Most law firms need three categories of software: Time & Billing, Practice Management and Document Management. The document management category has come to include a variety of add-ons and related programs in addition to core document management features: managing your documents and emails. What should the constellation of these features look like? As always you want to start not from specific software, but from the needs of the firm. What does a firm need to do?
• The core, of course, is managing all your documents and emails, including scanned documents, documents received in production, and so on. The key aspect of document management is that it should enforce compliance: all users should be obligated to use the system.
• Scanned documents. The firm should optimize the process of getting scanned documents into the document management systems, and make sure that all documents are OCR’d (run through Optical Character Recognition so that they are text-searchable).
• Document comparison. Almost all firms need a document comparison product. Word’s Compare feature doesn’t cut it (and in fact Microsoft has traditionally recommended that law firms not use it). Also, you will need to run comparisons between PDF documents or PDF and Word documents.
• Email management and removal of Metadata. Given the recent publicity around data breaches and hacking, this should be a no-brainer: firms absolutely need to remove metadata from any document sent out via email and possibly only send out PDFs to the extent documents are not meant to be marked up by clients or co-counsel.
• Portals. Firms increasingly want a way to share and collaborate on files other than just via email. Many firms use the massively insecure DropBox, but this is high on the list of Worst Practices.
• Other add-ons. Some firms will benefit from a workflow add-on, especially if documents are frequently circulated for review or approval. In addition, firms increasingly want to be able to share documents via some sort of portal, rather than simply emailing documents to clients.
As a long-time Worldox consultant and author of the ABA’s Worldox in One Hour for Lawyers, I recommend Worldox for your basic document management program. NetDocuments, a cloud-based DMS, has become very popular, but cannot match Worldox’s functionality (especially with the major improvements in the forthcoming Worldox GX4). In addition, since it does not enforce compliance, you cannot guarantee that you can obtain reliable results for queries such as “let me see all the documents for matter X.” It’s after you select a DMS that things get more complicated.
How do you scan documents? To a network folder? To individual users’ emails? Do you OCR all your scanned documents so that they are searchable?
Many firms find that it is cost effective to add a certain number of smaller desktop scanners such as the Fujitsu ScanSnap series to the larger Multi-Function Copier/Printer/Scanner machines. The ScanSnap series (and certain of the Fujitsu fi models) integrate directly with Worldox at no additional cost. Push the button, fill out the Worldox profile and you are done. Most larger MFP machines have add-ons at additional cost (think: $1,500-2,000 per scanner) that make scanning more efficient, including the very slick Canon ImageRunner models can integrate a Worldox screen directly on the copier.
Perhaps the most efficient way to deal with scanning/integration with Worldox/OCR is the Symphony Suite from Trumpet, Inc. This lets you create “reservations” in Worldox from your desktop and then batch scan a number of documents at one time. So you fill out the Worldox profiles at your desk, pile up the documents, and send them through the scanner together. Massively efficient. The Symphony program also takes care of OCRing your documents, which is one of the most time-consuming parts of scanning.
Document Comparison and Other Add-ons
Firms would be well-advised to purchase a commercial document comparison (redlining) package, as virtually all of them do a much better job than Word’s built-in feature. The problem is that many of these products come in packages. Like options on a car, you may have to get things you don’t need in order to get the one you do want.
Two major players here are Workshare (traditionally the leader in Document Comparison) and DocsCorp’s pdfDocs. Esquire innovations also makes iRedline. The Workshare suite is $175 for three modules: Document Comparison, a metadata remover and a Portal. DocsCorp’s suite is integrated into the Worldox Productivity suite which is $99 for firms under 25 users. It includes a PDF editor, potentially replacing Acrobat at significant savings and an excellent Document Comparison product (compareDocs). It does not include a Portal or a Metadata scrubber, which would have to be purchased at extra cost.
Probably the leading standalone product here is Payne Consultant’s Metadata Assistant ($98 with discounts for over 20 users). In addition to Workshare, Esquire Innovations makes the excellent iScrub, which offers different levels of scrubbing depending on the recipient (e.g., client, co-counsle, opposing counsel), clearly a major advantage. iScrub is aimed mainly at larger firms with an IT staff.
Workshare offers a very good Portal with its package. Cloud-based NetDocuments incorporates a semi-portal which lets a user share a small number of files (up to about 20) with other recipients. If you need a more robust portal, LegalAnywhere is probably the way to go. Worldox also links with Citrix Sharefile which can be used as a portal.
Worldox’s Productivity Suite includes several Workflow pieces, including the ability to circulate documents within the firm for review/approval, the ability to set tasks in Outlook tied to specific files (review the Jones file today), and the ability to notify users if specific documents or matters are accessed. It also includes the DocsCorp suite. A bargain at $99/user.
As usual with this sort of thing, you need to decide what you need most. One way to look at this is to ask where the firm is currently feeling the greatest pain. Pick the solution that will deal with the largest part of your pain and you can’t go wrong.