How to Implement a Document Management System in the Cloud

How to Implement a Document Management System in the Cloud

You’ve decided to move your law firm to a cloud-based document management system.

There is no looking back from here. Very few law firms on the planet ever regret waving goodbye to the racks of filing cabinets or the outdated in-house digital system they have.

But how do you go about implementing a cloud-based system that meets all of your firms document and email management needs?

Here’s what you need to know.…

Cloud-based document management basics

A cloud-based document management system (DMS) tracks, stores, manages and controls the flow of documents and files without requiring any physical paper storage in the office or any local officer server.

When these functions are performed in the cloud, locating, accessing, editing and storing documentation is made easier, more secure, and more efficient.

The flow of documentation is smoother and mistakes concerning duplicates or different versions of the same document are minimized.

By way of example, LexWorkplace (seen below) organizes all data first by Client or Matter, then into Documents, Email and Notes.

This all means that a cloud-based DMS can save considerable time and money and allow firms to better service clients.

And most importantly: a legal-centic, cloud-based DMS keeps your client data secure.

Many of the restrictions of traditional document management systems are greatly eased by moving to the cloud. Legal teams can search for and access files from a central location and collaborate on cases quickly and easily, using any device, from any location, at any time – provided there is an Internet connection.

Built-in DMS security in cloud-based systems almost always provides more robust security and privacy than many on-premise systems. The burden of managing these systems and protecting client data and privacy is taken seriously by cloud-based document management software providers whose reputations are at stake.

Is DMS software made specifically for law firms?

Law firms have some unique requirements when it comes to document management.

We have already mentioned the security and data privacy requirements for lawyers working on sensitive matters for clients and how these are met by cloud-based providers. Stringent backup procedures and geographic data redundancy (eg: your data is replicated to multiple data centers in the US) from providers also help ensure that data is never lost.

The sheer volume of documents relevant to legal matters needs no introduction. MS Word, Excel, Outlook, Adobe PDF files and more need coordinating in one centralized system.

If the organization and flow of documentation are inefficient, it can cost a great deal of time and productivity when working on cases. Lost time is expensive for law firms.

It is not surprising, then, that cloud-based document management software designed specifically to streamline the processes within law firms has attracted more attention in recent years.

Legal document management software (like LexWorkplace) enables law firms to:

  • Organize documents by cases or client-matters
  • Organize documents by chronology, topic, practice area, document type, or keywords
  • Store templates to make the creation of new case documents more automated
  • Apply “metadata” tags to documents to allow easy search and location of info

  • Apply full-text search of documents
  • Control versions of legal documents
  • Restrict access to authorized users only and protect confidential information
  • Retrieve, share and collaborate on documents from any location on any device (e.g. from a mobile device while in court)

The key steps to implement a cloud-based DMS

Before selecting your document management software, there are some important considerations.

To get a system up and running efficiently and according to your needs takes planning and preparation. There are normally several major steps in the process.

From our experience, the most important aspects of implementing a cloud-based DMS are:

You will need a process for converting existing paper documents into digital files.Generally, they will need to be scanned and converted to digital (PDF or JPEG) format, which can be time-consuming but is unavoidable.

When documents are uploaded to the cloud-based system you choose, they will go to a centralized location that approved users can all access.To make the location and retrieval of documents easy, you will need a tagging system that applies metadata to each document and allows you to search for these keywords.

Classify your documents and organize them by logical categories so that they are not all lumped together.

For the general integrity of the system, an electronic signature may also be required to guarantee the authorship and authenticity of each document.

Access controls and privileges can be set up to allow authorized legal teams temporary or permanent access to retrieve or edit the relevant documentation quickly and easily.Control and traceability of user actions are important and this can be managed by granting special access rights to specific documents/folders/categories or certain workflow processes.

Users simply need to sign in with passwords and (if necessary) security questions or other controls to access and collaborate on documents in shared folders. Legal teams, clients, and other professional parties may be granted access.

The final document can be easily emailed to clients or shared internally.

If a document has been modified, how do you know if you have the latest version?Inbuilt version control measures (“version history”) and naming protocols ensure that you always have the latest version, avoiding confusion, wasted time, and potentially costly errors.

Document classification is Key

We touched on the need to classify documents for easy location, retrieval, collaboration, and sharing.

For each document uploaded, you will need to consider the following elements:

  • Its name and code: you need naming protocols for all documents of this type so that everybody follows the same system.
  • Identification: how will users understand the status of documents? You may be able to color-code them to make visual identification easier or will they know simply from the naming system?
  • Access: decide on the internal and external users who will require access to these documents and set up permissions and controls accordingly.
  • Search: consider the metadata protocols you use so that your people can search for and locate documents easily.
  • Templates: which documents/forms, etc. can be filed as templates so that new documents of the same kind can be created automatically and edited easily as required.
  • Communication: decide how you want your documents to be collaborated on, shared and how people are notified of changes – how will the system interact with your email system?
  • Digital signature and version control: these document management techniques can be useful for protecting the integrity of documents.

DMS for Law Firms: The Importance of Training

As you set up your cloud-based law firm DMS, your system of classification for documents will be central to its success.

A few key process considerations include:

Are you going to enable comments and reminders for all collaborators on documents?

Will this be a manual or automatic process?

Most people are familiar with searching online but do they know how to find what they need in your system?

Any document management system can be improved as users are trained and become more familiar with it.

You can locate where bottlenecks arise and it is easy to identify where the system breaks down because of the traceability of actions.

It is important to train your people in the use of the system and to provide onboarding for new users so that everyone follows the correct protocols from the beginning.

As time passes, it is natural for bad habits to creep in. This can derail the best-made plans. It helps to have regular “refresher” training to remind users of their obligations to the document management system.

If everybody follows the rules, you’ll find that it makes life so much easier.