May 04 2012

Law Firm IT: Document Management Solutions that Work

The work that law firms do often creates an avalanche of documents. These solutions can help manage it all.

Lawyers create a lot of content. Along with documents — both the paper and electronic varieties — things like scans, e-mail, photos and faxes clog attorney hard drives.

The significance of this content (client intake forms, witness statements, pleadings, depositions, case settlements and more) is paramount. It represents chains of evidence, paper trails and billable hours, after all, and must be handled with care.

Still, many law firms handle content using a manual system, storing it in boxes and file cabinets. This can result in missing, misnamed and misplaced materials. What’s more, recalling a print document years after it was created can take hours, if not days. And making sure it’s the most recent version can be a further drain on productivity.

Electronic-document management helps law firms of all sizes create an all-digital workflow. Besides making the storing, retrieving, tracking and destroying of documents easier, EDM boosts a firm’s productivity and helps it comply with applicable legal and regulatory requirements.

Large-firm Solution: EMC Documentum

The EMC Documentum family of products offers large law firms (and small firms interested in building an EDM solution that is scalable and can grow as they do) a comprehensive, interoperable platform.

Firms can start out with EMC ApplicationXtender, which supports small offices with just a few software licenses or those with thousands of users. The software can be set up quickly out of the box to capture, organize and route electronic documents and images.

It offers law firms the ability to search, store and retrieve documents using their existing IT infrastructures and integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010. ApplicationXtender also includes automated tracking and reporting via customizable templates, along with features that allow geographically dispersed firms to collaborate on large, complex cases.

ApplicationXtender’s module-based approach allows firms to add workflow management functionality using a Process Builder feature. The information rights management or IRM Services for ApplicationXtender add-on protects sensitive documents by assigning them protection policies. That way, if an employee checks out a document and saves it to his notebook computer, the document remains secure.

EMC also offers Captiva software, which works with EMC’s (and other providers’) document management systems to convert paper, faxes, e-mail and forms into applicationready information. Captiva Intelligent Enterprise Capture solutions can automatically connect information in electronic documents to a firm’s case management and other business systems so it becomes part of the workflow.

Products in the EMC Documentum family closely integrate with other enterprise software platforms. These include VMware, RSA, the security division of EMC, along with EMC storage and Data Domain deduplication solutions. For example, firms that have virtualized server resources, using VMware, can easily virtualize their Documentum solutions.

Small-firm Solution: Informa Software

Informa Software’s ImageQuest family of document management solutions offers small firms an economical way of getting documents under control. IQmfp integrates with HP LaserJet multifunction printers and Scanjet scanners to turn those devices into electronic-filing and indexing systems.

The software stores electronic documents as full-text, searchable PDF files and tags them for easy retrieval. It allows attorneys to index, store and retrieve Microsoft Office documents, e-mail and other Windows-compatible files.

Firms that want a broader EDM solution can deploy IQforms, which automates the process of entering information from paper-based forms. The software extracts information automatically from any document type, including semistructured and unstructured documents such as contracts and police reports. It can read some forms of handwriting, machine print, bar codes, signatures and more.

Informa also offers its IQworkflow product. The software is designed to allow users to create document workflows and audit trails, in turn fostering accountability and compliance.

For more information on EDM for law firms, read the CDW white paper, "Legal Ease: Electronic Document Management."


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