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Improving Legal Document Management

 

Document management can be a challenge for any organization, and law firms and legal departments are no exception. In fact, a recent Annual Law Department Operations Survey, found that “improving business processes” is the number one challenge for legal operations professionals in the era of digital transformation.

Most law firms have begun the move to a digital means of processing paper, managing case files, and securely collaborating on documents. But with mountains of paperwork that must be securely stored and easily located, making the leap to digital is no small feat.

In attempt to manage case files in a more efficient, cost-effective manner, some companies are implementing legal application software. Unfortunately, these platforms can be quite limited on their own. Often, the integration of document viewing and collaboration APIs into legal software is needed to help law firms and legal departments streamline processes without disrupting current case work.


Understanding the Challenges of Legal Document Management

CMS Wire’s 2019 State of the Digital Workplace named document management the most valuable digital office tool beating out microservices, artificial intelligence, and other emerging technology. However, when asked how their document management systems were performing, only 12 percent  of respondents said it was working well. 

So, why are most document management systems providing such lackluster results? Often, the solutions simply aren’t able to address all of the complexities of managing the legal document workload. Let’s break down some of the most common issues law offices are facing when it comes to case file management:


Document Capture and Organization

Many firms are struggling to manage a tidal wave of paperwork coming their way via email and text, and thanks to smartphone cameras and other digital tools, these documents can also consist of .TIFF,.JPG, PDF, or raster files. 

Even paper forms can cause problems if they aren’t converted into digital formats. When law firms are filing affidavits or witness statements as paper files without backing them up electronically, they can easily be miscategorized or misplaced.

For legal organizations struggling with a variety of document formats,  Above The Law  recommends focusing first on information management in order to find an effective way of saving, searching, and working on multi-format documents.

 


Security

As CMSWire points out, “Security is, and will always be, a concern regarding legal documentation.”  If legal documents are corrupted, altered, or deleted due to a cyberattack or human error, serious repercussions, even bankruptcy, can result. 

These issues can seem insurmountable for legal organizations with thousands of files spread out across multiple storage locations and formats. If legal teams aren’t able to audit, search, and view files on-demand, they could face legal challenges, fines, or loss of reputation.

 


eDiscovery

Proper discovery during a case includes maintaining files in a way that makes information easily searchable and viewable. The eDiscovery process requires a wide-ranging search through operational and organizational data across multiple sources. Keyword-driven, full-text searches simplify this process by quickly identifying relevant documents. Document-viewer interactivity also makes it easier for attorneys to determine context and confidently include or exclude files.

 


What to Look For in a Solution

In order to improve document management, legal departments need a more tailored solution that provides a better user experience; one that operates more like their preferred consumer applications (think Amazon and Google) and can be quickly put to use with minimal training. Solutions should also feature a clean, modern interface that can be accessed on any device,  including personal computers, tablets, and smartphones. 

To avoid compliance challenges, the best options should also include advanced document search, editing, and viewing capabilities driven by best-in-class APIs designed to work with existing databases and tools. These integrations can help ensure chain of custody, quickly locate documents, and redact critical information, so that law offices can meet regulatory obligations without damaging the client experience.

Unfortunately, most legal applications don’t include custom document management functionality.  When it comes to building a tailor made solution, a good place to start is by talking with your current vendor about embedding secure, standards-based APIs and proven SDKs into existing platforms. Once those capabilities are in place, your legal organization should have a much easier time streamlining processes without disrupting current case work.