The legal landscape can be quite challenging to navigate as it primarily requires gathering tons of information and using it to one’s advantage. To this end, law firms have always manually handled and processed mountains of paperwork in the past. However, with rampant digitization becoming the norm in almost every field, law firms that are reluctant to update with the times are bound to face problems.
One of the most crucial aspects in this regard is the optimal document and data management. The importance of storing and organizing legal data efficiently can’t be overstated, for the tiniest bit of detail can save a firm from litigation, help counter misconduct claims, improve administrative aspects and reduce errors.
With the importance of efficient document management being established, it’s time to go over the 5 major challenges faced by law firms in this regard.
One of the key factors behind the success of any business is quality customer service, and the legal field is no exception. Clients expect complete transparency from law firms when it comes to documentation, communication and other monetary aspects. This especially holds true for regular, non-corporate clients, who form the majority of the customer base for most law firms.
To uphold this transparency, law firms can bring about a few simple but efficient changes. One such change is to use an electronic document management system with special features like viewing case files and other documents discreetly. The secure nature of these files allows lawyers to share them with clients without any concerns. Moreover, since parsing through a lot of legal jargon might be a challenge for the client, lawyers can easily annotate the important points in a document for better clarity. This will ensure that the clientele is completely aware of the legal process.
Privacy and security can be further bolstered by redacting certain aspects of the document that might give out personal information. While most legal firms already follow this practice to some extent, it will be much easier to perform redaction in a digital format. Thus, digitizing documentation with some security barriers can go a long way to boost the client-attorney relationship.
2. Contract Automation
A majority of legal work happens outside the courtroom, where contracts are created or renewed after a stipulated period of time. Unfortunately, many law firms continue to do this process manually even in the digital format, thereby wasting a lot of their valuable time and resources. Furthermore, a professional law firm handles different types of legal cases pertaining to corporate law, family law, criminal law and more. This classification in combination with tedious contract renewal can really complicate things for a small firm with limited resources.
The solution, however, is deceptively simple. Using the right document automation tools can go a long way to reduce the workload of a law firm. These tools can provide a generic template for different types of contracts that can be easily customized. Moreover, it can also have specific, fillable sections where the client information can be entered as required. Not only that, but using contract automation tools also eliminates errors that might occur while manually drafting these documents. The exponential benefits of automation also translates to an increase in productive output for a law firm. With more time and resources on their hands, attorneys can now focus on more tasks and even bring in new clients.
3. Accurate Data Capture
A further expansion of the above point, accurate data capturing is the next obvious challenge for law firms that goes hand in hand with automation. During different parts of the legal process such as client intake, eDiscovery and court filings, it is important to accurately capture and retain all details so that they can be used or referenced later on. Even a single case involves tons of paperwork and manually getting this information and filing them in a database can become cumbersome for even the most skilful attorneys. This problem is further compounded with law firms that are reluctant to switch to the digital format.
Fortunately, plenty of customized digital tools are now available that can quickly capture data and store it in a well-managed database without much effort on the lawyer’s part. Since every case requires a lot of documentation, it is also challenging to retrieve the right file and information at a moment’s notice. This issue can be mitigated by having a barcode scanning process in place, where each file can be identified with a unique barcode, which can be scanned to retrieve the file immediately. Moreover, optical character recognition tools are also becoming commonplace, and these tools can extract important points from a document and can be easily accessed by the attorney, a feature that can be very useful during the eDiscovery process.
4. Ensuring Security
Due to the sensitive nature of the legal documents, keeping them secure is paramount. Thankfully, with modern electronic data management, it’s easier to keep vital documents secured compared to traditional paper files. Apart from the documents that are regulated by the government or other legal bodies, a law firm can decide on the level of security it requires for a particular file, and these requirements can be simply customized in the data management system.
Furthermore, the firms can also decide certain regulations, standards and compliances regarding the legal documents so that they can keep track of files that are compiled as per protocol or discard files that are compromised or corrupt. Since security is such an important aspect of the legal field, access to files should also be limited. With an efficient data management system in place, firms can decide on who should get access to these files and even keep track of who has seen or made changes to a particular file.
Lastly, if a document can be accessed and edited by multiple people, then it’s vital to keep track of the various edits and versions so that the most accurate one can be retrieved for review. With customized electronic data management, an integrated version and access control system can be devised.
5. Legal Document Management Cost
One of the primary reasons behind the push for digitization is the exorbitant costs of managing physical paper files and court documents. It can cost a law firm an arm and a leg to find storage space and store these heaps of information in an organized manner, not to mention using couriers to retrieve the documents when required. Furthermore, physical copies are susceptible to being lost or damaged during natural and man-made disasters. Lastly, keeping track of the paper files and discerning which ones should be retained and which ones should be discarded is a task unto itself.
These litany of problems can be easily solved using an electronic management system. With over terabytes of space available, storing all the legal documents saves space, money and is hassle-free. Moreover, it can be easily retrieved at the click of a button. By taking the digital leap, firms can also save all the information on cloud and back it up in multiple drives, so in the off chance a disaster or an accident does destroy the original copy, then it can be easily retrieved. Lastly, by adding a scheduling function in the data management system, lawyers can quickly scan and see which documents are worth retaining, thereby saving valuable time and resources.
While these 5 challenges are still prevalent in the legal profession, it doesn’t take much to solve them. In the end, efficient data management systems are the real game-changers, as they can truly make life easier for lawyers and help law firms to boost their business and acquire new clients in the long run.