Features of a Legal Document Management System

Updated: December 29, 2023|In Legal Document Management|By Dennis Dimka

LX - Document Management System Features (secondary)Document management system features are comprehensively explored in this article, focusing on their crucial role in legal practices.

We cover core functionalities like document storage, version control, and compliance, alongside advanced features for efficiency and collaboration.

The article also addresses security, user-friendly design, emerging trends, and offers guidance on selecting the right DMS for law firms, making it a vital resource for legal professionals aiming to enhance their document management strategies.

Let’s dive in!

This article serves a guide to the various Document Management System Features law firms ought to consider. Read our related article for a deeper dive into Legal Document Management.

Introduction to Legal Document Management Software

In the legal industry, where documents are the backbone of every operation, the efficiency and security of document management are paramount.

Legal Document Management Systems (DMS) have emerged as pivotal tools, streamlining the handling, storage, and retrieval of vast amounts of legal documents.

These systems offer more than just basic file storage; they provide a comprehensive suite of features designed to cater to the unique needs of legal professionals.

From ensuring rigorous compliance with legal standards to offering advanced search capabilities, a DMS is integral in managing the lifecycle of legal documents. These systems not only enhance the security and accessibility of sensitive information but also improve operational efficiency by simplifying document-related tasks.

As we delve deeper into the world of legal DMS, it’s crucial to understand the specific features that set these systems apart and how they can transform the day-to-day operations of law firms.

This understanding will allow legal professionals to make informed decisions about implementing and utilizing DMS to its fullest potential, thereby optimizing their document management strategies and ensuring adherence to the highest standards of legal practice.

RelatedBest Legal Document Management Software: Evaluate various document management software to ensure your firm’s utilizing the best option.

Core Document Management System Features

A robust Legal Document Management System (DMS) is characterized by several core features that are essential for efficient and secure management of legal documents:

Document & File Storage

The foundation of any DMS, this feature allows for the systematic storage of various types of electronic files, including text documents, PDFs, and emails.

The storage can be cloud-based or on-premise, offering different levels of accessibility and security.

Document Profiling/Metadata

This functionality enables the categorization and tagging of documents with specific attributes, such as document type or case-related details, facilitating easier organization and retrieval.

Full-Text Search

A critical feature for legal practices, full-text search allows users to quickly find documents by searching not just file names or metadata, but also the content within the documents, enhancing the efficiency of information retrieval.

Unique Document ID

Every document in a DMS is assigned a unique identifier, ensuring it can be easily tracked and located, regardless of changes in its name or storage location.

Document Check-Out/In

This feature provides control over document editing, allowing only one user to modify a document at a time, thus preventing version conflicts.

Microsoft Office Integration

Seamless integration with applications like Microsoft Word and Outlook is essential for streamlining document creation and email management within the DMS.

Document Version Management

The DMS automatically tracks and manages different versions of a document as edits are made, ensuring that the history of changes is preserved and accessible.

Email Management

An efficient DMS integrates email management, allowing users to store and organize emails related to specific cases or matters directly within the system.

Permissions & Access Management

Critical for maintaining confidentiality and data security, this feature enables law firms to control access to documents based on user roles and permissions.

Matter Notes

The ability to create and save notes related to specific legal matters within the DMS enhances case management and organization.

Favorite & Recent Documents

This user-friendly feature provides quick access to recently accessed documents and allows users to mark frequently used documents as favorites for easier retrieval.

These core features collectively ensure that legal DMS not only meets the basic requirements of document storage and retrieval but also offers advanced capabilities for efficient, secure, and organized management of legal documents.

Bring Law and Order to Your Documents

LexWorkplace Includes:

  • Document Profiling / Metadata
  • Structured by Client/Matter
  • Organize With Folders and Tags
  • Save Emails to Matters
  • Built-In Version Management
  • Add Notes to Docs & Email

Advanced Document Management System Features

Modern Legal Document Management Systems incorporate the following advanced features to enhance efficiency, security, and compatibility:

Automated Scanning and Indexing

This feature uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to convert paper documents into digital formats, automatically categorizing them for streamlined organization and accessibility.

Native PDF Support

Critical for legal practice, this includes robust functionalities for managing PDFs such as editing, conversion, merging, and secure sharing, making document handling more efficient.

Real-Time Collaboration

Facilitates teamwork by allowing multiple users to concurrently work on documents, enhanced with comprehensive annotation tools for collaboration and review.

Analytics and Reporting

Offers automated report generation and customizable dashboards, providing insights into case management, document usage, and workflow efficiency.

Full Windows & Mac OS Compatibility

Ensures the DMS works seamlessly on both Windows and Mac OS, eliminating the need for virtualization software and enhancing user accessibility.

Practice Management Integration

Allows for integration with law practice management software, streamlining tasks like case tracking, billing, and client communication.

Geographic Data Redundancy

Implements automatic data backup in multiple geographic locations, ensuring data security and continuity in case of local failures.

End-to-End Data Encryption

Provides comprehensive data protection with encryption during both transit and storage, crucial for maintaining client confidentiality and complying with legal standards.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Enhances system security by requiring multiple forms of user verification before granting access, significantly reducing the risk of unauthorized access.

These advanced features reflect the progression of legal DMS towards offering more secure, efficient, and collaborative solutions, aligning with the evolving requirements of modern legal firms.

Document Management System Experience

Modern Legal Document Management Systems (DMS) are not just about storing and retrieving documents; they are about creating a secure, integrated, and user-friendly environment for legal professionals.

This section delves deeper into how these aspects are crucial in a legal DMS:

Enhanced Security Measures

  • Beyond Basic Protection: Modern DMS solutions offer advanced security features like end-to-end data encryption, ensuring that documents are secure both during transit and at rest.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Adds an additional layer of security, significantly reducing the risk of unauthorized access.
  • Role-Based Access Control: Allows firms to manage who has access to what information, crucial for maintaining confidentiality in sensitive legal matters.

Seamless Software Integration

  • Unified Workflow: Integration with existing systems (e.g., practice management and accounting software) is essential for a holistic approach to document management. This integration minimizes disruptions, allowing for a smoother workflow and better time management.
  • Custom Integrations: The ability to tailor integrations to the specific needs of a law firm, enhancing the overall efficiency of document management and other related processes.

Optimized User Experience

  • Intuitive Design: A user-friendly interface is key. The design should be intuitive, reducing the learning curve for new users and enhancing productivity.
  • Cross-Platform Compatibility: Compatibility with various operating systems (Windows, Mac OS) ensures that all team members can access the system, regardless of their preferred platform.
  • Collaboration and Accessibility: Features like real-time collaboration, automated indexing, and native PDF support are not just functionalities; they enhance the user's interaction with the system, making document management a more streamlined and collaborative process.

By focusing on these key areas, a legal DMS transforms from a simple document repository to a comprehensive, integrated solution that supports the intricate workflows and security needs of modern legal practices.

You want the overall experience of using your Document Management System to be enjoyable. Not only will it improve your workflow but you’ll want to use it much more.

LexWorkplace Success Story

See how one law firm uses LexWorkplace to organize their documents and streamline their practice.

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The List of Document Management Systems

In this section, I will give you the rundown on some of the top options you have when it comes to Legal Document Management Systems.

Keep in mind that this is just a snippet of what you’d find on our article for Best Legal DMS.

With that being said, here are some systems to consider.

lexworkplace logoLexWorkplace: Specifically designed for law firms, it offers robust, cloud-based document management and organization.

imanage logoiManage: Offers advanced document and email management solutions for legal professionals.

prolaw logoProLaw: A combination Practice Management, Document Management, and Accounting solution for law firms — though some find they don’t do all equally well.

Worldox Logo CompressedWorldox: A highly secure DMS, known for its powerful search and retrieval capabilities. Note: Worldox is phasing out. Learn more here.

As Worldox Phases Out, Consider LexWorkplace, as this Reviewer has:

Best replacement for Worldox out there. From the moment I reached out, until just moments ago when I was asked how everything was going, it’s been wonderful. Everyone is invested in making LexWorkplace the best DMS out there.
– Kathleen N. via Capterra

Related Video

Exploring document management systems? Watch our short video on the top legal document management systems for law firms.

Document Management Software Comparison

The previous section aimed to provide clarity on the unique features and capabilities of various document management software options. Gaining an understanding of these distinct functionalities is an imperative step.

Next, we move to the comparative analysis phase.

To facilitate this, we have created a comprehensive Document Management Software Comparison Chart.

Here’s a taste.

Legal Document Management Software Comparison Chart

Your task involves utilizing this chart to align your prioritized feature requirements with the features listed. This comparison will enable you to ascertain which software aligns best with your firm’s needs.

Interested in a more thorough comparison? We encourage you to download our complete Document Management Software Comparison Chart, available below.

DMS Chart Featured Image (1)

Compare the leading Document Management software used by law firms.

Get the Chart →

Server-Based vs Cloud-Based Document Management Software

It’s important to recognize that server-based software does have its advantages. In fact, some server-based solutions offer a wider range of functionalities compared to certain cloud-based options.

While the shift towards cloud-based software for law firms has numerous compelling reasons, there are situations where maintaining a server-based system might still be preferable, such as:

  • If your firm already possesses servers and is comfortable with the ongoing operation and maintenance of onsite servers.
  • If you're using software that excels in functionality, which you value more than the mobility offered by cloud solutions.
  • If you have an extensive network infrastructure in place that you prefer not to replace or overhaul.
  • If your firm relies on specific, advanced features that are currently only available in server-based software.

Legacy Document Management

Traditional DMS platforms often present difficulties with their complex navigation, expensive setup, and intensive maintenance requirements.

Though Legacy Document Management systems may have been a mainstay in your professional experience, the future is increasingly tilting towards a more efficient option — Cloud-Based Document Management.

I invite you to watch the video below to understand the differences and see why many, including myself, are leaning towards this contemporary software solution.

On the flip side, opting for Cloud-Based Software offers significant advantages:

LexWorkplace Top Features

as a Cloud-based DMS

  • Seamless Collaboration
  • No Server Responsibility
  • Better Data Security
  • Lessened Need for Paid IT Support
  • User Access/Permissions
  • Work-Life Balance
  • Ability to Pursue a Virtual Law Firm and a Paperless Law Firm

Server Failure

After presenting these factors, it’s important to issue a warning if you’re still leaning towards server-based software.

Managing a server in-house can be complex, expensive, and often a source of ongoing frustration. Refer to the accompanying chart for a detailed look at a server’s lifecycle.

Frequency of Server Failure by Year

It’s crucial to perform regular data backups and schedule server replacements to reduce the risk of data loss.

Other Reasons to Choose Cloud-Based Software

Work Anywhere

Cloud-based legal document management software allows your team to work from anywhere with the same access to documents as in the office, essential in today’s hybrid work environment.

This flexibility supports the viability of virtual law firms, offering benefits like cost-effectiveness and improved satisfaction.

Lower IT Costs

Server-based systems demand significant IT management, often requiring external consultants for maintenance, which can be costly and distracting, especially for smaller firms.

In contrast, cloud-based document management eliminates the need for server management and software installations, reducing both initial and ongoing IT expenses.

As your firm grows, cloud-based solutions offer a scalable, cost-efficient alternative without the burden of increasing server maintenance.

Upfront Cost of Servers

Data Security

Choosing the right Document Management platform significantly enhances the security of your law firm's and clients' data, far surpassing the safety levels of in-house file servers.

A high-quality document management system typically includes:

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

When you compare these security features and compliance measures to an in-house server setup, even one that's expensive and well-maintained, cloud-based tools generally offer comprehensive security, often as standard features.

Automatic Software Updates

Cloud-based legal document management ensures automatic updates, regularly introducing new features and bug fixes without manual intervention.

Email Management

For many law firms, the ease of managing emails through a Document Management System is a significant motivator.

A suitable law firm DMS allows quick saving and categorization of emails directly from Outlook, centralizing all related documents and emails in one searchable location, accessible to the entire firm.

Traditional Email Management vs. DMS (3)


Cloud-based DMS is highly scalable, allowing easy adjustments for storage and user needs, supporting both expansion and downsizing without expensive infrastructure investments.

Related12 Ways LexWorkplace Will Help Your Firm Do More with Less

See 12 ways LexWorkplace will streamline your law office.

Choosing Legal Document Management Software


Identify Specific Needs

Begin by assessing the unique needs of your firm.

This includes the size of your firm, the types of cases you handle, the volume of documents managed, and specific workflow requirements.

Consider how a DMS can address these needs to enhance efficiency and organization.


Evaluate Core and Advanced Features

Scrutinize potential DMS options for both core and advanced features.

Essential features like document storage, version control, and full-text search are a must. Also, consider advanced features like real-time collaboration, automated indexing, and practice management integration.

The chosen DMS should align with your firm’s operational needs and enhance your workflow.


Consider User Experience

Opt for a DMS with an intuitive user interface.

A system that is easy to navigate and understand will encourage adoption among staff and reduce training time.

Look for features that support collaboration and accessibility, ensuring that the DMS can be effectively used by all team members.


Security and Compliance

Given the sensitive nature of legal documents, the chosen DMS must adhere to stringent security standards and compliance regulations.

This includes data encryption, role-based access controls, and compliance with legal standards such as GDPR or HIPAA, if applicable.


Scalability and Flexibility

The DMS should be scalable to accommodate the growing needs of your firm and flexible enough to adapt to evolving legal environments and technological changes.

This adaptability ensures that the DMS remains a long-term asset for your firm.


Cost-Benefit Analysis

Weigh the costs against the benefits of each system.

This assessment should include upfront costs, ongoing operational costs, and potential savings in time and resources. A DMS that offers a high return on investment over time is often a prudent choice.


Vendor Reputation and Support

Investigate the vendor’s standing in the legal technology market.

A reputable vendor with a track record of reliability and innovation can be a valuable partner. Also, consider the level of customer support offered, including training resources and technical assistance.


Trial and Feedback

If available, utilize trial versions of the DMS to gain hands-on experience.

This trial period can provide valuable insights into the system’s functionality and user-friendliness.

Additionally, solicit feedback from potential end-users within your firm to ensure the selected DMS meets the needs of those who will use it most.

By thoroughly evaluating these factors, law firms can make an informed decision, selecting a DMS that not only meets their immediate requirements but also supports their long-term goals and enhances overall document management efficiency.

Frequently Asked Questions — Document Management System Features

Legal DMS typically includes document storage, metadata tagging, full-text search, unique document IDs, version control, email management, and permissions management. Advanced systems might also offer features like real-time collaboration and analytics.

A DMS enhances security through data encryption, role-based access control, and audit trails. Some systems also incorporate multi-factor authentication and compliance with legal data protection standards.

Yes, modern legal DMS solutions are designed for integration with various software suites, such as practice management systems, accounting software, and Microsoft Office, ensuring seamless workflows.

Yes, DMS typically offer sophisticated search functionalities, including full-text search and filtering by metadata, which makes finding specific documents quick and efficient.

Document version control tracks and manages different versions of a document as it’s edited. This is crucial in legal settings for maintaining records of changes and ensuring that the most current document is always accessible.

Many DMS solutions offer cloud-based storage, allowing remote access. Features like real-time collaboration and document sharing are also common, facilitating teamwork even when team members are not in the same location.

Yes, several DMS providers offer solutions that are compatible with both Windows and Mac OS, ensuring accessibility for all users regardless of their operating system.

A DMS can archive emails and attachments, often integrating with email platforms like Outlook. This enables lawyers to store and organize email correspondences related to specific cases within the DMS.

Yes, a DMS can help maintain compliance with legal standards by securing sensitive data, managing document retention policies, and ensuring easy access to documents for audits and reviews.

Firms should consider their specific needs, such as the volume of documents handled, security requirements, integration with existing software, user interface, scalability, and budget. It’s also important to consider vendor reputation and the availability of customer support.

Looking for Document Management Software?


Modern Document Management for Law Firms

LexWorkplace is document & email management software, born in the cloud and built for law firms.  Here’s a quick primer on how it works.

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
  • Automatic, Integrated OCR
  • Convert Word Docs to PDF
Document Properties

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.


Search by…

  • Client or Matter
  • Document Type (Contract, Complaint, Order, etc.)
  • Document Status (Draft, Final, etc.)
  • Document Tags (Filed With Court, Fully Executed, etc.)

Outlook Integration + Comprehensive Email Management

Save emails to a matter without leaving Outlook. Saved emails are accessible to your entire team, organized and searchable.

  • Outlook Add-In that Works With Windows and Macs
  • Save Entire, Original Email to a Matter in a LexWorkplace
  • Email De-Duplication
  • Organize Emails into Folders, Subfolders

Works with Windows and Macs

All of LexWorkplace is compatible with both Windows and Mac computers.

What Clients Say

Lawyers love LexWorkplace.  See how the system streamlined one lawyer’s practice.

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Or, if you want a one-on-one demo, or want to talk about LexWorkplace for your firm, schedule a call or demo below.

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