Microsoft closes legal sector

Lately there has been some major legal technology news. First the largest ever legal technology deal when HP acquired Autonomy for $10 billion, then the announcement that Microsoft is closing its legal sector team entirely.

As reported in the American Legal Technology Insider August 2011 newsletter: "In one of the biggest turnarounds in recent years, Microsoft has announced it was closing down its Redmond-based specialist legal vertical market team with immediate effect. The impact this will have on current Microsoft legal sector projects, including the Sharepoint DMS and native Word redlining initiatives at Clifford Chance are unknown at this time. Microsoft is also expected to cut back on legal-sector marketing and events sponsorship."

Here are some previous articles on law firms investing in SharePoint document management solutions, which the developments onwards certainly will be interesting to follow: "SharePoint as a DMS: From heresy to orthodoxy", "Sword and Lewis Silkin ally to push Sharepoint DMS solution" and "Clifford Chance and Microsoft plan new dawn for legal market IT ". As jokingly commented by Jason Plant in "My take on the Microsoft legal vertical withdrawal": "Maybe we should expect to see Clifford Chance announce a deal with one of the big DMS vendors soon, indicating that maybe this was down to not being able to get the SharePoint DMS to work for legal."

In the KnowList article "Ladies and Gentleman - Microsoft have left the building" it is analysed why Microsoft has made this move in two opposite conclusions: "The glass half full position is that this is a temporary, cost cutting reorganisation exercise. The glass half empty position: Legal - too fussy, too complicated, too small, not enough dollar."

However, these conclusions do not seem to be shared by HP when deciding to invest in the legal sector and making "its most aggressive move yet to transform itself into a modern business provider by acquiring e-discovery and document management giant Autonomy for $10.3 billion, putting its personal computer division up for sale, and discontinuing its recently launched WebOS mobile device group." For more information about this deal, see the article by Evan Koblenz "In Largest-Ever Legal Technology Deal, HP Acquires Autonomy for $10B".

But maybe Microsoft is not leaving the legal sector entirely, but merely saving money by letting other vendors sell the products. As Jason Plants concludes: "So is it a loss for Legal? I don't think so, Microsoft products will still be used and there are plenty of professional services outfits that can help. I suspect this is a cold hard look at our vertical by Microsoft and a realisation that we're going the way they want us to go without the need of a nudge. So why spend money on the team to help us along."


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