Behind the Scenes: Our Microsoft Collaboration and the Sprint to Microsoft Build 2024

Fri 21 Jun 2024

For nearly three decades, Litera and Microsoft have worked together to enhance Word and Outlook for legal professionals. This collaboration has recently taken a giant leap forward, with Litera being selected as a key Independent Software Vendor (ISV) to partner with Microsoft, bringing cutting-edge tools and intelligent experiences to the legal industry. 

In May of 2024, Litera announced its Copilot plug-ins at the Microsoft Build event. Below, we go behind-the-scenes with the Litera engineering team on what it was like to collaborate with Microsoft and how the team worked together to get the plug-ins demo-ready for Build. 

The Beginning of a Collaborative Journey 
Our journey began in December 2023 with a deep dive into understanding Microsoft Copilot and how to build plug-ins or extensions. At Litera, we were particularly interested in leveraging the Semantic Kernel—a component providing natural language capabilities—to integrate natural language support at the enterprise level. 

By February, Daniel Fisherman, Senior Director of GenAI and Innovation at Litera and Daniel Buki, Litera’s Senior Software Engineer, had formulated an enterprise architecture proposal detailing how Litera products, equipped with Semantic Kernel, could provide ubiquitous chat support. 

The complexities of integrating natural language support into enterprise-level applications proved to be a significant hurdle, so Fisherman reached out to Microsoft’s Technical Access Program (TAP) lead. This connection was pivotal, jump-starting a vital relationship with the Copilot development team. The collaborative effort was crucial in overcoming the initial challenges and setting a solid foundation for further development. 

Litera’s Sprint to Microsoft Build 
In early April, days before the submission deadline, Pramod Nadakuditi, Litera’s Associate Director of Software Engineering, received an invitation for Litera to participate in Microsoft Build with an opportunity to collaborate with the Microsoft’s Word JavaScript API development team. We then committed to incorporating the latest Word API features in Litera Office add-in workflows within a stringent 10-day timeline. 

Though the team had been evaluating these new features periodically, they were in beta stages, and our product's release schedule didn't align with their immediate incorporation. The request was to use these cutting-edge features in our demo, a unique opportunity as they were previously untested outside Microsoft. By the end of April, we began a focused effort over four days to develop a user experience showcasing these features. 

After presenting the draft and receiving feedback from Microsoft, Litera’s Senior Software Engineering Manager Sabrina Eldridge and Senior Software Engineer Monika Sanghani, finalized the demo content and script. Thanks to the Litera add-in and GenAI and Innovation teams, we successfully prepared for the Build event, highlighting the innovative features and our ability to integrate them into our product. 

The Big Unveiling: Litera’s Plug-In Demos at Microsoft Build 
In May, we announced our deeper collaboration with Microsoft, and at Microsoft Build our team’s work came to fruition with the unveiling of our Copilot plug-ins and demonstrations. First, we announced the Litera Search Copilot plug-in, a Copilot extension that enables users to execute natural language matter searches against Litera Foundation, and natural language legal precedent searches for content stored in the firm’s Document Management Software (DMS). 

Additionally, we were featured in Microsoft’s Unleash AI-powered Extensibilities in Word/Excel/PowerPoint session where we showcased the Litera Copilot plug-in for Drafting tools. This industry-leading solution provides seamless, dynamic, AI-powered search and document retrieval, functionality across any Microsoft Office applications, and natural language search against matter and content attributes to instantly incorporate existing work and previous matters into new documents. 

Building a Brighter (and More Efficient) Future Together 
The success at Microsoft Build was just the beginning. Our relationship with Microsoft has continued to grow and evolve, marked by regular standing calls and collaborative planning sessions. And, Microsoft has looked to us to help shape the roadmap and prioritize features for Copilot Studio. 

This ongoing partnership has provided us with unprecedented access to Microsoft’s development teams, enabling us to continuously refine and enhance our offerings. It’s a relationship that goes beyond mere collaboration; it’s a true partnership aimed at driving innovation and delivering exceptional value to our users. 

As we continue to work closely with Microsoft, we’re excited about the future possibilities this technology holds for enhancing user interactions and are eager to continue delivering cutting-edge solutions that empower legal professionals and transform the way they work.

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