Though law practice can sometimes be exciting, it also involves grunt work like constant document creation and review, which are repetitive tasks. The management of legal documentation is generally accepted to be a tedious and time-intensive process.
To automate document production and minimize repetition, you can invest in a quality law practice management or document management solution. By using this technology, you can streamline your document drafting procedures and save time that can be used for other productive activities.
Common Documentation Challenges for Law Firms and Legal Departments
Legal departments and law firms face a few common documentation challenges:
Standard court filings
Documentation of standard court filings is a necessity, and legal firms need to digitally enter case notations, maintain standardized responses, and minimize case documenting time. By decreasing documentation time, lawyers can focus more on the important task of helping their clients.
Casework strategy and organization
Casework strategy and organization is another vital documentation need. All details about cases need to be filed and organized efficiently for effortless retrieval when required. For this, you need an efficient software solution that can simplify and streamline casework management.
Sensitive file storage and sharing
Client data is confidential, and legal firms need to protect it from prying eyes at all costs. The solution is to invest in law practice management software that can safeguard this sensitive data. On-premise systems can potentially offer more security as the information can be stored on the firm’s own servers in their office. However, cloud vendors also offer stringent security measures to shield data from hackers and criminals, and with improved convenience.
File authentication and signature collection
Law firms are often the target of hackers, and it can be difficult to know whether your data has been accessed or manipulated by an unauthorized third party. In 2019, over 100 legal firms experienced data breaches.
The American Bar Association mandates that lawyers need to make all possible efforts to protect access to client information. The effects of a data breach can be disastrous, and law companies can suffer damage to their reputation or lose their law practice license. They could even be sued by disappointed clients for not maintaining data security.
The solution is to digitize file authentication and signature collection. E-signature tools allow partners and clients to use a mobile device to affix their signature on legal documents like contracts and NDAs, which makes the whole process speedy and secure. Law firms and legal advisors can thus utilize e-signature technology with two-factor authentication and strong passwords to make file authentication and signature collection more secure.
Non-Automated Methods of Document Management
A lot of firms still use the following manual methods to manage their legal documents:
Storing individual file templates on their local devices
Some legal firms still follow the manual process of storing file templates on their local devices. This restricts access to them and can also compromise their security. It can be difficult to retrieve these file templates quickly. A cloud solution can be used instead, as it offers anytime, anywhere access to legal documents and files.
Sharing docs with clients via email attachments
Another common practice is to send documents to clients as email attachments. This method is inefficient, as most email services limit the size of files that can be sent as attachments. Plus, as with local storage, security can also be compromised. It’s advisable to share the link to cloud documents for safer and more convenient access.
Meeting in-person to collect signatures
Some lawyers collect signatures from clients in person, which is time-consuming and inefficient for both parties. With this approach, legal professionals need to travel to the clients’ offices, which takes time. Travel expenses may also be incurred. Using e-signature software is much more efficient in terms of speed, convenience, and safety.
Sending documents back and forth between team members for edits
Another old-fashioned method is to create email chains of documents with team members for edits. As the messages pile up, it can be hard to track and retrieve an important individual message. Cloud document storage can resolve this issue, as all edits and modifications will be visible and can be accepted or rejected by the document owner as needed.
How to Automate Legal Document Management
Automating document management offers multiple advantages and can be accomplished via the below methods:
Platforms built specifically for automating legal documentation
Your law firm can invest in a good document assembly solution to automate the legal documentation process. Vendors offer effective tools at an affordable cost to help users. These platforms include the following popular ones:
HotDocs presents useful document assembly features that can be used by law firms and or organizations of all scales. You can opt for an on-premise cloud or hybrid version. HotDocs allows you to convert commonly used forms and documents into easy-to-use templates for effortless client use. This software integrates with other solutions like compliance and risk management, governance, CRM, and other applications.
TheFormTool offers on-premise document automation products that you can download and use on your office server or computer. For basic use, you can opt for the free edition. For advanced features, you can select a paid version. This platform is ideal for small firms and solo lawyers.
You can register for Pathagoras’s 90-day free trial to check out its features before you shell out for a paid edition. This product is compatible only with the Windows operating system and MS-Word. Chief features of Pathagoras include document assembly, archiving and retention, access controls, and more.
''Smart'' templating that fills in boilerplate language around a few manually entered details
Document assembly solutions make it simple to produce smart templates for commonly used legal documents like pleadings, retainer agreements, intake forms, and others. You only need to spend some time upfront to produce a template that can be reused as needed. After you create a document template, the software will auto-populate it with essential details like party names, necessary dates, client information, and case numbers to help you save time and improve productivity.
Automated cloud storage and backups
Cloud document automation services offer secure document storage and backups to help boost your law firm’s efficiency, compliance, and security. These tools can encrypt and back up your sensitive data automatically. You can retrieve your information anytime, from anywhere, which is great because you don’t have to worry about losing your data to events like computer crashes or unexpected natural disasters.
Secure client portals for accessing documents
Top online document automation solutions come equipped with a client portal that you can use to easily and securely share files with vendors, clients, and employees. You can give secure login access to your clients and enables them to access documents 24/7. They can easily upload and download files as needed. Client portals are better than email as they offer increased flexibility, self-service access, higher file size limits, and more security.
Visualizing document pipelines with automated prompts for each stage
You can use document automation software to visualize document pipelines and send out automated notifications to advance documents through each stage of preparation. This approach is similar to the kanban methodology used in software development, and it's useful for ensuring that tasks don't fall through the cracks.
Choosing the Right Document Management Solution
The above automated solutions offer many advantages, but are they suitable for your needs? Here are some key considerations when deciding.
Do they address a major problem that you face every day?
Manual and non-automated methods are old-fashioned and error-prone, but they may not be holding you back. Can automation of legal documentation help to improve your law firm’s efficiency and productivity? Be sure to consider the various customizations you will require for a solution to fit your team's preferred workflow.
Does the value provided offset the cost of implementation?
You need to invest a good amount in buying or subscribing to most case management or document assembly software. Are you confident that the platform offers a good return on investment in terms of time-saving and improved efficiency?
Is your team capable of utilizing it?
This is not a common issue, as top document automation tools are simple to learn. Your team should be able to easily get the hang of it with minimal training. The learning curve is short and the software can be mastered effortlessly even by lay users.
Is it the best solution of its kind?
Make a shortlist of top products and check out their features by signing up for the free trial which is offered by a lot of vendors. This can help you understand if the software is the best solution for your law firm’s specific requirements.
Custom Legal Document Management Tools
Crowdbotics’ managed app development is a fast and easy way to add new features or build entire custom legal apps from scratch. Our PMs and developers are experts in modern app development for complex industries dealing with sensitive data. If you're interested in building a custom software solution for your law firm or legal department, get in touch with our experts today for a detailed estimate.