What difference can a DMS make to a legal practice?
We see this time and time again: A law firm’s local file server has reached its end-of-life and has become a headache to maintain. So the firm looks to the cloud to modernize its file storage and document management. Wouldn’t it be great to get rid of that server and be able to access documents from anywhere?
A solution search often leads the firm to “public cloud” services like DropBox, Google Drive or Box. The firm transitions to such a consumer-grade cloud storage service, only to find that its features are insufficient to sustain the needs of a legal service provider. Eventually, the firm incurs further costs and complications in subscribing to other applications to provide the necessary functionality.
The Problem with Consumer-Grade Cloud Storage
Consumer-grade cloud storage services, such as DropBox, Google Drive, or Box, are designed for home and consumer use, not for businesses, and certainly not for the sophisticated needs of law firms. These products often lack document management features beyond simple storage, such as version management, indexing, search, metadata, and more.
Another fundamental problem with these services lies in the limited scalability of data synchronization. Many such products attempt to synchronize data to each user’s computer. This is a good solution for a small organization of a few people, but when you get to more than a few users, synchronization becomes inefficient and inconsistent. The resulting data asymmetry between one person’s computer and another’s increases the risk of error, which could lead to costly consequences for the company.
Thirdly, many established and functionally sophisticated services are not accessible in the Mainland China area.
Lastly, consumer-grade cloud storage likely does not support setting a controlled environment for downloading a file. As information security is paramount to enterprise risk management, using such cloud storage services may put the company at risk of having proprietary information leaked.
Consumer-grade services are great for personal storage and sharing of files. However, in a business context, such services are often not robust enough, do not scale well, and lack features required by most professional service firms.
What is a Document Management System (DMS)?
The term Document Management will vary depending on whom you ask to define it. Some consumer-grade cloud storage services self-describe their products as document management solutions, while other service providers may insist upon a certain list of features being present in order to count as a DMS. At the end of the day, semantics don’t matter–what matters is the functionality your business requires.
For a business providing legal services, we suggest that an effective legal DMS should ideally include the following features: