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To SharePoint or to Best-of-Breed – That Is The Question!

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The frustration of legal departments when trying to secure budget from the business for legal-specific solutions is an open secret.  Typically, in corporate organisations, the IT department holds the overall budget for technology and so has the final say in what tools the legal department can deploy.  Invariably, due to a lack of understanding of the requirements of the lawyers, IT departments prefer to deploy solutions that they believe will be beneficial to the whole organisation – from an adoption, cost, implementation, maintenance and user benefit perspectives.

Therefore, often when it comes to deploying a document and email management system (DMS), the IT department opts for SharePoint as opposed to a best-of-breed solution.  After all, if SharePoint works for other business departments, it can work for legal too.  And it comes as part of the existing Microsoft Office subscription, which means a massive cost saving for the IT department.  It’s a no brainer, right?

Well, not quite.  It’s counterproductive.  Genuinely, the effort it takes to perform cases and the ensuing legal expenses are a major cost to the organisation. Giving lawyers the tools they need to maximise their efficiency and reduce response times can result in tangible savings in legal costs to the business.

Here’s the business rationale why IT departments in corporates should consider deploying a best-of-breed DMS for their legal department.  They too benefit from the approach:

Cost of ownership

The total cost of ownership of a best-of-breed DMS is markedly less compared to an industry agnostic SharePoint that has been customised to legal requirements. While there isn’t a purchase expense, the cost of using SharePoint on a daily basis is high due to the specialist skills, continuous software development, customisation, project management and support that is required to make it fit for purpose for legal. The cost rises further as third-party integrations are bolted on for additional functionality such email and records management as well as other legal specific requirements including meta-data scrubbing, document comparison, eSignatures, and so on.

Matter centricity

A best-of-breed DMS is based on a legal-specific matter centric meta data model. The corporate legal team can create matter-related workspaces where all information and documentation pertaining to specific matters can be stored across data sources – correspondence, images, data, presentations, pleadings, voicemails, emails, contracts and more. 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 autonomously from within Outlook to the DMS. Additionally, new files saved automatically inherit meta data from existing folders and workspaces, which contribute towards the advanced searching capabilities, allowing users to find their content more easily.

In SharePoint, the meta data model needs to be designed to deliver matter-centricity and meta data has to be added to new content through forms and fields, which is very time-consuming.

Smart working

A best-of-breed DMS provides dedicated apps for easy access to content on any ‘smart’ device from anywhere, anytime. Moreover, things like intelligent email management, Google-like search functionality, collaboration, analytics, and matter dashboards are all standard.

Aside from generic mobile application access, SharePoint has no specific enhancements. While collaboration-related functionality can be set up, it is heavily reliant on IT involvement for ongoing maintenance.


The cost savings delivered by a best-of-breed DMS in the cloud is compelling. In fact, for some organisations, the cost of a best-of-breed solution in the cloud can be less than an employee’s mobile phone per month! Legal departments can implement a best-of-breed DMS without any significant support from IT. Also, the best-of-breed solutions integrate with Microsoft Office including 365, so user adoption of the system is painless.
All the above is simply not an option with SharePoint.

Security and audits

A best-of-breed DMS offers security that addresses current requirements including data protection, content aggregation, ethical walls and much more. In the cloud too, best-of-breed systems comply with audit, data privacy and security standards such as ISO 27001 and HIPAA. Legal departments can also monitor, enforce and report on security policies at the individual, group and organisational level, which will become imperative once the GDPR comes into force next year.

Fundamentally, the budgetary savings as a result of using SharePoint for a DMS is misleading. Aside from the fact that a SharePoint solution falls way short on delivering the necessary functionality to legal departments, the approach is often burdensome for the IT department. By adopting a best-of-breed DMS, IT departments can make savings in both cost and time, freeing up the team to focus on projects that will truly deliver value to the business.

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