Due to the pace of technological change and ever-growing regulatory demands, the business imperative for a strategic and comprehensive information lifecycle-led approach to document management is now critical. The traditional approach to document management is no longer fit for purpose.
The following are the most pressing reasons why law firms need a robust approach to the function:
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
Compliance with the GDPR is not going to be a one-off process. It will need to be a key component of a firms’ ongoing information governance strategy, where the role of a good document management system cannot be underestimated. For instance, organisations’ document management system must have the capability to track all personal data that is mapped to every client and every engagement in order to deliver against the GDPR requirements of ‘right to erasure’ and ‘right for data portability’. Similarly, in order to eliminate the risk of over-retention, the document management system must be able to support and apply client-specific information retention policies. The debacle of the Panama Papers remains a prime example of extremely poor document management with no retention scheduling.
Firms today need dynamic functionality that goes beyond traditional document management capability. For instance, lawyers need search capability that enables easy navigation of large results sets – tuned to their work style. Features such as document timelines, dashboards and analytics are fast becoming essential for better decision making too; and the ability to view large documents on a mobile device when on the move is now critical.
Some firms today opt to deploy platforms such as SharePoint for document management. SharePoint is good for some things, but the cost of developing SharePoint so that it consistently delivers the above-mentioned functionality can be prohibitive due to the specialist skills required, the continuous in-house software development, and the ongoing high level of support and project management.
With a large proportion of critical information residing in emails today, the ability to effectively manage email and indeed data from other sources such as voicemails is essential. Good document management systems offer the ability to easily manage both documents and emails from within the Outlook folders. Even dialogues and discussions that take place via email pertaining to matters – that don’t necessarily form part of more formalised documents – can be captured. The ease of use is phenomenal too. For instance, incoming emails are analysed and based on their inherent properties, the document management system suggests filing locations to users, who can even save emails directly from Outlook using the ‘save’ command in Office and Office 365. More advanced document management systems even provide the option of automatic email filing.
Given the onslaught of breaches today, many firms are adopting pessimistic security measures, a restrictive model that automatically locks down access to data in the event of unusual activity like a user trying to see a file without the right password and security clearance. Best-of-breed document management systems offer advanced threat detection and remediation capability, which is essential to protecting sensitive data, reducing the risk of breaches and mitigating damage, should a security event actually occur.
Speedy access and informative insights into business and matter data delivers competitive advantage to law firms. This is the leading-edge functionality that some document management systems are already provide using Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to help fee earners analyse information in within and attached to the electronic documents and emails to quickly and accurately locate the right facts/evidence/material across all of the content residing in the system. This capability can deliver exceptional efficiency to lawyers who often in large, complex cases have to sift through hundreds of thousands of legal documents to extract critical information. Sophisticated document management systems are integrating AI technology directly into the workflow of their solutions to learn how to do these highly repetitive tasks freeing up resources to provide more bespoke and high value add services.
By adopting ‘bolt on’ or traditional document manage systems, law firms will put their business and clients at risk. Also, they will not be able to take advantage of the cost, efficiency and productivity benefits that new technology offers, which is imperative to enhancing client service and positively impacting their bottom line.
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