Technology adoption must be all about ease of use, convenience and enabling users to become more efficient and productive in their jobs. In legal, due to the volume of documents/records from multiple data sources, it’s indisputable that a structured and standardised approach to email and document management is essential to lawyers’ ability to deliver a high-quality service to clients. To this end, organisations use all manner of approaches – from network drives and SharePoint to traditional document management systems.

I’ve been a longstanding user of traditional document management systems (DMS), but recently having moved to the latest best-of-breed solution, the advantages the latter offers to me as an individual are tangible. I believe lawyers too will love a best-of-breed solution. Here’s why:

  • Improved Outlook performance and usability – These systems offer a much lighter weight add-in to Microsoft Outlook, other MS Office applications and Adobe Acrobat (Gmail is now also supported).  This means that most of the tools that lawyers use on a day-to-day basis are seamlessly integrated into Outlook, which lawyers can use from within their inboxes.
  • Access to data on the move – without compromising user experience – The new DMSs offer a new, modern web user interface, which means that lawyers can access data from any device, anywhere, anytime. Most crucially using these solutions requires minimal training; are truly device agnostic and hence offer a consistent user experience – regardless of whether the device is a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop. This is important as often lawyers work remotely or on the move.
  • ‘Suggested filing’ a time saver – The analytics in the current DMSs have been improved to provide intelligent and targeted suggested filing locations for emails, based on usage history.  Lawyers can save files directly from Outlook into the DMS in multiple locations with a single click; and previously filed emails are clearly marked, so fee-earners won’t waste time filing what is already saved in the application. Additionally, emails can also be viewed by conversation thread, which is useful.
  • Managing attachments is simplified – The latest DMS have intelligent filters, so with a single click, lawyers can immediately filter a folder, to display only the emails that have attachments. Given the volume of documents that lawyers send and receive on a daily basis, this is a great time saving feature.  Version control on incoming emails with attachments is fairly good too.
  • Co-authoring and collaboration – The collaboration capability is significantly boosted in best-of-breed systems. Two or more people can simultaneously work on a document, safe in the knowledge that one of those individuals has complete control over the versioning process.
  • ‘Soft’ deletion, recovery and peace of mind – Typically, lawyers are extremely reluctant to delete documents, due to the risk losing key case information. Best-of-breed DMSs offer ‘soft’ deletion of documents – this means that even though a document may have been deleted, either in error or otherwise, should the lawyer require that file in the future, the solution administrator will be able to recover it at a later date.
  • Seamless on and offline working – These systems enable individuals to seamlessly switch between offline and online working. All the documents that lawyers work on are automatically cached to the local profile on their device. Say for whatever reason, the firm’s network goes down for a period of time, lawyers can continue to work on their PC. When the network is back up again, the solutions detect that the individuals are back online, and give the lawyers an action to sync the changes and/or create a new version of the documents they were working on at the time.  This is excellent for business continuity.

As a user, I personally find the above-mentioned features extremely useful and in fact are a breath of fresh air. A best-of-breed DMS makes me more efficient, takes away many of the annoying irritants in old-style solutions – which in turn allows me focus on the more critical aspects of my work. Intuitive to use, the latest systems are genuinely a leap forward.

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