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How to Upgrade Your Document Management System

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. | Last updated on

If you've ever lost a file or spent hours searching for an incorrectly filed document -- and we all have -- you know that poor document management can be a major thorn in your practice's side. Not only is bad document management annoying to you, though. It wastes your staff's time and your clients' money.

Upgrading your document management system can help solve these problems. And it's not nearly as daunting (or expensive) as you might imagine. Here's how to go about it.

Why Upgrade

Ineffective document management wastes time and money.

According to Laserfische, a content management company, the average office spends $20 on labor to file each document, spends $120 searching for each misfiled document, and loses 1 out of 20 office documents. Doesn't sound so bad? Consider this: that same average office spends $25,000 just to fill a four-drawer file cabinet.

Most firms have gone digital, of course, but that doesn't mean those files manage themselves. Sure, you have folders for every client matter, and subfolders upon subfolders. But exactly where is version two of that motion and what happened to our June invoice? Electronic documents can be misfiled, misplaced, and mismanaged just the same as paper. Even worse, since it's so easy to save electronic documents, it can quickly become difficult to find the right document among a glut of ESI.

Where to Start

A good document management system can handle many tasks: creating electronic copies of paper documents; archiving and storing documents; setting up a system for retrieval and distribution; automating that process; and allowing secure access.

A good system will allow you to search and access all the documents your firm has created. Need a Frye motion? You should be able to find all versions your firm has produced to date, saving you the time, money, and hassle of starting from scratch or searching for old copies.

You'll need to begin by identifying just what your firm needs and where your existing system can be improved. Laserfiche has an extensive checklist, covering well over 100 questions you'll want to ask. Organized into categories like indexing and security, the checklist covers everything from "are there access rights determining the level of access to documents" to "can you place a freeze on a record." Sure, not every question will be relevant to what your firm needs, but they're a great place to start.

Once you've inventoried your existing system, compare it against what's available in the market. If you've got the cash, you might want to invest in a management system developed specifically for your firm. The rest of the world can depend on the dozens of ready-to-go management services currently available.

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