Essentials of Document Management

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1 Essentials of Document Management A Change in Mindset Solves an Old Problem For Lawyers Traditionally, lawyers bill for their time. However, they are usually selling something very specific words. Whether spoken or written, communication is a lawyer s stock in trade. Written communication can take many forms. Lawyers use printed documents, electronic documents, s, and even text messages to communicate with clients. In particular, presents a problem. It is now the most commonly used form of communication within a law office but many firms still do not recognize it as a document. All of these factors highlight an old problem for lawyers. How do you organize documents so that they are easily retrievable both for purposes of keeping a complete file and reusing prior work product rather than re-creating it every time? The Document Problem There are several problems that documents present. 1. The first problem with documents that must be addressed is the various forms they can take. For example, printed documents, electronic documents and s are typically created and stored in different ways. Most of the time, a document or tends to be saved in the place it is created. This means that an attorney must look in up to three places for documents related to the same client. 2. The second problem is organization. Because printed documents, electronic documents and s are created and saved in different places, most law firms develop three separate systems to organize their documents. Obviously, an system like Microsoft Outlook is very different than a cardboard box or a word processor like Microsoft Word and the systems used to organize these different documents are also very different. This means that the attorney must look in three places, using three different systems for documents related to the same client. 3. The third problem is the way documents are searched. Often, a person trying to locate a document will know enough about that document to be able to find it. They may know the client name, the date of the document, or some other information that leads them to the right place. Other times, they will have no idea where the document is but have a general idea of the content they are looking for. This means that an attorney must look in three places, using three different systems, searched in two different ways for documents related to the same client. As you can see, each of the problems presented by documents compounds the previous one.

2 The Solution Document Management The solution to the document problem is document management. Document management is a way to save and organize documents in a logical fashion so that they can be searched for and retrieved in the most efficient way possible. There are three commonly used methods of document management in law firms today. 1. The first type of document management is usually homegrown. It consists of a systematic approach to creating and saving documents in their various forms. Typically, there are folders created within Outlook and Word that allow users to find documents. 2. A second type of document management is included with many practice management software applications. In most cases, these types of systems put a user-friendly interface in place but, ultimately, work in a similar way to a homegrown system. 3. Finally, the third type of document management system is a software tool designed exclusively for document management. All three of these document management methods are designed to solve the document problem. Depending on your firm s need and document problems that need to be solved, there are a wide variety of solutions at all levels of investment. However, you may be surprised to learn that the higher the investment in the document management solution, they become decreasingly complex. This makes document management a good return on investment. It does come at a price as an investment in both mindset and money, but when document management is implemented and rolled out properly, you will save time and money in the long run. Homegrown Document Management The System Many firms use some form of homegrown document management. Typically, a homegrown system consists of many folders. There are folders filled with paper, folders in the inbox, and folders in Microsoft Windows. These folders represent clients and matters for those clients. As documents are created they are filed away in the appropriate folder. The paper folder system consists of red rope folders filled with manila folders. The red rope represents the matter and the manila folders represent pieces of that file. As printed documents are received or created they are placed in a manila folder inside the red rope folder. The folder system consists of folders within the inbox. Usually, this means a single folder for each client within each attorney s inbox. As s are received, they are simply dragged into the correct client folder. Some attorneys take this a step further by creating matter subfolders within the client folder. Word processing documents are saved in Windows folders. Stored in some shared (and hopefully backed up) location, documents are saved to client folders which contain matter folders and often contain document type folders. For example, a document might be saved to client (Smith, John), inside the matter (Bankruptcy 2012) and document type (Pleadings) folder. Problems with Homegrown Document Management There are several problems with homegrown document management. 1. MULTIPLE LOCATIONS: First and most obvious is that documents are in more than one place. In fact, documents are in a minimum of three places. For every attorney, paralegal and legal assistant working on a file, there is an additional inbox where client communications may be stored. How do you know that your search is revealing every document for a particular client? 2. TEXT SEARCHING: A second problem is text searching. Text searching in Windows is slow. You have to do several slow text searches because documents are in more than one place and the documents stored in paper folders are not searchable at all. 3. CONSISTENCY: Although it is last problem people think of, the biggest problem is consistency. This takes several forms. How do you ensure that every folder is created and named in a consistent fashion? How do you ensure that documents are named in a consistent fashion? Most importantly, how do you ensure that documents are actually saved to the system? Other than a firm policy insisting that everyone follow the system, there is no way to force people to actually use it. What is the point of a system that any user can simply circumvent by saving a document anywhere they want?

3 Tips for Homegrown Document Management If there are so many problems with homegrown document management, why do so many firms use it? They use it because it has one distinct advantage. It is free. So, if you are using a homegrown document management system, here are some tips to help you do it right. 1. Create a Firm Policy. Without rules in place, no one will use your document management system. 2. Create a logical folder structure. a. Client Folder Structure. Document folders should be on a shared location that is backed up. The top level of each folder should be named after the client. For example, an individual client folder might be named Adams, John while an organization client folder might be named ABC Manufacturing Company. A logical and consistent folder naming structure will make it easier to save and locate documents. The use of alphabetical last names aids in searching and sorting. Use an identical naming structure for Windows folders and inbox folders. b. Matter Folder Structure. Within each client folder, create a series of matter folders for that client. Anticipate multiple matters for clients, even if you tend to only have one matter for each client. You just never know and failing to anticipate will cause problems later. For example, matter folders for Adams, John might be Auto Accident, Slip and Fall, 2012 Divorce, etc. Bankruptcy is not good enough. c. Document Type Folder Structure. Within each matter folder you may (optionally) create folders for document types. For example, you might have folders called Pleadings, Correspondence, Memos, etc. This folder level is optional because it can complicate things. While it is easy to determine which client and matter a document belongs to, some documents seem to fall into two different categories or none at all. If you use document type folders, make sure your firm policy provides guidelines for which documents go in which folder. 3. Document Naming Convention. Adopt a document naming convention that is easy to remember but provides useful information when you want to find a document later. For example, you might name a document Letter to Adams, John Re Settlement Offer. The date helps to sort documents within the folder and name of the client makes searching easier. 4. Scan Everything. Documents stored in paper folders exist only in the paper folder and the only way they can be searched is by locating and visually scanning the paper. Scan them to a searchable format such as PDFs with a text overlay and save them to the same folders that you save the rest of your documents. 5. Text Searching. Tools such as Copernic Desktop or Google Desktop can index your documents to make text searching faster and easier. Many of these tools are free for a single user. However, in order to search multiple locations across multiple computers, you will often need an upgraded professional version. Practice Management Based Document Management Many practice management systems, like Time Matters from LexisNexis or LexisNexis Firm Manager include a document management component. These types of systems overcome several of the great disadvantages of a homegrown document management system without drastically changing the way you work with documents. A practice management based system adds one concept that to document management that makes a big difference document profiling. Advantages of Document Profiling Document profiling is when a document is assigned a set of searchable criteria such as client name, matter name, document type, date, author, etc. In a sense, you are already doing document profiling with a homegrown document management system. However, a practice management system adds a database component which makes searching, sorting and finding documents much easier. Document profiling allows a practice management system to display a document in a fashion similar to other case related information. For example, Time Matters displays documents for each matter on that matter s Documents tab. Documents can also be viewed via the Contact record for the client, the Documents List or in several other places based on the way the profile is completed. Most practice management based systems will ask you to complete a document form when saving a document. A sample document form from Time Matters is shown on the next page. Note how the critical information used to create a document profile is contained on the form. This allows you to enter the information quickly and easily.

4 Figure 1 Once profiled, a document is easily retrievable using any of its profile information. You can find it by looking at the client, the matter, or the document type. Figure 2 Text Searching A second valuable component that practice management adds to is more effective text searching. Most practice management systems include a text indexing feature that will read your documents and allow you to perform a fast text search.

5 Setting Up a Document Index Figure 3 Time Matters Document Search Screen Figure 4

6 Management Practice management based systems provide another benefit over homegrown document management systems. Most have some form of management, which usually consists of the ability to copy an to the system with a profile similar to a document. Some practice management systems even allow you to from within the system. The form from Time Matters is similar to the document form. Once again, it contains the information necessary to locate the later using its profile. Figure 5 In the long run, saving your within a practice management system is a mixed bag. On the one hand, at least you have some place to save your . It is organized, easy to locate, and simple to use. On the other hand, most practice management systems save the directly to the database rather than in its native format. An Outlook message, for example, has a file format of.msg. Most practice management systems will simply save the to the database rather than the.msg format. This means it can be difficult to move those s out of the database later. You should keep this in mind if you have any intention of moving to a dedicated document management solution in the future. Overall, the benefits of a practice management based system are substantial. Most importantly, a practice management system does many other things. Because it helps you organize the rest of your practice you will see an overall efficiency boost. The fact that it also helps you organize your documents, at no additional cost, is a wonderful bonus. Practice Management Based Document Management Tips Here are some tips to make the most of a practice management based system: 1. Auto-Naming. Make sure you take advantage of whatever auto-naming features your practice management provides. Most systems offer the ability to automatically create and name directories and insert information into the document name. If at all possible, use a directory name that does not automatically derive from the name of the matter. Sometimes, the name of a matter changes over time and you don t want documents for the same matter being saved to multiple places. Designate a directory name separately to avoid this problem. 2. Enforce Rules. Most practice management systems cannot force someone to use the system. You can only do this by creating rules for people to follow. 3. Take Advantage of Program Features. Your practice management system will likely have tools intended for other features that can be used in document management. For example, Time Matters has a feature called Quick Tabs. Quick Tabs can be created on the Document List that allow you to automatically run a search and sort of the list. You can create multiple Quick Tabs for different searches. 4. Work with a Consultant. There are experts who can help with practice management systems. This will add to the cost of implementation but can save you a lot of frustration. When it comes to the document management aspect of your system, you want to make sure it is done right the first time.

7 Dedicated Document Management Solutions A dedicated document management solution is one that is created for the specific purpose of saving, organizing, searching, and retrieving documents. There are a number of such systems popular within the legal market. Worldox is a very popular system and will be used as our example. One advantage of a dedicated document management solution is the ability to search many aspects of the profile at the same time. In a practice management based system, you can search several pieces of the profile at once. For example, you may be able to search for all correspondence belonging to a certain matter. A dedicated document management allows you to search a profile for any combination of terms. In the example below, a Worldox search screen is displayed. Note how you can search any combination of fields for a document. You should also note that is searchable along with any other document. This is another significant difference from a practice management based system. In a practice management based system, you typically have to look in one place for s and another for documents. In a dedicated document management system, everything is a document. You only have to do one search. Another advantage of a dedicated document management system is that s are stored in their native format. This means they are much more portable. They can be copied to a new system, backed up along with other files and reopened and resent at any time. With a homegrown or practice management based document system it is impossible to force someone to use the system. You can put rules in place but you have to assume and hope that people are following those rules. Most dedicated document management systems are closed systems. This means you can require people to use the system. For example, you can set the system up in such a way that clicking Save in Microsoft Word will display a document profile screen. The user cannot save a document in any other way. Finally, a dedicated document management system tends to have better text searching than a homegrown or practice management based system. Indexing of documents is almost always automatic and searching is very fast. When choosing a dedicated document management system, there are several things to consider. Learning Curve. A dedicated document management system is easy to use. However, switching to such a system is often a dramatic change in the way you do things. Make sure your staff understands the reasons for the switch and are adequately trained in how to use the new system. Document Conversion. Have a plan for what to do with your old documents. You do not have to convert every single one of your old documents. However, you should consider converting documents for all of your active files. You should also determine how you will search through any documents that are not converted. Practice Management Integration. Make sure your dedicated document management system integrates with your practice management system. If it does not, you have taken a step backwards. At a minimum, you should be able to: o Create a client and matter within your document management system by entering that information in your practice management system. o View or search your document management system from your practice management system. Cost. A dedicated document management system costs money. This cost would be in addition to any practice management system you might have but it is worth every penny if it solves your document problem. Figure 6

8 About the Author Jeffrey S. Krause is a Wisconsin attorney and is the owner and founder of Krause Practice Management, LLC. Krause Practice Management provides technology advice and service to law firms of all sizes, with a focus on the efficient use of technology in the law office. After beginning his career in private practice, Mr. Krause began assisting other attorneys to better use technology in their law practice. Since 1998, he has assisted hundreds of law firms through custom configurations, training and general support. Mr. Krause is a Certified Independent Consultant (CIC) for the popular Time Matters Business and Practice Management software as well as its companion, Billing Matters. He has worked with Time Matters through its ten versions and has assisted hundreds of law firms during his thirteen years as a CIC. He is also certified or authorized in dozens of other law office applications including Tabs3, PracticeMaster, Worldox, PCLaw and HotDocs. Mr. Krause is a frequent author and speaker on a variety of legal technology topics and is the primary contributor to Jeff Krause s Practice Management Blog. His extensive background includes knowledge of document management, systems, litigation support, time and billing, web marketing and office suite applications. In 2006, he teamed up with Neil Johnson of Practice Development Partners and created the nationally recognized Time Matters Boot Camp training seminar. Time Matters Boot Camps were held in over twenty-five cities nationwide from 2007 to Prior to embarking on his career as a Technology Professional, Mr. Krause was engaged in the private practice of law. His legal background includes Plaintiff s Personal Injury, Insurance Defense, Real Estate, Land Use Planning and Corporate Law. Jeff is a 1996 graduate of the Marquette University Law School. He also holds a B.A. and M.A. in History from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In 2010, Mr. Krause became one of the founding members of Lawtopia, LLC Lawtopia, LLC. Lawtopia is a partnership of ten of the most successful legal technology consultants in the nation. He was elected President of Lawtopia for the year During his tenure as President, Lawtopia was recognized by LexisNexis for Thought Leadership as well as for Top Time Matters Sales. LexisNexis Practice Management Transforming the Business of Law We take the headache out of the business of law. Our innovative Practice Management products, content and services enable you to more effectively serve your clients and manage your business. To learn more, visit: or call us at All information provided in this document is general in nature and is provided for educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice. For legal advice applicable to the facts of your particu- licensed to practice in your state. LexisNexis and the Knowledge Burst logo are registered trademarks of Reed Elsevier Properties Inc., used under license. Juris is a registered trademark of LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. PCLaw is a registered trademark of LexisNexis Practice Management Systems Inc. Other products or services may be trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies LexisNexis. All rights reserved. LPM

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