More than ever, law firms and corporate legal departments have multiple people, offices and teams working on the same case, as the resources inside the firm or department spread across practices areas and offices. It’s not uncommon to have attorneys in Cleveland, Chicago and Cincinnati collaborating on the same matter. And in the case of a large corporate legal department, that collaboration could stretch across the globe.
With so much electronic content flowing back and forth to facilitate that collaboration, it’s best to implement a document management solution.
“If there’s not a good solution, system or process in place to follow, then it’s very easy for something to get lost, not be properly understood or missed,” says David Cramer, manager of business development in the Legal and Professional Services division of Blue Technologies Smart Solutions.
Smart Business spoke with Cramer about document management in law firms and corporate legal departments.
What are the benefits of document management solutions for law firms and corporate legal departments?
Without a document management system, electronic content is probably in multiple places — file shares, a local hard drive, email folders, SharePoint or an enterprise content management system with no legal focus. Document management organizes all that content in one place.
Users can easily find existing content with robust full-text search capabilities. The solution collects email, email attachments, scanned images, Microsoft office documents and audio and video files, in order to organize them in a manner that makes sense for users.
The other advantages are productivity and efficiency. If there is a litigation or discovery need, the firm or department needs to be able to produce the right document quickly. Employees don’t want to have to recreate a misplaced document from scratch or look at an out-of-date version.
How does document management work with mobile devices?
More people today, including lawyers, paralegals and secretaries, work out of multiple offices, from home or when traveling. Document management solutions can provide remote access by interfacing with smartphones and tablet computers in a way that’s compatible with your security solutions. They also can provide the ability to work offline so you can access electronic content in court where there’s no Internet.
Do some document management solutions work better in the legal vertical?
You’ll want to select a document management solution that’s designed for the way law firms and legal departments work, with the language of attorneys, paralegals and secretaries.
You should work with a technology partner to find the best solution, but you can get started on research with third-party organizations like the International Legal Technology Association.
In many large corporations, IT declares that the enterprise will use only one solution; unfortunately it may not fit with the legal department. This in turn leads to poor or minimal user adoption.
If the return on your solution isn’t what you expected, what would you recommend?
Your business’s approach or practice groups may have changed. Every two to four years, do a health check of the system with the help of your technology partner to see what’s working well and what needs to be improved.
The solution’s design can be adjusted to better match business workflows. You may need a software upgrade that could provide new features or functionality. Or, perhaps it’s time for refresher training.
What else should employers know?
Some large firms have been using document management for 20 years, while many smaller firms, 100 users or less, are getting into it now because cloud technology providers handle the IT services.
Whatever your size or history, document management can help manage the day-in and day-out of drafting, editing and storing all components for a matter or case. But after a matter is closed, many firms or departments declare it a record, locking it down and applying a retention policy. Consider implementing a records management solution to manage those electronic and paper records.
Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies Inc.