Legal Document Management Software
There are many challenges associated with working in a law firm. Even the smallest cases generate a great deal of paperwork. Lawyers must be able to quickly reference documents and file case information. Even when a case is finished, the documents must be preserved, as the information may prove useful in future cases. In addition to case information, the firm is also responsible for maintaining files on clients and billing. For larger cases, it becomes even more complex, as multiple lawyers or legal aides may be working on the same case.
In 2020, there are even more challenges because of Covid-19. Many law firms are operating remotely, which makes it even more important to be able to freely transfer and organize digital documents. In order for a law firm to succeed, it must have legal document management software.
What is Legal Document Management Software?
Legal document management software refers to specializes programs with built-in organization systems for sending and storing documents. Individual users can setup accounts, making it easy to control who has access to what documents. The simplest programs act as shared storage space, allowing users to upload and view documents. The more advanced programs offer additional features, like a searchable database, document collaboration and other sharing features.
There are already several document sharing programs, some that are available for free. While these are reliable for personal use, they are not recommended for law firms. Legal document managing software features advanced security. This not only keeps outsiders from accessing the information, but it also ensures other users in the law firm do not access private documents. Law firms constantly deal with personal documents, and in some cases, are required by law to limit who is able to see certain documents. Some security measures used for legal document management software includes two factor authorization, file encryption and the ability to allow only specific devices or IP addresses to access a file.
Understanding Your Needs
Many law firms are surprised by the sheer number of legal document managing programs on the market. Each of these programs has different strengths and weaknesses. Some programs are designed for specific areas of law, such as trust and estate, criminal or family cases. Because these programs are specialized, many of the features will not be relevant outside of that style of law. For example, Legal Files is intended for government agencies and insurance providers.
Other software is marketed for general use, but may have features intended for larger or smaller firms. With some programs, you purchase a tiered account system, which determines how many user accounts you can actively run. The more users allowed, the higher the cost. Programs meant for larger firms may start at 100 users, which is completely unnecessary for a small law firm.
For smaller law firms, M-Files and Repstor are recommended programs. M-Files allows users to create a robust search system by tagging individual files and folders with relevant keywords, which other users can search for. Repstor has built-in integration with Office 365 and other common Microsoft programs.
If you work in a larger law firm, Worldox is an excellent program. It is one of the older document management programs and it is compatible with several other legal management programs. It is a server-based program, meaning it can support a large number of users. Server based programs also have some of the best security features. Lex Workplace is another great program for larger firms because it is compatible with both Windows and Mac, so all the users do not have to worry about sharing the same operating system.
Document management software is largely for filing and retrieving digital documents, but the majority of programs provide other features as well. One useful feature is the ability to link your email account directly into the software. This allows you to not only send documents to other users, but also attach detailed notes about what is in the files.
Another useful feature is the ability to integrate with other business management software, such as billing or scheduling programs. This allows you to keep track of all your relevant information using one program instead of constantly jumping between multiple pieces of software.
If your document management software is not compatible with common programs like Microsoft Office, look for a program that allows you to scan in documents. This saves a great deal of time, as otherwise you must convert all your documents into a compatible format, important them into the document software and then file them.
Many legal document management programs contain backup features. If you ever accidentally delete a file or close out of a program without saving a document change, you can access the backup files to recover your lost information.
A smaller, but still relevant feature for law firms, is the ability to digitally sign documents. There are no shortage of legal documents which require multiple signatures. Instead of printing out, signing, then rescanning documents, you can enter a digital signature and share the document with any other parties that need to sign. This is especially relevant in 2020, since social distancing guidelines makes gathering signatures significantly harder.