Best Legal Document Management Software for 2023

law firm document management

Analyzing the Best Legal Document Management Software for Small Law Firms in 2023.

Time to modernize your law firm: It’s time to implement a Document Management System to keep your firm’s documents organized and searchable. And there are no shortage of options when it comes to legal document management software. There are old products and new products. Premise-based solutions and cloud-based products.

Who This Overview is For

This article is for law firm owners, managers and administrators that feels “there must be a better way” when it comes to managing the firm’s growing set of documents, email and other content.  This includes:

  • Law firms looking for a better solution than basic Windows folders.
  • Law firms looking to for a better system than “the S: Drive” to manage documents.
  • Law firms looking to graduate from basic cloud storage solutions.
  • Law firms looking to upgrade from their old, dinosaur DMS.
  • Law firms looking to implement their first legal document management software.
  • Anyone looking for document management systems for small law firms.

Are any of these you? If so: We’ve got you covered. Here we provide an overview of and additional resources for the best legal document management software in 2023.

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Defining Legal Document Management Software

Before we head into our list of the top law firm document management applications, we need to define the category. Many types of software and services are casually referred to as “document management,” but aren’t.

Legal document management software, also known as a Document Management System, is software (cloud-based or on-premise) that not only stores your law firm’s documents, but provides a comprehensive set of tools to find, organize and manage your documents.

This is in contrast to basic file storage systems (which do little more than hold your files), or even law practice management applications that provide built-in, but basic, storage of your documents.

Not to be confused with true legal document management software:

  • OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox are not Document Management Systems.
  • Your on-premise file server (ie: “The S: Drive”) is not a Document Management System.
  • Practice Management applications that include basic file storage are not Document Management Systems.

Semantics don’t matter, but functionality does.  We’ll further define what makes a DMS a DMS below in Document Management Features.

Legal Document Management Software - Related Resources

Learn the differences between basic cloud storage apps and true Document Management software.

See our comprehensive list of the best software for law firms, by category.

Why Most Law Firms Should Use Document Management Software

Law firms handle a large amount of sensitive and confidential information on a daily basis. This information includes client documents, legal briefs, contracts, and other important documents that are critical to the operations of the firm. In order to effectively manage and organize this information, law firms should consider using document management software.

Document management software is a tool that allows users to easily store, organize, and retrieve electronic documents. It offers a variety of features, including the ability to search for documents using keywords, categorize documents by client or case, and even set up automatic reminders for important deadlines.

Some of the top reasons law firms should implement a true Document Management System include:

  1. Increased efficiency and productivity: Document management software allows staff members to quickly and easily search for and retrieve documents, leading to faster turnaround times and improved client satisfaction.
  2. Improved security: DMS software includes advanced security features such as encryption and user-level access controls to ensure that only authorized personnel can access sensitive documents, reducing the risk of data breaches and protecting the firm’s reputation.
  3. Compliance with regulations and industry standards: Many software solutions come with built-in compliance features that can help a law firm meet regulatory requirements and industry standards, such as HIPAA and the GDPR, reducing the risk of legal penalties and fines.
  4. Cost savings: Document management software can reduce printing and storage costs and decrease the need for additional staff members to handle document management tasks, saving the firm money on labor costs.
  5. Improved organization and document classification: Document management software allows for easy organization and classification of documents by client or case, making it easy for staff members to find and access the documents they need. Additionally, it also allows for categorization of documents, this makes it easy to find specific documents and keep track of the document’s history. This feature helps in maintaining the structure and continuity of the document and reduces the chances of errors.

Legal Document Management Software - A Guide to Features

Generally speaking, legal document management software is special software that stores your documents and provides tools to manage them. The ‘manage’ part of document management software’s capabilities is what sets it apart from using a basic on-premise file server or simple cloud storage.

Document management software can come in either an on-premise variety (installed on your own local servers) or can be cloud-based.  The scope, features and capabilities of any given legal document management software varies from product to product; though broadly speaking, DMS software performs the following functions:

Document & File Storage

The basic storage of documents and other types of electronic files.

Document Profiling / Metadata

The ability to apply attributes (metadata) to documents, including document classifications, types and tags, as well as the ability to apply internal notes to documents.  For instance, the ability to classify a document as a contract or an order.  

Full-Text Search

The ability to search across all documents (and sometimes email), including the file name, metadata and content of documents.

Unique Document ID

Every document is assigned a unique ID, which does not change even if the file name or location of the document does.

Document Check-Out / In

The ability to check a document out, prohibiting others from changing it while the document is checked out to you.

Microsoft Office Integration

Direct integration with the Office suite, typically including Microsoft Word and Outlook.

Document Version Management

The automatic creation and tracking of versions of documents as they are changed.

Email Management

The ability to easily save email messages to a matter, typically via an Outlook add-in.  Learn more about Email Management for Law Firms.

Permissions & Access Management

The ability to permit (or restrict) access to particular matters or data within your firm.

Favorite & Recent Documents

Quick and easy access to recently accessed documents, as well as the ability to "pin" documents as a favorite.

Matter Notes

The ability to create and save Matter Notes within the DMS software.

More modern, cloud-based Document Management Systems sometimes include these more sophisticated features:

Full Windows & Mac OS Compatibility

Native Windows and Mac support, without the need for virtualization software (such as Parallels).

Practice Management Integration

Integration with your chosen Law Practice Management software such as Clio Manage.

Geographic Data Redundancy

Automatic replication/backup of your data to geographically redundant data centers.

End-to-End Data Encryption

Full encryption of your data in-transit and at-rest, adding enhanced security and compliance.

Multi-Factor Authentication

MFA, requiring a second factor to log into the system, enhancing security and compliance.

With these features in mind, let’s take a look at the best legal document management software for small law firms. We encourage you to learn about each application, visit the publisher’s website and even share your own experience with each application.

Let’s get started.

Best Legal Document Management Software for 2023 - The List

Worldox

Worldox is long-running legal document management software.

Pricing: $425 per user license + $88 / User / Year

  • Worldox is premise-based, which means a capable on-premise server is required to run it.
  • Worldox also offers a hosted option for an additional monthly fee, though this option has recently been sunset.
  • Worldox allows you to create custom metadata fields which must be completed for every document stored.
  • Worldox organizes data into Cabinets, which can be organized to represent different departments, teams or projects within your business.
Features & Scope
Ease of Use
Mobility / Work Anywhere
Desktop OS Compatibility
Server / Infrastructure Requirements
Worldox Full ReviewWorldox WebsiteHosted Worldox

LexWorkplace

LexWorkplace is legal-centric, cloud-based document and email management software.

Pricing: Starts at $395 / month for a 3-User Plan.

  • LexWorkplace, made for law firms, organizes documents and email by Client and Matter.
  • LexWorkplace works natively on Windows and Mac computers.
  • LexWorplace includes Email Management, allowing you to save emails to a matter.
  • LexWorkplace includes full-text search by client, matter, documents, email or across the entire system.
  • Data stored in LexWorkplace is secured with two-factor authentication, data encryption in-transit and at-rest, and by geographically redundant data centers.
Features & Scope
Ease of Use
Mobility / Work Anywhere
Desktop OS Compatibility
Server / Infrastructure Requirements
Full ReviewLexWorkplace WebsiteWatch Demo

iManage Work

iManage Work is premise-based document management and knowledge management software.

Pricing: Not Provided by Publisher (Reseller Required)

  • iManage Work is a powerful DMS and ECM platform that runs on an on-premise server.
  • iManage also offers a hosted option for an additional monthly fee.
  • iManage Work has a powerful full-text index engine which powers its search feature.
  • iManage Work requires significant server infrastructure to run adequately, and is best suited for large law firms.
  • iManage Work requires a specialized IT consultant to implement and administer the platform.
iManage Software Reviews - Screen Shot
Features & Scope
Ease of Use
Mobility / Work Anywhere
Desktop OS Compatibility
Server / Infrastructure Requirements
iManage Full ReviewiManage Website

ProLaw

ProLaw is a combination Practice Management, Document Management and Accounting solution for law firms.

Pricing: Not Provided by Publisher

  • ProLaw is owned by the same parent company as Westlaw legal research.
  • ProLaw is Practice Management software (first), with an optional DMS module.
  • ProLaw's Document Management module isn't as robust as stand-alone DMS software, it's good if your firm needs an all-in-one solution.
  • ProLaw is on-premise software, which means it requires a sophisticated server or private cloud to run.
Features & Scope
Ease of Use
Mobility / Work Anywhere
Desktop OS Compatibility
Server / Infrastructure Requirements
ProLaw Full ReviewProLaw WebsiteHosted ProLaw

NetDocuments

NetDocuments was among the first cloud-based document management applications.

Pricing: Not Provided by Publisher (Requires Reseller)

  • NetDocuments is used by a variety of industries, including legal, financial services and manufacturing.
  • Being web-based, NetDocuments does not require an on-premise server, nor does it require software installation.
  • NetDocuments also includes ndOffice, its software for Microsoft Office integration.
  • NetDocuments does not work on Mac computers, apart from using Parallels to run a full Windows installation.
  • NetDocuments requires hiring a third-party consultant/reseller to implement the software.
NetDocuments Review - Screen Shot
Features & Scope
Ease of Use
Mobility / Work Anywhere
Desktop OS Compatibility
Server / Infrastructure Requirements
Full NetDocuments ReviewNetDocuments Website

eDOCS

Opentext eDOCS, is a long-time Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system used by a variety of industries, including law firms.

Pricing: Not Provided by Publisher

  • eDOCS was formerly known as Hummingbird before it was acquired by OpenText.
  • eDOCS includes basic Document Management and Records Management capabilities.
  • eDOCS is popular with in-house legal departments, typically of very large companies.
  • The eDOCS user interface includes a user-customizable tile-based interface.
  • eDOCS is premise-based, which means it requires an onsite server to run.
Features & Scope
Ease of Use
Mobility / Work Anywhere
Desktop OS Compatibility
Server / Infrastructure Requirements
eDOCS Website

SharePoint

SharePoint is Microsoft’s Document Management and Intranet platform.

Pricing: SharePoint Online starts at $5 / User / Month

  • SharePoint is an optional element of the Microsoft 365 productivity suite.
  • SharePoint is a cloud-based Intranet, company portal and lightweight Document Management System that can be used by any industry.
  • SharePoint allows you to create lists (database tables) and libraries (document repositories).
  • SharePoint is very customizable, allowing you to create database tables, lists and document repositories that fit your business.
  • SharePoint is not configured for law firms or structured by client or matter out of the box, and therefor requires customization by an expert to be useful.
Features & Scope
Ease of Use
Mobility / Work Anywhere
Desktop OS Compatibility
Server / Infrastructure Requirements
SharePoint Full ReviewSharePoint Website

eFileCabinet

eFileCabinet is a document storage and document management system for law firms and other businesses.

Pricing: Not Provided by Publisher

  • eFileCabinet is used by law firms, accounting firms, HR departments and insurance companies.
  • eFileCabinet focuses less on traditional DMS functionality, and more on business automation and workflow.
  • eFileCabinet includes document automation, workflow and lifecycle management capabilities.
  • Being designed for a number of different industries, eFileCabinet lacks matter-centricity, but delivers functionality useful to a broader range of needs.
Features & Scope
Ease of Use
Mobility / Work Anywhere
Desktop OS Compatibility
Server / Infrastructure Requirements
eFileCabinet Website

Get the Chart:  Compare the leading Document Management software used by law firms today.

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Related: Law Practice Management Software

Many Practice Management applications describe “document management” as among the features their software provides. This often misleads or confuses potential buyers, as the phrase “Document Management” strongly insinuates the rich capabilities of a true DMS, whereas Practice Management software almost always provides only rudimentary document management.

You’ll often see “Document Management” listed as a feature, when really the Practice Management software includes functionality more akin to basic cloud storage (like Dropbox or Google Drive), rather than true legal document management software capabilities.

This is important to understand when evaluating  a document management system for small law firms.

When Do You Need Legal Document Management Software?

If your law firm currently uses something other than a bona-fide Document Management system for small law firms, you may be wondering whether or not you should make the jump into a true DMS.  Or posed another way:  When do you actually need to get dedicated Document Management software?

In our experience, a law firm should seriously consider implementing a DMS when any of the following situations are present.

1. Your Files/Documents are Fragmented and Scattered

If your firm is struggling with matter and firm documents in too many different systems (for instance: a file server, in OneDrive, and in your case management software), it’s likely time to centralize everything into a DMS. Your new Document Management System will serve as the hub of your law firm, and the “single source of truth” when it comes to documents and email.

2. Your Filesystem is a Wild West of Unstructured Folders

Most basic file-and-folder systems start out well-organized enough. Perhaps you create a folder per client, or per matter, or both. Inevitably, over time, not everyone in your firm follows the protocol for creating and naming folders, and organizing documents… and over time, your file system becomes a mess, and finding the client matter or document you’re looking for becomes a mess. A good, law-firm-centric legal document management software platform will enforce a clear Client/Matter-centric hierarchy for documents and email, keeping your data organized with 10 matters or a 10,000 matters.

document management system for small law firms

3. You Need to Classify and Annotate Documents

Basic file systems like file servers and simple cloud storage don’t provide much in the way of metadata. Metadata is simply a way you can apply attributes to a document that are about the document. For instance, you may want to classify a particular word document or PDF file as a motion. Doing so in a law firm Document Management System makes the document readily identifiable as a motion, and allows you to filter, sort or search for all documents of that type.

A good law firm Document Management System will allow you to apply document types, status (EG: Draft, Final, or Filed) as well as internal notes visible only to your team.

4. You Need Robust Search

Basic file systems are also notoriously bad at giving you the ability to search through all of your data. Suppose you have thousands of documents (or more), and even more emails saved over the course of many years. You’ll almost certainly need the ability to search through all of your data–documents, metadata, email and notes–including the content of every document. That means: every word on every page of every file. A good document management system for small law firms will give you Google-like search capability across all of your data. A really quality legal document management software platform will let you filter or search by matter, document type, author and more.

How to Evaluate Legal Document Management Software

Once you’ve determined that your law firm needs Document Management software, the next step is to develop a shortlist of candidates to evaluate.

Here’s how to evaluate Document Management Systems for your law firm.

Related Video:

How to Evaluate Document Management Software

Why You Should (Probably) Implement Cloud-based Legal Document Management Software

In this article, we’ve done our best to explore all legal document management software strategies from a neutral, unbiased perspective.  The truth is, however, that for most law firms, life is better in the cloud.  

In the past few years, as firms have transitioned to the cloud from traditional document management systems – particularly premises-based server systems – the effect on productivity, service levels, and general efficiency has been profound.

Almost all law firms see the benefits of locating, accessing, creating, editing, saving, sharing, and storing documents more effectively by the transition to the cloud – in the process providing greater flexibility, data security and IT efficiency.

Such is the transformational power of cloud-based legal document management software that it has been a key differentiator in the success of many law firms that have made the switch.

We believe it is no exaggeration to say this. Law firms that have taken the necessary steps to modernize in this way have been able to spend more time on winning cases for clients and less time on administrative and IT headaches.

Let’s be more specific about these benefits.

We could write a novel on the benefits of cloud-based software and file storage.  For this overview of legal document management software, we’ll cover the top 6 benefits of implementing a cloud-based Document Management System.

document management system for small law firms

1. Data Security

With the proper law firm Document Management platform, your data (firm data, client data) is orders of magnitude more secure than it would be sitting on your in-house file server.  A reputable document management system for small law firms will include:

  • Complete Data Encryption In-Transit
  • Complete Data Encryption At-Rest
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
  • Geographically Redundant Backups / Data Centers
  • User / Group Permission Management

Compare this level of security and compliance to your own server in-house (even an expensive, well-maintained on-premise server infrastructure).   Cloud-based tools provide all the security you’ll need, often out-of-the-box.

2. Work Anywhere

It’s obvious but worth stating:  Cloud-based legal document management software will enable your entire firm to work anywhere.  Your team-members will have the exact same access to client, matter and firm documents at home as they would in the office, without sacrificing security.

In today’s hybrid work environment, it’s more important than ever to give your team the tools they need to serve your clients, anytime, anywhere.

Related Video:

Law Firms:  Why You’re Struggling to Work From Home

3. Reduced Risk of Data Loss

With server-based setups, it’s easy for data loss to occur if the backup procedure is not followed, breaks down or if there is a server problem.

With a cloud-based system, there is no single point of failure. By storing documents in the cloud, data loss risks are lowered because the provider stakes its reputation on providing a stable, robust, and secure platform.

With cloud-based document management systems, your data will be automatically replicated and stored across multiple, geographically dispersed data centers.

4. Lower IT Costs and Fewer Headaches

Server-based document management systems require considerable IT oversight.

A law firm’s functionality depends greatly on being able to reliably access, create, and collaborate on legal documents. IT consultants regularly need to be called in to ensure everything is functioning smoothly.

Headaches and hiccups with server maintenance are common. This can get expensive, especially for smaller law firms. What’s more, IT problems are a huge distraction, keeping law firm managers from focusing on growing their firm and serving their clients.

With cloud-based legal document management software, there are no servers to own or manage, and no software to install and keep updated on each of your computers.

5. Save/Manage Emails in the Same System as Documents

For many law firms, email management alone is enough to make the jump into a Document Management System for small law firms.  With the right law firm DMS, you can quickly save and file relevant emails to the appropriate matter, right from Outlook.

Then, all documents and email for any given matter is neatly stored in one place, searchable and accessible to your entire firm.

6. Software Updates are Automatic

As is the case with any cloud-based software, a cloud-based legal document management eliminates any need to manually update software on your server(s) and desktop computers.  Cloud software publishers typically release new features (and bugfixes) on a routine basis, with no action required from you.

7. Scalability

Cloud-based software, and in particular cloud-based legal document management software, are infinitely scalable.  Need more space for a big case you just took on?  Chances are you can add storage in minutes.  Have five new people join your team?  Add them to your software and they’re up and running.  All without the need to pay for expensive server infrastructure upgrades.

Conversely, if your needs decrease, with most cloud-based Document Management applications, you can scale resources (storage, users) down as needed, and pay only for what you need.

Closing the Loop

We hope you found this guide on finding the right document management system for small law firms helpful.

Looking for Document Management Software?

LexWorkplace:

Modern Document Management for Law Firms

LexWorkplace is document & email management software, born in the cloud and built for law firms.

Organize by Client & Matter

Organize documents, email and notes by client or matter. Store and manage all data for a case or project in one place.

Go Beyond Basic Files & Folders

Supercharge your firm’s productivity with true DMS functions.

  • Version Management
  • Document Tagging & Profiling
  • Document Check-Out / Check-In
  • Microsoft Office Integration

Search Everything

LexWorkplace is like Google for your law firm.  Search across millions of pages, documents, folder email and notes in seconds. Refine your search by matter, document type, author and more.

Seamless Outlook Integration

Save emails to a matter without leaving Outlook. Saved emails are accessible to your entire team.

Organize Email With Folders & Notes

Organize matter-related emails into subfolders. Add notes to call out important emails.

Works with Windows and Macs

LexWorkplace is 100% compatible with Mac OS and Windows.

LexWorkplace Features

The legal industry has had to put up with dated, clunky document management systems for too long.

No more.

With LexWorkplace, you’ll have access to a wide range of features, including:

  • A Terabyte of Storage: LexWorkplace starts with 1TB of storage for your firm, giving you plenty of room to grow.
  • Advanced security: LexWorkplace encrypts your data in transit and at rest. It also includes enhanced security measures such as permission setting capabilities and two-factor authentication.
  • Geographic redundancy: We have multiple independent data centers across North America. This means we can securely back up your data, so you can trust your data is available to you no matter what happens next.
  • Document tracking IDs: Each file you save to LexWorkplace has a unique ID for easy document tracking.
  • One-click functionality: LexWorkplace can help you move faster. View, edit, and save your documents with a single click, no re-upload required.
  • Document check-in/out: Want to make changes to a document without others doing so at the same time? By checking out a document, you can make the changes you need to make without others on your team interfering. Then, just check the document back in when you’re finished.
  • Version management: LexWorkplace will automatically track each version of your documents, so you can see when changes were made and by whom.
  • Profiling and tagging: You can easily set document types and statuses for each of your files. Plus, you can create tags to keep documents organized based on your firm’s needs.
  • Recent file prioritization: LexWorkplace will place your recent files front and center, so you can easily return to your work. Or, you can set certain documents as important for easy access.
  • Email management capabilities: Easily save emails to each matter file straight from Outlook. Plus, LexWorkplace will provide instant deduplication, so you can avoid saving multiples of the same email. It’s a time-consuming process that LexWorkplace automates on your behalf.

Get in Touch

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