Document Management Systems (DMS)

Ever since law firms’ word processing technology moved from ‘monolithic’ all-in-one systems, such as those from Wang and IBM, to PC networks, there has been a need for software to handle the naming, storage, version control and shared access of documents.

Over the last 25 years these have developed into highly sophisticated and functional systems designed to handle not only the storage of documents, but also matter-related emails and attachments.

As more and more of the details and communication relating to a matter are to be found in electronic documents and emails, we are getting closer to the ‘electronic file’.  By ‘topping up’ the electronic materials with some judicious post and paper scanning this objective is close to being realised.

Law firms led the development of DMS in the early days, and still represent the high water mark of functional requirements for document and email filing. Most lawyers are well used to exploiting the functionality of document management, but are still struggling with the disciplines of keeping a fully maintained and accurate record of relevant incoming and outgoing emails. Various usability ploys have been developed to assist in the easy and timely filing of emails, but this remains a challenge for many firms.

After years of market domination by specialist DMS software companies, there is now a trend towards the development of more generic solutions based on Microsoft SharePoint.

There are also somewhat less functional document registration systems that generally come as part of Case Management Systems.  They usually have limited facilities for document versioning and comparison, and for email filing – but may provide just enough functionality so that a firm feels they can eschew the major – and more expensive – systems. However, some firms that have gone this way have later found that they really need one of the fully featured alternatives.

We have experience of all the relevant solutions, and with the change management challenges of getting emails properly and speedily filed.