Law Practice Tech Trends: Document Management
A Document Management System (DMS) is intelligent data storage. It is a more secure, sophisticated and efficient way to store, access and share all types of digital data.
Quicker access to firm’s documents may be one of the strongest selling points to a DMS. In a world without a DMS, how much time is spent searching for documents and emails, 10%, 20% or could it even be 30%? Time is money, and a DMS can organize your documents, so your firm can utilize all your resources in an effectual manner.
There are limited implementations of DMS available in some of the existing Law Practice Management software, such as Zola Suite, ActionStep, Practice Panther, Clio, Rocket Matter and My Case, and if you have a practice that is not document intensive, that may be enough to satisfy your firm’s needs. However, if your practice deals with a substantial number of documents, your firm can be more efficient and security compliant with a robust Legal Document Management System.
A Legal Document Management System will provide the following benefits to your practice:
- Version Management and Audit Trails, which allows users to see each version of a single document, so you can view, restore or compare previous versions of every document complete with time stamps and user access.
- File and “Cabinet” Security, access to confidential files can be set with user permissions and encryption, so nobody can circumvent the system.
- Document Check-Out/In, allows users to check documents out to make changes, while blocking others from making edits to the document.
- Index and Search, a strong DMS will make every document and email searchable. Document Management Systems index all the firm’s documents.
- Automatic OCR (Optical Character Recognition), More powerful Document Management Systems will include integrated, automatic OCR, which converts scanned documents or image-based PDF files to text-enabled documents. This ensures all documents, including scanned PDF files, are indexed and searchable.
- Scan and Fax integration, Some Document Management Systems will be compatible directly with your firm’s scanners and fax machine (or fax service). This will improve workflow when scanned documents go directly to your DMS, where it will be filed to the appropriate matter.
- Document Sharing, Allow secure external sharing with clients, co-counsel, experts and more
- Matter-centricity, A matter-centric DMS allows the user to create a matter, which acts as a virtual file cabinet to store and manage all digital documents, email and notes for that matter.
- Email Management. In the practice of law, an email is a digital document like any other. Therefore, it’s crucial that a law firm’s Document Management System store, index and manage email as it does documents. A good, legal-centric DMS will be compatible with Microsoft Outlook and permit the law firm’s staff to efficiently save emails directly to a matter.
- Document Types & Tagging. All types of documents come into play with a law firm like, motions, orders, pleadings, complaints, contracts, etc. Identifying the exact kind of document with tags/profiles is very important. Categorizing your documents with tags will prove most efficient and valuable when searching for documents in your database of a certain type or to quickly identify the type or nature of documents.
Does your firm need a Legal Document Management System?
- Has your firm been unable to locate a document because it was misfiled?
- Can your firm benefit from quick access to documents with Google like intuitive searches?
- Do you need quicker and consistent matter-centric grouping of your firm’s documents?
- Have you had instances where a document is locked from editing and you have no idea who has the document open?
- Can your firm benefit from automatic OCR scanning of every attachment in an email or PDF created, so they are indexed for quick access and saving?
- Would you like to streamline your firm’s processes by having scanners (or fax) import directly to your storage system?
- Does your law firm want to go digital and allow every document to be found by keyword searches as opposed to the massive and hard to manage paper files?
If you answered YES to any of the questions above, then you need to consider a DMS. With that you have one more item to consider:
Should my Legal Document Management System (DMS) be a cloud-based software or an on-premise (local) software?
It depends on several factors like, the size of the firm, how accessible you want to make the documents, your budget and the desired level of security of your firm’s data.
The data storage in cloud-based versions of DMS software will meet the necessary security requirements, and cloud-based DMS software will also be accessible anywhere and on any device. However, you will see slower access to documents than an on-premise software as it takes longer to retrieve the files from the providers data storage as opposed to locally available software. Even though cloud-based DMS provides access to documents from anywhere, there could be inconsistency in usage and feature availability on different devices due to plug-ins and add-ons not downloaded or available on different phones, tablets or PC’s. From a strictly licensing standpoint over a 3-5 year period, cloud-based DMS are typically only financially advantageous for smaller firms with 10 or fewer users.
For a law practice with anywhere from 10 to 500 users there will be infrastructure related fees & support with an on-premise version of a DMS software program, and accessibility is limited to within your local network. The data is secure as it resides in the DMS, but outside of the DMS it depends on the level of protection currently in place with your IT Services provider.
However, Private Cloud Managed Service Providers, like Xvand, can provide a best of both worlds’ solution: significantly lower cost on-premise DMS software accessible anywhere on any device. Additionally, Managed Service Providers will host, manage and support all your other on-premise software applications as well. Attorneys and staff can focus on their clients and leave security concerns to expert vendors who stay on the cutting edge of technology. This scenario will also replace current IT server hardware and maintenance related expenses with a fixed cost per user and 24/7 support with scalable and flexible technology.