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 was to save a document and had a DMS, a screen like this would appear:
I am not saving this document to a folder, but I am tagging 4 pieces of data to it so I can find it again. If you are starting to freak out, don’t worry, we will still give you the ability to see your documents in a folder view.
Most firms without Document Management Software have a couple of Main Folders setup like this:
When you start setting up a DMS, we will mimic this structure but instead of calling them folders, they will be called Cabinets.
All of these cabinets will have their own profile attributes, which will make the search for documents much easier.
In the following examples, we are going to be referring to our Client Cabinet since most of our documents will be saved there.
Option 1: Client, Doc Type
At the bare minimum, you will have a Client and a Doc Type. I have never set up a DMS without these 2 fields. When saving a document to the client cabinet, you have to choose a client. Once you choose that client, you need to choose a document type.
This is the same thing as browsing to Client Folder and then choosing a Document Type Folder.
This is the perfect setup if you have Clients, but not individual projects for those clients.
TIP: You should try and have around 20 – 30 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 easily search across all the matters for that client. You can easily substitute the word Project for Matter if that better suits you.
Option 3: Area, Client, Matter, Doc Type
Segmenting your client by type of work can be beneficial for a variety of reasons. It lets certain practice areas only see their files and not others. It also lets you also segment your document types between areas.
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 normally created an external user. This is an indication that a document was created outside of the office.
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.