Medium and large law firms have long used document management
systems to organize, index and control their documents. For a firm with tens or hundreds
of thousands of documents, document management is an absolute necessity.
Many smaller firms, however, do not see the need. They feel that
with a well-thought out directory structure, judicious use of their word processor's
document summary feature, the document indexing feature of WordPerfect 6.1, and, more
recently, version control, they can have adequate document management for their needs.
They argue that any added functionality offered by document management programs is not
worth the expense of additional hardware and software, training, and administration. This
article details some of the advantages a document management system offers even a smaller
How Document Management Works
In a document management system, each document is assigned a Profile
sheet which typically contains a long title for the document, author, client/matter
information, document type (brief, contract, memo, etc.) and perhaps other items. Both
this Profile and the full text of the document are indexed for rapid retrieval. A file
name is assigned by the document management system, which decides where to store the
document based on criteria set up by the firm (author, document type, client/matter
number). This process is transparent to the end-user.
When a user starts to retrieve a document, a list of the last 20 or
so documents he or she has worked on, including the long document description, appears
first. If document is not on this list, the user enters search criteria on the profile
screen and is presented with a list of "hits." Fairly complex boolean searches
are generally possible, including on the full text index of the entire document store.
Depending on the program, additional features can provide advanced
security options, better reporting on document use, version control, an audit trail
showing who has accessed the document, and so on.
The Case for Document Management
What does such a system give a firm that a manual system does not?
Greater Speed of Document Retrieval. In a manual system, the
user must know where an existing document has been stored and what its name is. While most
users are fairly efficient at finding their own documents, searching for a document
created by someone else can take a significant amount of time, which in any event is bound
to be greater than the 5 seconds or so it takes a document management system to find a
document. In many cases, a user spends 5 minutes or more searching for a document, or even
Avoidance of Human Error. The amount of time lost in a manual
system due to human error is substantial. A user may have stored a document in the wrong
place by accident or forgotten what the document was named. When someone other than the
original author tries to access a document, difficulties are compounded. A user may have
to look in four or five places before finding a document, or even be unable to find it at
all. If the original author of the document is out of the office due to vacation, illness,
etc. this can be a serious problem. When people change jobs, this problem is aggravated.
Control over Document Access. Document management typically
gives a firm much better control over document security and access. Confidential documents
can be made available only to the people who need to see them, whether it be accounting,
human resources, trusts and estates or other highly confidential client matters.
By defining what groups of people have access to which kinds of
documents, document management systems avoid the problems inherent in passwording
documents, which range from forgetting passwords to posting them on yellow stickies on the
computer monitor. Security provisions frequently include an audit trail showing who last
accessed a document, who made changes, checked it out, etc.
Full Profile and Text Indexing. The fact that the Profiles
and the full text of all documents are indexed has other advantages besides increased
efficiency in retrieving documents. For example, you can define a search that lets you see
at a glance all documents of a particular type that relate to a specific client. Full text
indexing can also be of assistance in conflict checking, for example by searching on all
documents that refer to a particular business or person. Finally, in some programs, such
as WorlDox, when you do a full text search and then "View" the documents in the
hit list, the document is opened at the specific text you searched for.
Other Features. Many document management systems make it easy
to set up a boilerplate library, where a firm can store forms or basic documents that it
uses and customizes over and over. The problem with doing this in a manual system is that
someone inevitably edits a boilerplate document that was supposed to be copied first, and
the "boilerplate" has to be re-created.
Who Are the Players?
The traditional leaders in legal document management were
SoftSolutions and PCDocs. Then Novell replaced SoftSolutions with GroupWise document
management, which was explicitly conceived for a "mass market." Novell
representatives quite frankly stated that they really didn't care whether GroupWise
document management met basic law firm needs. More recently, Novell has reconsidered its
stance, and GroupWise 5.5 (available in 1998) is slated to restore most, if not all, of
the SoftSolutions functionality that had been stripped from the original release.
In the last several years, a number of new players have emerged,
including iManage and WorlDox. WorlDox offers considerable flexibility, which can be
attractive to firms that are not convinced they want to totally commit to document
management. In addition, WorlDox does not require the overhead (additional server and SQL
databases) of either PCDocs or iManage, and is particularly suited to medium and smaller
law firms. Document management programs have been porting their interfaces to an Internet
format as fast as they can, although most implementations are still works in progress.
In short, a document management system will pay for itself fairly
rapidly just by reducing the amount of time spent in retrieving documents. In addition,
such a system offers significant additional functionality when compared to a simple
directory structure that is accessed manually. This functionality includes better security
provisions, audit trails showing who has modified or used documents, and increased ease of
creating and using boilerplate documents. Finally, a well-conceived implementation of a
program such as WorlDox can be maintained with a minimum of administrative time.
This newsletter is produced entirely using both WordPerfect 7 and 8.
A boilerplate form contains the masthead, standard boxes, basic format, styles, etc. The
newsletter is printed on an HP 5P printer. Headlines are set in Futura and the main text
is Adobe Caslon. The first page is printed in one pass, then page two is printed as a
merge file with the newsletter mailing list, which is kept up to date using METZ Phones.
For each issue, the mailing list is exported to a merge file and then merged and printed.
Tips & Tricks
- Short on disk space? You can delete all the *.avi files (7Mb)
from the Windows\help directory. These are little "help" videos that almost no
one ever uses.
- Want to change how information on the Applications Bar is
displayed in WP8? Hold down the Alt key and double-click on the item. It will change from
Icon to Text or vice-versa.
- Print a list of all keystroke shortcuts from the WP Help file
under Help | keystroke | About...keystrokes.
/ Dragon Systems
Voice recognition is all the rage, especially with the release of
the new continuous speech programs from IBM and Dragon Systems. Corel and Dragon recently
announced that Dragon's "Naturally Speaking" will be incorporated into future
versions of WordPerfect, beginning with the Legal Edition of the WordPerfect Suite 8,
which should be released in the May/June time frame. The Legal Suite is aimed at small and
medium size firms and also incorporates versions of CompareRite, FullAuthority, Amicus
Attorney, Black's Law Dictionary, and very useful add-ins from Nexal.