5 Ways Cloud Document Management Will Transform Your Law Firm

cloud document management

Cloud Document Management for Law Firms

Law firms today leverage a number of different technologies to manage their cases and their practice. From billing and accounting software, to case management software: there are a number of legal technology staples that are in most law firms’ technology toolboxes. One particular tool, however, might be the most foundational and most important to law firms. That tool: a document management system (DMS). And now that we’re in the era of cloud computing, many law firms are implementing a cloud document management system for their practice.

Does your law firm use a document management system? Are you thinking of implementing your first DMS? Are you outgrowing your dated, on-premise dinosaur DMS? Or do you remember how much having document management software at your last firm made your life easier… and you want to recreate that same magic at your new firm?

In this post we’ll explore the benefits of implementing and using a cloud document management platform.

Let’s get started.

1. Matter-Centric Content Management

Law firms receive, produce and process all kinds of data and information: from documents, to audio or video files, to email to notes. I like to think of all of these kinds of data as different types of content. And, regardless of the areas of law your firm practices, all of a law firm’s content should be organized and managed in a matter-centric way.

A cloud document management system brings this organization to a law firm. Prior to implementing a cloud document management platform, I often see law firm’s with a “wild west” kind of system to managing content:

  • Matter documents scattered between local file servers, network drives and individual computers.
  • Matter-related emails spread across multiple employees Outlook or Gmail accounts.
  • Notes saved without any consistency, on paper or in stand-alone note-taking apps.
  • Other files and data stored in Dropbox, Google Drive or some other, separate cloud app.

In addition to being very disjointed, what I tend to see (with a law firm before it’s adopted a cloud document management solution), there is often little to no uniformity to where, how and why a piece of content is stored in one place or the other. (It’s often left to the discretion of each user, and what they decided to do with the document or content that day.)

A cloud document management system that is matter-centric will organize everything by matter. Documents for a particular case will be saved in that matter record (and probably tagged and organized by document type, such as motion, pleading, complaint, contract and so forth.) Email messages–regardless of who in the firm received them–will be saved and stored in the matter (alongside documents). Notes, from phone call notes, to intake notes, to case law or research notes, will also be saved, stored, time-stamped and organized in the matter, also alongside documents and email.

A cloud document management platform will bring some much-needed law and order to the lawless world of local file servers and outlook folders.

Related: Document Management & Matter-Centricity

2. Emails are Documents Too

A good, law-firm centric cloud document management platform keeps all relevant content and documents organized by matter. And emails are documents too! A cloud document management system will provide tools to save case or client-related emails into the appropriate matter record, where you can see and review them in the same place you do for matter documents.

The best cloud document management software will integrate directly with your Outlook, and will give everyone in your firm the ability to effortlessly save on (or many) email messages directly to a matter. Doing so not only stores the message in a place other than that employee’s outlook folder, but makes all relevant matter-related email for a given case available to anyone in your firm who might need it.

The very best cloud document management systems that manage email well will copy the entire email message, its entirety (header, body, attachments–everything), so you have a permanent copy of that email (again) outside of Outlook, where its easy to delete or mis-file the email.

Related: 5 Reasons Your Law Firm Needs Email Management

3. Search and OCR

There are lots of reasons to implement a legal DMS, but right at the top of most law firm’s lists is: search and OCR. That is, the ability to quickly (and effectively) search across all of your law firm’s cases, documents, email and notes–and always find what you’re looking for.

When armed with a cloud document management system, your law firm will be ruthlessly efficient and searching your data repository, even if its in the terabytes, and finding the exact document you’re looking for. When your law firm’s data and content is disjointed (to use my earlier example: Some documents in the S: drive, some in each employee’s individual outlook folders, and so forth), there’s no effective way to search across all of your data when doing a conflict search or looking for that one perfect memorandum.

A good cloud document management platform, when your firm reliably stores everything important in it, will index all of your firm’s data: every page of every document, ever word and PDF file, every line of every email… making all of your firm’s data findable. You will, in effect, be your own Google of your firm’s clients, matters and data.

OCR is another, and vital component to search capabilities. OCR technology will take scanned images of documents and convert them to readable, indexable text documents. Without a proper OCR system in place, many of your firms documents (whether you scanned them at your firm or they were sent to you from an outside party) will be un-OCR’d, and therefor will never show up in a search.

Related: OCR in a Paperless Law Firm

4. Goodbye Servers & IT Headaches

So far, many of the benefits of implementing a legal DMS have focused on the benefits inherent to any document management software. Next, we’ll look at the benefits of a cloud document management system.

Document management software has been around for a long time. In the past a DMS application was expensive and required (even more) expensive servers and IT expertise to implement and manage. Some of these big, unwieldy document management applications are still around today. But, in our experience, the best, most flexible, most cost-effective and most modern DMS platforms are cloud-based document management software.

Cloud document management systems are, as the name implies, hosted in the cloud. This means no servers, to manage, no expensive IT support staff needed and no software to install on every one of your computers. Servers are expensive to buy and even more expensive to maintain. They come with constant maintenance, challenges, cost and drama.

A cloud document management system gets a law firm out of the business of managing servers and IT, and back in the business of managing its clients and its practice.

Related: Legal Document Management in the Cloud

5. Have Everything, Anytime, Anywhere

It may go without saying, but I’ll say it: Having a cloud document management system means that everyone in your firm can work anytime, anywhere form any device. With on-premise file servers or legacy, premise-based DMS software, you’re limited to accessing your matter documents, email and notes to your office (unless you have the foresight to copy files and take them with you).

With a cloud-based legal DMS, you have access to your firm’s entire data repository, from anywhere in the world. Every client, ever matter, ever document, every email. Cloud-based software, being browser-based, makes logging into your DMS easy to do from anywhere, putting all of your firm’s data at your fingertips.

Closing the Loop

Document Management software was an evolutionary step for managing a law firm, and the cloud is the next step in that evolution. If your firm is considering moving from a basic file server, basic cloud storage or a legacy (“dinosaur”) DMS, I encourage you to look to the cloud.

Your practice, and your clients, will be better for it.