Your guide to legal document management

David Chai | May 31, 2023 | Articles

The difference between legal document management and document storage is the difference between your team functioning like a well-oiled machine or constantly stalling and breaking down.

Document storage is just that: saving files in computer folders or on a cloud-based program like Google Drive. While these methods are convenient for storing a handful of files, they quickly become logistical nightmares for legal ops teams handling thousands of matters.

With only basic sharing features and limited options for organizing documents, elementary storage solutions force teams to waste valuable time hunting down the information they need. And outdated documents put teams at risk of making costly mistakes.

Legal document management, on the other hand, involves a more robust approach that eliminates these headaches. Not only does legal document management software offer more options to store, categorize, and search documents, but you can also link your matter workflows with related files. This end-to-end visibility eliminates confusion and makes it easy to find and share what you need, when you need it.

The benefits of legal document management software

A dedicated legal DMS is key for effective legal project management. This single source of truth keeps everyone on the same page, and intuitive features simplify storing, searching, and sharing documents.

Clear document sorting and categorization

A legal DMS transforms your digital filing system from looking like a teenager’s messy closet to one expertly organized by Marie Kondo. In such a document-heavy industry, this neat, intuitive sorting and classification is a game changer that saves time and improves collaboration.

These helpful features will help you spring-clean your documents at any time of the year:

  • File categories: Different types of files can be easily tagged and grouped, including:
    • Briefs
    • Closings
    • Disclosures
    • Pleadings
    • Motions
    • Orders
    • Depositions
    • Exhibits
  • File labels: You can mark documents with multiple labels, bringing a greater level of detail at first glance
  • File templates: Standardized document templates save you from having to create similar files from scratch, including legal contracts
  • File filters: Custom search filters reduce the time you spend scrolling through irrelevant documents to find what you need

Additionally, a legal DMS gives you clear visibility into version trails, ensuring you’re always working off the most recent document. In a field where something as simple as an unintentional comma can cause a debate, seeing who made what changes (and when) is invaluable.

Streamlined matter management

The ability to link legal documents to legal matters is an essential element of a legal document management system. Without it, the harder it is to stay on top of matters and within the matter’s projected end date.

For example, let’s say your in-house counsel is working on a big patent prosecution project. Every single patent search, correspondence with law firms and the US Patent and Trademark Office, and application draft needs to be saved and accessible to all the project members.

If you don’t have a seamless, intuitive way to group those documents, the more difficult it’ll be to track document versions, find filings, and build a case file history.

A legal document management solution lets you group and link relevant documents to associated matters, including to specific steps in matter workflows. This ensures project members are on the same page and have easy access to the documents they need to keep the matter moving along on schedule.

DMS Matter Options

You also save time with the ability to auto-generate workspaces, meaning you don’t need to recreate folder structures with each new matter. Freeing up team members from this kind of manual admin work means they can concentrate on higher-level priorities, like legal cost control.

Cost savings from stronger legal knowledge management

According to Panopto, “inefficient knowledge sharing” costs companies with 1,000 employees an average of $2.7 million annually—and businesses with 100,000 employees lose an average of $265 million. But a robust, easily searchable legal DMS minimizes those day-to-day silos and onboarding issues that impact a business’ bottom line.

This enhanced legal knowledge management translates to increased productivity among current employees and helps new legal professionals ramp up faster. And not only can everyone do their jobs more efficiently, but they can do them with less stress. By reducing employee frustrations around constantly hunting for documents, you can avoid costly burnout and turnover.

Additionally, if you’re working with outside counsel who bill hourly, reducing the amount of time spent scouring documents will ultimately save you money. With the proper tech in place, it’s easy to automate document reviews, even those conducted by outside counsel. Bringing that work in-house will help you reduce spend and frees up your vendors to focus on more important tasks.

Download our free whitepaper to learn more about how legal technology can strengthen your team’s productivity and your company’s bottom line.

3 key features of modern legal document management software

While legal document management systems share foundational features, no two software solutions are the same. Instead of just implementing the first platform you come across, take the time to research and compare different options. You’ll get the strongest return on your investment by choosing tech that can support your team as it scales.

Look for these 3 document management features that take document management—and your team’s ability to deliver business value—to the next level:

1. Real-time integrations

Legal document management software that syncs with other tools in your tech stack creates a true one-stop shop for all the critical info you need. For example, SimpleLegal’s integrations with Box and iManage allow you to save relevant Outlook emails and attachments to our legal DMS.

Real-time updating also fosters smoother teamwork between departments. Any time a document is updated in another platform, the changes are reflected in the DMS. This means no more back-and-forth emails trying to track down the most recent versions of files.

2. Optical character recognition

The more granular search capabilities legal document management software has, the faster it is to find what you need among thousands of files.

DMS Full Text Search

At SimpleLegal, we combined our full-text search with optical character recognition (OCR) to provide the most thorough search results possible. OCR scans texts in image files such as PDFs, PNGs, and JPEGs as if they were text documents, making these critical files easily accessible in search.

Without OCR, it’s much harder to surface the right image file you’re looking for, forcing you to spend time manually searching—a problem your DMS is supposed to solve.

3. Custom access controls

To ensure you comply with data privacy laws, maintain attorney-client privilege, and minimize the risk of a data breach, you need to go beyond basic user permissions.

If your legal DMS users have access to everything, you’re practically guaranteed to encounter a data security issue. Verizon found that 82% of data breaches involved a “human element,” including “errors and misuse.” Risking these incidents puts your company’s bottom line and reputation in jeopardy.

On the other hand, only allowing people into the system on an as-needed basis slows down workflows and forces you to continuously respond to “can you give me access?” emails.

Modern legal document management software saves the day by allowing you to grant different access levels for each user. For example, someone on your finance team could view, edit, and share legal spend reports, but not your outside counsel.

This custom control keeps sensitive information secure and makes it easier for users to find what they need—no more scrolling through irrelevant files.

Check out our legal document management software datasheet to learn more about our user-friendly tech.

Work smarter, not harder with legal document management software

If your team’s current approach to legal document management makes their lives harder, it’s time for a change.

Upgrade to legal tech that simplifies this key responsibility, and empower your team to scale.Request a Demo

See how our legal document management system can save you time, money, and frustration

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