Every law firm practices some version of document management. From files stacked high on the floor in your office to complex online cloud-based document management for lawyers, you have documents and they are managed one way or another.
Technology has provided today’s lawyer with something amazing: the ability to find and access files of information anywhere via a laptop, tablet device, or mobile phone.
No more having someone run you files from the office during litigation. No more waiting to send a client that document he or she requested. This is one of the easiest and most impactful technology implementations you will ever find. First, let’s set up the issues and tools you will need.
Issues with document management systems
One of the main reasons law firms are adverse to document management systems is the painful experience of migrating all their electronic documents from various places into a single program. If you’re thinking this way, you are correct: That is a huge pain in the you-know-what.
Another major hurdle is actually getting your documents into electronic form. Lawyers love paper, and for many, this obsession with paper has caused a technology blindness. Lawyers are having a difficult time letting go of paper and seeing what alternatives exist.
Both these issues are easily resolved with a couple of simple tools and software options that barely require any setup to function properly. This is a huge opportunity—little input, major return.
Tools for going paperless
1. The first tool you need is a Fugitsu ScanSnap. In fact, the exact model you should buy is the iX500. (In full disclosure we are making ZERO money from this link: We just love this scanner.) It’s simple, fast, and scans multiple documents in one session.
Ernie Svenson from New Orleans says, “Going paperless does not mean no paper, just less.”
He has some great resources on the topic on his website.
2. The second tool you need is a person. Someone who can take the paper files you already have and convert them into digital form. This person does not need legal expertise to be able to organize your documents. Most law firms already have a digital folder on a desktop or server for every client you’ve worked with within the last several years.
Important: You do not need to scan all your documents from the beginning of your practice. Just go back a reasonable amount of time based on what documents you may actually need access to in the near future.
3. Lastly, and most importantly, you need to look into MetaJure. This DMS (Document Management System) provides a searchable platform that retrieves your documents regardless of what file system you use or where the documents are being stored.
This means that you can have files on your email and desktop while your associate has files on the cloud, and both of you can access the files pertaining to a specific client.
MetaJure just sits in the background on your system. When you need a document you just search MetaJure. Think of this like Google Search for all your files. It also allows you to set permissions. This allows you to control who can access what information, which is very important for security reasons.
Document management tools are easy to set up, fairly inexpensive, and create a more efficient work environment. If you are extremely and meticulously organized, you may not need these solutions. There are still major advantages to both the speed and availability of being able to search all your documents from anywhere.
This tool may not be needed for solos, but it is really nice to have as it can cut down on your time spent on administrative work.
Small law firms
With more than two lawyers at one firm, the management of documents becomes increasingly more complex. Document management solutions are time savers and do not require anyone to change how he or she structures documents. By moving to a scanner and basic document management system, you are harnessing technology that will make your life easier.
Document management is easy to implement, and garners a low cost.
Mid-sized law firms
When a law firm starts to enter the mid-size category, managing information becomes a liability. With so many lawyers likely at varying stages of their career, there tend to be several methods for managing documents. This can lead to lost documents or delays. With these simple solutions, the payoff is immense.
For larger firm, document management software saves time, creates efficiencies, and will make your firm more profitable.
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This is part one of a three part series from GNGF on getting out of your own way. The next article will cover document management tools that can save you a ton of time. GNGF is a business solutions provider for law firms. This includes providing online self-study MCLE courses, marketing services, and data security audits.