12 min read
Jun 28, 2017
Legal Document Management

Law and Ordered: How to Choose the Right Legal Document Management System

How do you make sure your law firm's documents are secure and well organized? A legal document management system can help.

Abhishek SinghTeam Lead

As an attorney, you've probably seen a few documents in your time, right? But how many of the documents are organized neatly and securely? If the answer is not "all of them" then you're in trouble. Don't worry, though: a legal document management system can ease the burden of managing multiple legal documents by creating an online repository where you can collaborate with your peers and clients, share encrypted confidential details, and archive documents for future reference.

This article helps you choose the right legal document management software for your law firm, giving you the lowdown of the features to look for in the software, and examples of some of popular solutions available in the market.

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What is a legal document management system?

Legal document management systems help to streamline a lawyer's workflow by creating a centralized database, organizing documents that can be easily located through a search bar. This type of software also offers functions to help manage client meetings through a calendar, track tasks, integrate with a smartphone, and other essential features.

Legal document management software helps in enhancing your document management efficiency and enables attorneys to easily manage reams of paperwork. Most importantly, a legal document management software helps secure confidential client data to avoid information breach as per the guidelines set by the American Bar Association.

A legal document management system is part of the broader category of content management software, with more focus on confidentiality and security of documents. Similarly, a legal practice management software focuses on a law firm's internal processes and external filings for time tracking and billing.

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Does my small firm really need a legal document management software?

Law firms manage confidential documents that need to be protected from any data breach. Otherwise, you may have to pay a hefty fine in thousands or millions of dollars to your clients.

According to American Bar Association's 2016 TechReport Survey, out of the 500 attorneys surveyed, 26% experienced some type of data breach.

Similarly, in April 2016, Mossack Fonesca (a financial law firm in Panama) experienced a data breach of millions of terabytes of data. This resulted in the "Panama Papers" leaks that made international headlines as it exposed the offshore financial accounts of politicians, celebrities, and business executives.

With a legal document management system, you can avoid all such data breaches, as the software helps you assign permissions to users to access confidential legal documents.

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Is my business ready?

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help figure out if you are ready to invest in a legal document management software.

  • Do you find it difficult to manage and control a very high volume of legal paperwork?

A legal document management system helps you stay organized by storing your case files in shared folders. Most legal document management software offers unlimited storage plans to archive old files. You can also upload multiple files at once to save time and create a library, download case files, and share the documents with your colleagues and clients.

  • Are you concerned about the data security of your legal documents?

Legal document management software helps you administer user permission to access files. You can also view the version history of case files saved on the software to track the changes made by each user. The software also helps you avoid data breaches by sending email notifications when a file is uploaded or downloaded.

  • Are you looking to expand your digital infrastructure by integrating multiple legal software solutions?

Digitizing your entire law practice is not necessary, as it might be expensive. Instead, you should focus on the business aspects of your law firm that requires a lot of paperwork and implement a legal document management software to enhance overall workflow.

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What to look for when buying legal document management systems

Each legal document management software is built for a unique business requirement. Some software offer billing and time tracking features to monitor client relationships. Others offer integration with accounting software to manage finance and billing to expand the software's features further. Here are some aspects to keep in mind while purchasing a software:

  • Will you go for an on-premise software or choose a cloud-based solution?

If you have multiple branches of your law firm located throughout the country, then opt for cloud-based legal document management software. A cloud-based software will allow all the branches of your office to file cases collaboratively and enhance workflow. Alternatively, go for the on-premises legal document software if you have a single office location as the software is installed on a single server.

  • Will you be able to integrate it with other software you are already using?

As your business expands, you may need more functionalities in your software. For example, some legal document management software may not offer electronic signature functionality. You may also look for software that offers accounting features integrations with QuickBooks for invoicing and billing requirements.

  • Is the software compatible with iOS or Android devices?

Choose a software that can be viewed on an iOS or Android device to enhance collaboration among your team members. Your attorneys can view their case files while they are commuting to the office or at a client meeting. For example, eFileCabinet has an iOS and Android-compatible apps that can help your attorneys view the latest case file updates, edit documents, upload, and share documents with clients and colleagues.

  • What pricing options are available?

Legal document software is available for free trial, freemium, one-time license, and subscription based pricing. Before purchasing a software, go for the free trial version. If you have already decided the features that you want in your legal document management software, then go for the freemium version, as it's available with limited features only.

If you need all the features of the software ranging from access control, search bar, administrative control of user rights, e-signatures and more, a one-time license or a subscription-based software would be ideal for your law firm.

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Essential features of legal document management systems

After you have finalized the business requirements that a legal document management software should have for your law firm, the next step is to understand some of the common features as mentioned below:

  • Advanced search : Easily locate documents, based on text strings in documents through metadata filtering.

  • Version control : Control changes made in a document by multiple users, so that older versions are not deleted.

  • PDF and tools : Legal documents are generally made in PDF file formats, as they are write-protected. PDF tools help in editing, managing, and adding e-signatures.

  • Document scanning tools : Helps take screenshots of PDF or MS Word format documents to be stored in digital image file formats for archiving purposes.

  • User access control : Controls file access for a legal document by assigning view, edit, or write permissions. Keeps a log of individuals who accessed files in reports.

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Examples of popular legal document management systems

By now, you might have some idea of what features a legal document management software should have to meet your business requirements. Here are three popular legal document management software that you can consider:

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Clio is a user-friendly, cloud-based legal document management software that helps legal professionals collaborate. The software helps you store legal files in one place and manage your documents efficiently through a search bar functionality.

You can also share files with clients and other lawyers to edit and keep track changes with version controlling. The software helps to reduce security breaches of sensitive documents, as Clio's Private Portal helps you manage user rights to view and make changes to a document. Pricing starts at $39 per user per month.

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CosmoLex helps streamline billing and accounting tasks for law firms. The software provides you cloud access so that you can edit and review case files on a smartphone or tablet.

The practice management feature in CosmoLex helps manage meetings, documents, client notes, and tasks. To enhance security, the software has an inbuilt client portal to safeguard sensitive client communications. The billing feature stores information related to time and expenses management, providing you up-to-date information on the latest transactions made with your clients. Pricing starts are $49 per month per user.

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TrialWorks provides HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) compliant cloud-based services to manage litigations related to health. The software is built on the Microsoft Office platform and integrates with SQL Server database.

TrialWorks helps you manage documents throughout a litigation process from taking in new cases to centralizing contact and document management. The software helps you to automate the scanning of paperwork for digital asset management. Pricing information of the software is available on request.

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What Next?

View GetApp's legal document management directory for more information on the features and the price of a software that fits your law firm's document management requirement. You can also compare the top legal document management software to get a quick snapshot of each software based on their features, integrations, pricing, and mobile support.

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