist of sending an email requesting access.

Regardless of how Matter Center is seen, however, its announcement and subsequent release suggests that Microsoft wants to add more business-focused add-ons to Office 365. In the past, various editions have been released for government and educational specific endeavors.

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Google itself has already debuted software targeted at schools and teachers via its Apps for Education tool, putting it in direct competition with Microsoft again. Called Classroom, its main use is to assist teachers with a number of tasks, including the creation of homework assignments and interacting with students.

Source: Microsoft