Many law firms benefit from document management software because it organizes the often massive swathes of data they hold on their clients. But some practices still hang on to old Windows folders, which presents a bevy of different risks when it comes to storage and tracking of their files.
What is Document Management Software?
A DMS is fundamentally a digital or electronic filing system – a system or software that allows lawyers to store, manage, and track all their client documents in a more organized manner. Document management software also makes work significantly easier when one needs to retrieve a file or files – which is essential for any legal practice.
Easy retrieval of files in a document management system is made possible by several built-in tools, such as a robust and real-time index search engine. No matter how expansive the law firm’s document storage library is, a robust DMS search engine tool enables quick navigation and quick access to the right file.
Why DMS Is Better Than a Windows folder structure
Overall, a filing system should serve two primary purposes.
One is to archive documents in an organized and comprehensive manner. The other is to ensure quick and efficient access to stored files when required. Although a windows folder system does cover these two points, it covers them in a fairly rudimentary way.
In the case of law firms which usually have expansive libraries, they would need to come up with a complex Windows folder filing system that may take 6 to 10 clicks to get at a document.
However, when using DMS, the organizational options are far more flexible and extensive. This subsequently makes the search much simpler irrespective of the size of the firm’s storage library.
Here are some factors that make DMS a far better alternative to Windows folders:
1. Enhanced security
Permission allocation of access to sensitive documents can be controlled at folder level for individuals or different groups. That makes it much harder for any unauthorized person to access documents.
Furthermore, for security purposes, document management software can be configured so that a trail is left on any viewed document. The trail reveals the date and time the file was accessed and by whom – it also shows how the data may have been modified. Sensitive files can be tagged to enable automated alerts every time they are accessed.
Although permissions can also be allocated to the windows folder system, tagging a folder or document for automated alerts isn’t possible.
2. Robust filing and retrieval system
A misfiled document in a Windows folder may take a long time to retrieve – time. A DMS system, on the other hand, can be customized to make it an efficient tool that saves the lawyers and paralegals hours of research.
A robust filing and retrieval method like DMS files, can be retrieved by typing in a word or phrase in a document. Folders and documents can also be index categorized for even more organized storage as well as easier retrieval.
Also, retrieval of documents via remote access is much more comfortable and secure when using DMS. Cloud DMS solutions allow remote retrieval of documents from anywhere provided there is access to the Internet.
Windows Folders pretty much let anyone create as many folders and subfolders as they like. This ad hoc approach is okay for one user (maybe) but gets somewhat chaotic when multiple people work at the firm. If someone is opening the Smith file for the first time, it should be organized similar to the other files. A Document Management System forces all users (even partners) to arrange matters similarly.
Time to Adjust
Even for small law firms as the clientele grows, so do the filing needs, and the need to use a DMS becomes more apparent. Depending on the growth forecast for the firm, it may be prudent to get ahead of filing requirements by investing in a DMS today.
Here are some other reasons why DMS is better than a Windows Folder Structure: