How to Choose the Best Document Management Software for Your Law Firm

November 30, 2020In Document ManagementBy Dennis Dimka
How to Choose the Best Document Managment Software for your Law Firm

What is the Best Document Management Software for Law Firms?

Every modern small business needs an efficient way to manage documents digitally. For law firms, that’s a little more challenging, given the sensitive nature of most documents.

So, as well as being easy to use, scalable, secure, and collaborative so that your legal team can be productive, it must look after compliance with the legal industry regulations and standards.

That’s easier said than done.

A mind boggling array of legal document management software (DMS) options exist and it can be a challenge to sort through to find what you need.

We’ve done much of the legwork for you and pass on the following insight to help you find what you’re looking for:

  • The purpose of legal document management software
  • The most important features of any legal document management system
  • The best document management software for in-house legal departments
  • The best software for smaller law firms
  • White-label options

What does legal document management software do?

stack of documents or files in office deskThe efficiency and productivity of any law firm depend not only on the practice management software it uses but on the legal document and case management software deployed.

Lawyers don’t need telling that documents for legal cases require careful management to ensure compliance with industry regulations: specific and unique requirements exist for the organization, storage and sharing of documents in the legal industry.

Nor do lawyers need reminding about the sheer volume of documents involved in many cases.

The best legal document management software helps you manage both of these challenges, making the process of gathering and processing documentation as you build a case and follow it through to the end more automated, smoother, and with fewer errors.

The way to accomplish this for most firms is to employ a document management system specifically designed to manage legal matters.

This is not just a legal filing system. The best systems make it easier for you to keep track of who is responsible for what (the assigned attorney), as well as tracking the client, the legal matter and different versions of documents.

It achieves this semi-automatically, speeding up the management process and helping attorneys and your teams locate the necessary documents.

What are the four most important features of any legal document management system?

Almost every document management system for small business requires the following common features:

  • Security
  • Ease of use
  • Mobility (access and edit documents anywhere)
  • Scalability

  • Collaboration options
  • Version control
  • Search and OCR functionality

As we’ve already seen, legal DMS software has additional requirements. So, what specifically are the most important features of any legal document management system?

The document management software you choose should be designed for use in your specific type of law firm i.e. for the type of legal issues that make up the bulk of your client cases.

Say your firm specializes in disputes and litigation. Ask yourself whether the DMS software you are considering can handle the types of documents associated with these types of cases before committing.

What’s more, your chosen document management system should be able to store and manage all documents, notes, emails and other kinds of data for each matter together in one place.

Maintaining industry compliance is a key requirement of any legal DMS.Your chosen DMS should feature the latest encryption software to maintain strict confidentiality and timestamp documents with the dates accessed. It should also include support for multi-factor authentication, a security mechanism that keeps your client data secure.

Your DNS needs to securely integrate with your email system and be able to access and easily locate relevant communications.This will increase efficiency and help you meet the expectations of your clients and colleagues.

Document tagging is far from unique to the legal industry but law firms have a greater need for this feature than many other types of businesses.Tagging documents help you organize them by content and file type, so that summons, motions, complaints, contracts, and so on can be easily located.

Should your DMS be cloud-based?

Most (but not all) modern DMS software is cloud-based. This could make a lot of sense for your law firm.

Previous concerns with the security and privacy issues associated with cloud-based software systems have been comprehensively addressed in recent years.

The other main benefits of being based in the cloud are:

  • Accessibility from anywhere on any device
  • Ease of updates to current regulatory standards
  • Cost-effectiveness

Collaborate on legal documents with ease using a DMS

Collaborate on legal documents with ease using a DMSAnother key feature of state-of-the-art document management systems is the collaboration options that they provide.

Some of the benefits of simplifying the collaboration process on projects include:

More effective sharing and management of documents

Every legal firm depends to a large degree upon the sharing and management of documents.

Your document management system should help your team work together on legal briefs, forms, letters and other legal documents while maintaining confidentiality – but without restricting access unnecessarily.

Rather than using insecure and limited methods of sharing documents (like USB sticks, CDs, email, etc.) a large quantity of documents can be stored and shared securely in the cloud.

By enabling collaboration in this way, you effectively enable better results on cases.

More efficient use of time

Most law firms with a manual document management system waste vast amounts of time searching for, sharing, and following up with the latest versions of documents.

With the collaboration possibilities inherent within the best DMS systems, this process is made more automated and easier to accomplish from one centralized document library.

Simpler management of legal projects

Legal cases require careful project management from start to finish. The better that process is, the more likely a law firm is to achieve positive outcomes for clients.

Document management software aids this process greatly, allowing legal teams to assign tasks to different members of the team while focusing together on the case in a secure, confidential and accountable way.

Importantly, this also aids firms in accurately billing time on cases.

Greater mobility for your people

Collaborative DMS systems also support remote and flexible working, providing your team with all the benefits of greater mobility.

You can work from anywhere, on any device at any time – all you need is an internet connection.

This can provide a better work-life balance for your people and help to attract the best talent, while also maintaining the efficiencies required for successful case outcomes.

Cost savings

There can be significant cost-saving benefits associated with collaborative, cloud-based software and remote working.

Less office space may be required, fewer utilities used, and staff numbers may even be reduced. This all translates to reduced overheads.

Which document management software should smaller law firms use?

Which document management software should smaller law firms use

Like with in-house legal departments, most smaller law firms do not have the resources to stretch to bespoke software packages.

If you can hire a developer and tailor-make your document management software, great!

If not, LexWorkplace is generally considered one of the most effective in the market. Our package is an effective cloud-based solution that is extremely scalable so that you can grow your usage as your firm grows.

Other options for smaller law firms include Filevine, M-Files and Repstor, which runs over Microsoft Office 365.

Software like SharePoint or Box may also work for the smallest firms out there.

Making document management software work for your firm

Generic document management systems may be little more use than a traditional filing cabinet approach.

Law firms looking to raise efficiency and productivity levels while ensuring compliance should consider a more customized approach and select software developers that specialize in the legal industry.

Identify the features that are most important for your law firm now and in the immediate future.

Then be sure to check reviews and research the software online before taking advantage of a free trial or demo, if available.

Once implemented, train your employees to use the software so that your firm gets the most out of your investment in the shape of maximum efficiency and productivity.