This is a guest post by Lacey Walker of SeeUnity.

ECM systems like OpenText or iManage are designed to help manage your content. These systems are great for managing documents and content internally within your firm, maintaining compliance, version control, and upholding governance initiatives.

But ECM or DM systems begin to fall short when you need to share content with your clients. Sharing DM content with clients isn't made easy by the DMS system because they aren't designed for collaboration. They typically fall flat and there's no easy way to share without circumventing the entire system.

Not only that, but it can be risky; if the access isn’t tightly controlled your clients could be privy to documents and content they are not meant to see.

However, incentive is high to implement an external sharing system as it more clearly becomes a competitive advantage by offering this as a differentiating service to their client to provide real time access to content. Also, it saves lawyers and paralegals precious billing time by simplifying their lives, all while improving client satisfaction.

What’s the problem with sharing DM content with clients?

So what do you do? We’ve seen a host of options employed by law firms that range from difficult and time consuming to potentially dangerous.

The most time consuming option we’ve seen for securely sharing content is to gather all information, burn it on to an encrypted DVR, and then use certified mail to deliver it to clients. The process just described could easily take the majority of a week for a client to receive the content they need, and that’s not practical in today’s fast moving legal world.

We’ve seen law firms require clients to physically visit the office to retrieve materials, and while that is simple and effective, it only works if your clients are close enough to stop by; often firms represent individuals and organizations across the world without local offices.

The other option is to let lawyers find their own solutions. Typically when left to their own devices lawyers will implement a solution like email or using consumer services like Google Drive or Dropbox, and while these products offer a convenient way to share content in the cloud, it’s not the best option for law firms.

With content stored in consumer targeted file sharing applications, content ownership becomes unclear, which is an obvious issue for law firms for security and privacy reasons. Not only that, but when content is distributed and edited outside of the originating DM it loses its ability to be accounted for in an audit, because it’s outside of the in-depth governance-based features of a DM.

Among other problems, like lawyers incorrectly setting up permissions to content, consumer cloud based systems aren’t always the most secure. These options often leave everyone (IT, lawyers, paralegals, and clients) frustrated.

Good news: it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Here are two steps you can take to make sharing your DM content with clients much simpler and more secure:

1. Choose a client collaboration platform

Cloud collaboration software helps with securely sharing content with clients, and it’s perfectly tailored for the legal industry. However, implementing this software is just the first step.

When firms implement an official solution for external document sharing it greatly decreases the chance for lawyers and paralegals to look for their own solutions. It also helps clients by providing easy cloud access to their documents.

But if you expect employees and paralegals to maintain document changes across systems, you will be sorely disappointed. Among many problems, we often see law firms dealing with duplicate documents, noncompliance, and wasting precious billable time searching multiple systems for the right document. But there is a solution: synchronization.

2. Make sure your systems are synced

A synchronization solution, like the one provided by SeeUnity, will allow your content to stay within the control of your DMS while also being shared externally to clients.

Law firms using a DMS and HighQ Collaborate to share content can set up rules to automatically or manually publish, archive, or bi-directionally sync content between the two systems. An archive rule will automatically archive any content uploaded to HighQ back to your DM so it’s never out of compliance.

For publishing, the most common use case, content stored in the DM is pushed out to HighQ Collaborate. Finally, to allow for total freedom of employees and clients, folders and documents can be bi-directionally synchronized between the DM and HighQ; no matter what system they are working in, the document is in compliance and up to date.

Specifically, some synchronization solutions, like SeeUnity's, write to the ECM normal audit log so that the firm has a complete history of a document, even if it’s left the building.

All of these options can be triggered either on an administrative system-wide scale where folders are automatically synchronized, or they can be used directly by lawyers and paralegals in their normal work applications, like FileSite or eDOCS. This allows them to directly select DM documents or folders to be published to or synchronized with HighQ sites.

User initiated synchronizations can be easily monitored and controlled by system administrators to prevent abuse.

The takeaway

Voila! That’s how you share and manage content externally with clients.

To recap, we recommend first making sure your firm selects a standard for how to share content externally before mayhem ensues; we recommend HighQ. Second, don’t let having two systems wreak havoc; make sure you have a synchronization solution.

In two easy steps you’ll be saving precious billable time and increasing satisfaction of both your lawyers and clients!