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Intellectual Property Law Firms Seeing Value in Best Practice Document Management

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Raj Chambore

In the last year, Ascertus has seen a growing emphasis on best practice document management among specialist, mid-sized Intellectual Property (IP) law firms, suggesting that 2020 may have potentially accelerated digital transformation-led approaches in these organisations.

Similar to most commercial law firms, IP practices have bought into the idea of deploying technology to facilitate smooth business operation and delivery of a good customer experience. Technology for trademark filing and prosecution support, patent renewals, and practice management systems, among others, are some of the widely deployed systems. Document management is another business-critical function given the document-heavy IP processes. However, typically firms have tended to resort to the light weight functionality that is available via their practice management systems. To bolster the functionality whilst limiting cost, some firms have integrated with or created in-house solutions using Microsoft SharePoint, which already comes as part of their Office 365 licencing. Many of the smaller IP firms simply use Windows File Systems for document management.

Document management challenges

Anecdotally, lawyers at IP law firms cite access to and retrieval of documents being a major challenge, not to mention the frustration caused by poor version control. With emails being the default tool for communication and collaboration, many firms don’t have the level of email management capability that is essential to enable lawyers to easily save case-pertinent correspondence and the attachments within them, in their document management repository. In firms where SharePoint is the primary tool for document management, frequently IP lawyers mention their annoyance that only a limited number of case files are displayed by searches.

Document management in the cloud an attractive option

Potentially, these document management related challenges were exacerbated with the switch to remote working due to the pandemic – making information sharing and collaboration even more difficult in a ‘work from home’ environment. Consequently, since last year, we have seen growing interest amongst IP law firms for a more comprehensive, best practice-led adoption of document management functionality. A cloud environment for adoption of best-of-breed document and email management systems (DMS) has been a logical choice. It presents the fastest way to adopt a DMS whilst offering more functionality and a lower cost of ownership. That translates into a faster return on investment. And of course, IP firms have an eye to the future. They recognise that cloud adoption is a key step in their digital transformation journey and that the technology will give their business agility and indeed competitive advantage.

Due to the nature of trademark and patent-related legal work, IP firms work differently to other commercial law practices. So, it is imperative that the DMS is implemented by a company that understands those differences and has experience of configuring the system to the requirements of an IP firm. Take naming conventions, for example – IP firms call ‘files’ and ‘matters’ cases, and often refer to clients as ‘instructors’.

It’s therefore no surprise that the iManage Work DMS in the cloud has gained traction among IP firms. In fact, iManage is among the top four most used technologies in the corporate legal sector – clearly law firms’ clients trust the system. It’s feature rich, secure, always available and on any device. When deployed in the cloud, the solution removes the administrative burden of managing the system on-premises – activities such as managing servers, rolling out updates, ensuring regular back-ups, ensuring security and the list goes on. All this is undertaken by iManage. But most importantly (and perhaps the clincher), iManage Work is highly customisable (and proven) and so can support IP firms’ way of working.

At Ascertus, our team is well versed with how IP law firms work and handle their workspaces. For example, for some of our IP law firm and corporate IP department clients, we configure case structures by patent, for others by patent stem cases for each country. We also have experience of deploying IP firms’ preferred practice management and case management systems in these organisations, such as Inprotech and Memotech – and integrating them with iManage.

If you are exploring adoption of best practice DMS in the cloud, please get in touch via We would be happy to walk you through the benefits of this approach – and more specifically how we can configure iManage Work for you in the cloud so that it meets the precise requirements of your firm.  

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