Everything is more complex in the legal industry. Choosing the right legal software is no different.
A document management system that’s good for your regular run-of-the-mill business might not be the best fit for implementation in a law firm, especially since you’re dealing with highly confidential documents.
With the right software, you can experience many other benefits aside from secure storage, that can streamline the workflow in your law firm and ultimately help you grow.
We’re going to look at the hallmarks of the right kind of legal document management software (DMS), and the value you can expect.
What Makes the Right Software?
To get the most bang for your buck, you need to be aware of the must-have features that every legal DMS worth its salt has. Hopefully, this will help you narrow down the search for the perfect solution.
Here are the crucial features to keep an eye on:
- Matter-centricity: Documents need to be retrieved easily, so you should look for software that lets you alter folder structures. A single case file can contain all the files related to a particular client.
- Cloud-based: The cloud-based legal document management systems are more cost-effective, scalable, and most importantly, they enable you to access important documents anywhere at any time.
- Integration: Your DMS should easily integrate with other software platforms, such as different types of software for legal documents and legal apps, email clients, MS Office.
- Document tagging: Enables you to tag documents based on various factors, thus making them easily retrievable using via search.
- Security: A good legal DMS needs to feature the latest encryption software along with the option of time stamping the access dates of the documents for transparent billing.
- Version control: This allows you to track all the changes in a document and ensures that a new version of the document is always put upfront. At the same time, all the previous incarnations of the file are archived and are still retrievable.
Extra feature: Optical character recognition (OCR)
While this one isn’t mandatory, it can save a lot of time, whether you are already running a paperless law firm or you’re in the process of digitizing older case files. OCR technology automatically converts your physical documents into digital files, so it should come useful for every type of law firm in their day-to-day work.
If you decide on implementing a legal document with most of these characteristics, you can experience game-changing benefits such as:
A cloud-based DMS lets you store all of your important files in one centralized location, organized and accessible by all your colleagues. This makes the days of document hunting effectively over.
A matter-centric DMS allows you to categorize files by client or matter, ensuring everything stays clean and organized. Combined with appropriate document tagging, file retrieval can be simplified even further as you and your co-workers can track down files easily by using search terms.
As a result, the risk of losing an important file or spending a great deal of time trying to find it is significantly reduced.
One of the biggest benefits of choosing the right DMS is improved collaboration. A cloud-based solution with version control allows you and your teammates to work together on a document in real-time.
You can feel confident everyone is up-to-date and working on the relevant version of the file. This can solve bottlenecks that occur out of confusion about what is the current version of the document or problems arising from sending emails back and forth.
It’s also worth mentioning that a cloud-based DMS allows you to access your files from anywhere, making it a prime tool if you ever need to work remotely and still keep up the productive work going without a hitch.
A DMS that can integrate with other software or platforms you’re already using is very beneficial for law firms and can be another way to speed up multiple document-related processes.
For instance, if you choose a DMS that offers email integration, all of your email exchanges will be stored and organized along with your other important documents. Additionally, other forms of communication like voicemails or texts can also be logged in, depending on the DMS.
Perhaps the best example of how integration can streamline your workflow is the one between legal document management software and Microsoft Office.
You are probably already using this trusty processor for writing your legal documents anyway, so the option of saving your Word files directly to the case file is crucial in your day-to-day working process.
MS Office integration allows you to continue using the more refined capabilities such as Microsoft Word styles or legal document templates but at the same time, maintain a more organized approach brought on by the use of a feature-rich DMS.
Aside from unlimited storage, a cloud-based DMS can also make your data more secure. The user can set up permissions to ensure that access is only granted to authorized people.
All activities are documented, so you can always follow the audit trail.
One of the biggest benefits to a cloud-based DMS is the low operating cost when compared to an on-premise solution. You won’t need to make investments in IT infrastructure. There is no need for updates or maintenance either because everything is taken care of by your provider.
This means you can save a lot of money in operating costs without needing to worry about any IT-related problems.
More than Just Storage
When you stop considering document management software as merely file storage, you realize the benefits of implementing it in your law firm. From that point on, it will be tough to ignore its potential.
This software can be a powerful tool for any legal practice if used to its full capability.
Aside from improved organization, your law firm can be freed of operational cost burdens while also enabling greater flexibility and collaboration among your colleagues.
Not all DMS is created equal, though — look for features that are important to your workflow and that accurately address your needs.