Discover the features and benefits your practice needs to look for when evaluating a legal DMS.
New technologies, increased competition, and a new generation of lawyers born into a digitally open world expect law offices to break with tradition. They are expected to be innovative and motivated to change, so that digital tools play a more prominent role in enhancing efficiency, productivity, and compliance.
So which technologies should law firms and corporate legal departments invest in? Should attorneys with estate planning expertise look for unique technologies that differ from those who practice labour and employment law, intellectual property law, or family law? And what about lawyers working in legal departments in numerous industries, do they have unique needs?
Several emerging technology categories will disrupt almost every market, industry, law firm, and lawyer. Augmented reality (AR), blockchain, robotics, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are just a few, with artificial intelligence (AI) making remarkable advancements recently. According to Gartner, AI alone will be responsible for $2.9 trillion of business value and 6.2 billion hours of productivity with workers in 2021.
When considering legal documents and knowing that the majority of them are generated on computers regardless of practice type or industry, it only makes sense that law firms and corporate legal departments of all types turn to innovative ways to store, share, and manage huge amounts of data.
Disrupting and Changing the Practice of Law with Technologies like DMS
Legal documents require appropriate management, regardless of the field of law and whether one works in-house or in private practice. Complying with industry regulations and standards and ensuring documents are protected with flawless security are all top-of-mind. But too many law offices still maintain archaic forms of document management “systems.” Many continue to keep voluminous hard copies and filing paper documents in outdated fashion. While many are behind the times and slow to adapt, the culture of a law practice needs to shift paradigmatically.
“Change might seem glacial in the legal industry, but it’s inevitable,” said Howard Russell, CEO and co-founder of RBRO Solutions. “Choosing to transition to SaaS applications and a cloud-hosted infrastructure is quickly becoming an essential and impactful business decision.”
Resistance to change will be an ongoing battle for the foreseeable future. According to the ABA 2020 Legal Technology Survey, only 58% of law firms store data securely in the cloud (that number is steadily increasing).
Innovative lawyers are using technology to enhance client engagement and remain competitive. Holding on to antiquated tools and dealing with inefficiencies can no longer be acceptable. And in a post-COVID-19 pandemic world that will significantly impact numerous industries (the legal industry is not immune), we’re seeing how technologies are quickly changing the way businesses function.
A recent Forbes article noted that COVID-19 is changing the legal field and required that the “legal ecosystem become more agile, fluid, and collaborative.” We’ve already seen court proceedings conducted via videoconference and oaths administered via an electronic method of communication.
Russell added: “While the pandemic continues to force the legal industry to embrace new technologies, sooner rather than later, lawyers can view the events of the past year-and-a-half as a catalyst to shaping the industry and being confident in how it evolves.”
With a document management system (DMS), legal documents are easily stored and managed and the user experience is greatly improved. Proper management of digital documents plays a key role in streamlining workflow processes, becoming more efficient and productive, and improving functionality, accessibility, security, and connectivity.
A dynamic and intuitive DMS with advanced features will help you:
- Easily integrate with other business platforms with a publicly available API
- Securely incorporate numerous content types (documents, email, voice, etc.)
- Track document types and metadata
- Communicate on shared matters via desktop and mobile
- Collaborate better with colleagues and clients
- Reduce complexity and cost of IT environments
- Feel confident knowing it places high importance on compliance and security
- Take advantage of interoperability between cloud platforms
What to Know When Evaluating a Legal DMS
The implementation of any new technology will require a host of considerations—how the solution will impact users and clients, what its long-term impact will be on the firm or company, how flexible and scalable it is, and financial requirements.
“At the end of the day, this is an investment that will play a significant role in how you work with colleagues and clients, especially those who are drawn to a digitally-enhanced legal services offering,” Russell said.
As part of your DMS evaluation process, consider the following:
- How will the DMS help achieve the goals of your practice?
- What challenges or struggles do your organization and end-users consistently face?
- Are you familiar with the types of features and functionality required to improve efficiency?
- Will the software help you mitigate risks and enhance processes?
- Is the software capable of being customized for your practice’s specific needs?
- Do you have leadership and team buy-in?
- Who are the stakeholders that will be part of the evaluation process?
- What is your budget for a SaaS solution, data migration, and end-user training?
- Can you commit to the cost of implementing a new software (time, money, workflow change)?
- Who should you consider when selecting a DMS solution provider? (Can the vendor provide references, instill credibility, and illustrate a history of commitment to clients?)
Although you will become more sophisticated as you discover the ins and outs of your new software during the evaluation process, you will not be expected to be an expert in managing the software post-implementation. Knowing that your service provider will be committed to supporting you after go-live will be just as important as the initial steps. This will include training and making adjustments to the software, if necessary, all while helping you adjust to change and increasing your confidence and comfort.
“As the adoption of new technologies increases, legal professionals will gain an appreciation for the positive impact on business operations, it’s clear that investments in technology today will play a significant role in how the legal industry moves forward,” said Russell.
Remember life before a smartphone just over a decade ago? Today the smartphone is a common, indispensable fixture of everyday life. We surf the internet, take photos, write and send text messages, share family happenings on social media platforms, check email, stream music and videos, play games, catch-up on the news, and occasionally make a phone call.
Aside from the likes of several visionaries who predicted the influence of the smartphone (Nikola Tesla included), the vast majority of us never would have thought all of this could happen and on a single device nestled in our hands.
Just like the smartphone, emerging technologies will change how businesses function, including the legal industry, and a new generation of lawyers assured of cloud computing’s capabilities will enable the adoption of SaaS solutions as confidence and trust in the industry grows.
Let’s continue the DMS conversation, so you can discover the benefits for your legal team.