Within the practice of law, documents reign supreme. They’re where the law lives. They’re where arguments are hashed out, cases are built, and decisions are finalized. Your documents can win litigation and protect your clients—but one inaccurate or lost document could seriously bog down a case, or even impede your career.
With the vast number, complexity, and importance of documents within the legal industry, it’s shocking that some firms manage them with the same tools that college freshmen use to type up and file away their essays for English 101. Legal professionals deserve tools that help them create, review, store, and retrieve documents.
That’s why many firms are beginning to take advantage of new technology specifically designed to manage legal documents. To get the most out of litigation document management software, make sure any system you choose includes these features:
Top 10 Must-Have Features for Legal Document Management Software
1. Automatic document generation
Sometimes you’re drafting a document completely from scratch. But many of the letters and forms your firm creates every day are from templates. A traditional template is useful, but still carries some inefficiencies. Someone has to take time to input the new information, some staff members might have outdated templates, and there’s always the worry that someone could input the information incorrectly, or file the template or document in the wrong place.
When you’re looking for document management tools, make sure they empower you to automatically generate new documents. Your team should be able to create a document with the click of a button, pulling information directly from the case files.
Here’s how that will benefit you:
- Improve accuracy, with the information pulled directly from the case file.
- Save the time spent typing up new documents or editing templates manually.
- Ensure that everyone is working off of the most recent template.
- Help create a firm-wide voice, where all outbound communication maintains the highest standards of professionalism.
2. Unlimited storage
This one’s a no-brainer. You simply deal with too many documents to worry over storage limitations. You must have unlimited space not only for text files, but also images, video files, and audio files.
3. Secure cloud access
Some firms still rely on their own in-office servers to store their information. But many prefer the freedom and cost-savings of full cloud access. The cloud allows you to reach your documents from any device at any time, without going through the rigamarole of remote access tools. The cloud can help you make sure you’re prepared for anything in the courtroom—and can be a vital business continuity tool in the case of, say, a global pandemic (or any other unforeseen disaster).
To enhance your security profile, look for software options that include role-based access and 2-factor authentication, as well as undergoing compliance audits for HIPAA and SOC 2 Type II, as well as any other security measures your area requires.
4. Custom organization
No two firms organize their files in precisely the same way. Your document management tools should never box you into a particular organization structure. Make sure you can have precisely the folders and subfolders you’d like, and that you can benefit from other organization tools, like document tagging.
5. Easy editing
You want one central document repository for the entire firm. But how will you ensure that all documents stay uploaded to the right place? When someone needs to edit a document, will you just hope they download and reupload it promptly and correctly?
Cut out the human error by searching for options that allow you to edit your .doc files in place, without needing to download and upload them again.
6. Secure document sharing
How do you currently share documents with those outside your firm? Do you have all the tools you need to keep them secure and protect your attorney-client privilege?
Secure document sharing links can help. They allow you to send documents securely, setting the appropriate user permissions, password protections, and expiration dates. To ensure that you’re keeping up with new security standards, look for document management systems that include secure share links.
7. PDF editing
Law firms rely heavily on PDFs at every stage of the litigation process. Look for document management options that allow you to make the changes and additions you need. Pay special attention to these abilities:
- Bates stamping
- Merging and splitting documents
- Adding comments
8. Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
OCR is a tool that ‘reads’ the words on PDFs and images, and indexes them. That makes them searchable, the way other text documents are. This can help you make sure you always find what you need, even when you’re dealing with a massive amount of discovery documents.
9. Collaboration tools
The practice of law is increasingly collaborative. One person may determine a document needs to be created, another person research it, a third draft it, a fourth give final approval, and a fifth send it where it needs to go. You need document management tools that allow your entire team to stay aligned on your workflow.
Look for systems that allow you to include task assignments and notes with each document. This will allow you to see the full context of the document and maintain accountability for each step.
10. Integration with other case management tools
Finally look for document management systems that aren’t only document management systems. If they integrate with your calendar, task list, time-keeping, and analytics tools, you’ll be able to gain additional efficiencies and insights for your practice. All-in-one options might also help you save significantly on software licensing fees.
Even as the practice of law changes, one thing is clear: that deluge of documents isn’t going anywhere. But if you find document management tools with these 10 features, you’ll be able to clarify the chaos and stay on top of anything that comes your way.