Document Management Systems in Law

A Document Management System (DMS) is a computer software package that records, tracks and stores electronic documents. The type and size of the system for each law firm can vary, but employees are always individually trained, based on the type of document management system that they are using. Then they can use the law firm’s in-house system with the knowledge that is required in handling such sensitive information that is dealt with in this type of profession.

Law firms deal with a lot of documents: from witness statements and depositions through to the final case settlements. Also, the type of law firm you work for will mean that different types of documents will be handled. You could be dealing with family law or handling cases involving domestic violence or perhaps child care issues. As another branch of law, it may be a criminal law firm that employs you, either on the defending or the prosecution side. In whatever type of law firm that you work, all documents are of a sensitive nature. Their confidentially must be upheld at all times, in and out of the workplace.

The documents that are held in a law firm are considered to be a ‘chain of evidence’ – not only a ‘paper trail’ to help close a case, but perhaps information to imprison a criminal or to award a couple the chance to adopt. All these documents are also confirmation of the hours that have been involved in completing the work and resolve whichever type of case that is being represented. These hours are then billed to the client in each instance, proving that each lawyer and any students or assistants have committed to resolving the case for their clients. Obviously, this enables the firm to make profits and employ further staff to train. So all documents need to be handled with care and with the utmost confidentiality.

All law firms need to handle a certain amount of paper documents. However, storage issues can be resolved by using a document management system. Then, case file documents can be recorded on the company hard drive rather than in the numerous filing cabinets that would be required if you had all documents in paper form.

With this in mind, document management systems can prove to be the perfect solution. The software can record details in scans, emails, faxes and even photographs. From the instant that the information is recorded on the document management system, a track is initiated. From this, the document can be traced to the exact department where it is held.

Document management systems also have a history-trace facility. This is a detailed list of each employee of the firm that has viewed the document in question. Also recorded are the date and the time that the information was accessed.

When working on each individual case, lawyers and their assistants may need to amend a particular document. With a document management system you can do this easily, whether it be to add some further information or to issue a case as now being closed. Each amendment is recorded so that all staff can view it at any time.

This is a powerful and useful tool for all employees to be kept fully informed of the progress of any case. The size of the law firm will be indicated by the amount of cases that they are dealing with at any given time. However, everyone employed at the firm needs to have all the current information available to them, ensuring that each client has the professional care to which they are entitled.