How to setup Document Management Software Part 1/3: Required Profile Attributes


One of the main goals of Document Management Software is to move you away from looking for files in nested folders.  If you wanted to see the menu for the new pizza place on Magazine St in New Orleans, you would not open up a folder on the internet called New Orleans, and then drill down a 100 nested folders until you found the menu. You would type in something like: pizza, New Orleans, magazine stand your result would pop up.

To get the same results at our office, we need to assign metadata or profile attributes to each document and email we save. This will allow us to search and view our documents in an efficient manner.

In the typical law firm, if I were to save a document and was using a Folder Structure, I would probably be doing something like this:

I am choosing the Clients Folder (Cabinet),  then a folder called Bluth Company (Client), a folder called LLC Formation (Matter) and a folder called Correspondence (Doc Type)

When I am using a DMS, I am doing something very similar:

I still choose all the same options, but I am picking from a firm controlled list for Client, Matter, and Doc Type.  This keeps everything uniform and makes it very easy to search.

Client, Matter, and Doc Type are considered Profile Attributes.  We need to determine which attributes you need when setting up your DMS.

5 Examples of Required Fields in a Client Cabinet

These are the five four most common scenarios we see when setting up NetDocuments and Worldox for our clients.  This information is taken from the hundreds of firms we have worked within the past 15 years.

Option 0: Client

I hate this option and have used it up for 2 out of the 250 firms I have setup document management software for.  Users will choose a Client, and then they will manually create folders to save documents.  Not having a standard document list defeats the entire purpose of setting up a document management system, since everyone will be setting up their own folders.

Option 1: Client, Doc Type

This is the perfect setup if you have Clients, but not individual projects for those clients.  Once you choose a client, you need to choose a document type, which is a list created by the firm.

This is the same thing as browsing to Client Folder and then choosing a Document Type Folder; however, all the Document Type Folders will be uniform across all matters.  Instead of having a Cor, Correspondence, Letters, Corr Folders scattered across all your files, everyone will use one option.

TIP: You should try and have around 15 – 25 document types. Any more and you run the risk of decision paralysis by the user.

Option 2: Client, Matter, Doc Type

If you have clients with multiple projects or matters, you should a client matter structure. That allows you to keep things organized in a Parent / Child Relationship and also allows you to search across all the matters for that client easily. You can easily substitute the word Project for Matter if that better suits you.

Option 3: Client, Matter, Type of Law, Doc Type

Segmenting your client by type of work can be beneficial because it lets you have different document types per type of law.

A personal injury attorney would need the document type Medical Records, and an Estate Planning attorney would need the document type Wills. If you are at a firm with multiple types of practices, you can customize the document type list by area so the estate planning attorney doesn’t see the Medical Record Doc Type.

Option 4: Client, Matter, Doc Type, Author, Typist

Susan dictates a letter to Jim. Jim types up the letter and saves it into the DMS. Susan wants to search for all the letters that she wrote, but she cannot do this because there is nothing to search.

That’s where the Author and Typist fields come in. In the case above, Susan would be the Author, so if there was an author field, she could search it and pull up the document. She would also see that Jim was the typist.

If we are using an Author field, I usually created an external user. This is an indication that a document was created outside of the office.

This is not used that much anymore, especially since your DMS is recording who created and modified all your documents.

Regardless of what option you choose, all of these fields would be required.  That means you are forced to fill out each profile attribute before you can save the document.  In Part 2, we will go over some of the non required fields that use.

In Part 1 of How to Setup Document Management Software, we discussed Required Profile Attributes; Part 2 covered the Non Required ones.  In Part 3, we will cover labeling email, using keys versus descriptions, and give you some sample document types.