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Articles and Reviews from Law Office Computing

TechnoFeatures from Technolawyer

The older articles listed below were published  in Law Office Computing. However, LOC ceased  publication in 2006. Newer articles were published as "TechnoFeatures" in the TechnoLawyer Listserve, a free e-mail community in which legal professionals share information about business and technology issues, products, and services, often developing valuable business relationships in the process. To join The TechnoLawyer Community, visit the following Web site: www.technolawyer.com.

TechnoFeatures

Worldox for the iPad. November 2, 2010.
     Soon to be released Worldox for the iPad. Requires Worldox Web/Mobile

compareDocs 3.1. February 10, 2009.
     Companion product to pdfDocs. Offers "Apples to Oranges" comparison,
      including of Excel spreadsheets.

Abbyy FineReader 9.0. April 29, 2008.
     Arguably the best OCR program on the market.

pdfDocs Desktop 2.1. February 5, 2008.
     pdfDocs (and its companion products form docsCorp) offer an alternative
     to Adobe Acrobat with increased functionality and integration into
     document management systems.

 

Law Office Computing Articles
To consult the LOC web site, go to www.lawofficecomputing.com.

Edit.com, Law Office Computing, February-March 2006.
      Drop-dead simply tool for basic editing of the text of simple web sites.
      Great for small firms and solos.
       
WordPerfect Mail,
Law Office Computing, December-January 2006.
      Good choice for WP in small offices if you don't need to link with
      other programs or with Palm Pilots or similar devices.

PaperWise Enterprise, Law Office Computing, August-September 2005.
       Focuses on managing large volumes of scanned images. Not a good
       fit for word-processing oriented systems.

IntelliPDF Bates Stamp Pro, Law Office Computing, June-July 2005.
       Superb tool for high volume bates stamping. Extremely flexible.

Document Locator 3.0, Law Office Computing,  April-May 2005.
       Document management program focused on manufacturing, scanning
       and email. May not be a good fit for most law firms.

Technolawyer Archive, Law Office Computing, August-September
       2004. Extensive Archives of one of the largest and most established
       technical listserves for the legal community.

iScrub Metadata Management Software, Law Office Computing, June-July
       2004. Eliminates Metadata from Microsoft. Very well-designed program.

ScanSoft PDF Converter, Law Office Computing, Feb-Mar 2004. Easy to use
       program converts Word files to PDF. "Worth getting a couple of copies."

RTG Bills, Law Office Computing, Dec-Jan, 2004. Simple time & billing program.
       Best for solos or people with simple needs.

Out-of-Sight, Law Office Computing, Oct-Nov, 2003. Metadata removal
       utility for Microsoft products. Includes Network setup routines.


asked and answered (Why aren't more firms using case management?)
Law Office Computing, Dec-Jan 2003

Rolodexing with Ease, Law Office Computing, Feb-Mar, 2002

     (Review of ContactEase/Metz Phones v. 9.03c)

An Advocate for Too Much Simplicity, Law Office Computing, Feb-Mar, 2002

      (Review of Advocate 2002)

Microsoft: Convenience vs. Security, Law Office Computing, Dec-Jan 2002

E-Mail: the Killer App of Case Management Software, Law Office Computing, Aug-Sept 2001

How to Choose a Case Management Program, Law Office Computing, Dec-Jan 2001

Security Risks at Law Firms, Law Office Computing, Oct-Nov, 2000

For Document Management, Law Office Computing, Apr-May, 2000

Case Management: the Swiss Army Knife Approach, Law Office Computing, Feb-Mar 1999

 

 

 

 

Rolodexing with Ease

   ContactEase (formerly Metz Phones) started out as a simple rolodex program and has gradually evolved into a networkable, SQL-based contact and relationship manager.

   I have been using the program for a number of years and its ease of use and feature set have always put it ahead of the pack.

   For an end-user, the ease of use is exceptional. To find a record, simply type the first few letters or the person or company (searches can be configured to find both).

   To sort the list display, just click on the column heading (the column setup is customizable by the user). Clicking on the tabs across the record display shows additional phone numbers and custom fields. Some custom fields are indexed and can be sorted on the list display.

   One of the best features is "Hotkey Paste." From any windows program, hit "Ctrl-Alt-P" to paste a selected layout (any number of custom layouts can be created) into the program. This can be used for addresses, labels, phone lists, e-mail addresses or name tags.

   One of the most powerful features of ContactEase is its "categories." You can assign one or more categories to a given record and then generate lists by categories. This is an ideal way to keep holiday lists, newsletters or other categories such as vendors or consultants up-to-date.

   ContactEase also offers extensive customization: you can choose what fields to put on the list display as well as on the record display; you can have an unlimited number of custom fields which can be either free-form or part of a drop-down pick list. For law firms, it also offers client/matter field listings that can be assigned to a contact.

   Label and envelope printing are built-in, with all the Avery labels pre-defined. If your printer does not print a given label size correctly, you can adjust it with the label editor. ContactEase also features a number of custom reports, including for Daytimer, "Day Runner" and "Franklin "planners, and it's relatively easy to define your own additional custom reports or labels.

Third-Party Integration

   ContactEase not only links with a Palm handheld and a Handspring Visor, but you can manipulate and re-assign existing Palm categories from within ContactEase. For example, you can select a number of contacts and batch assign them to your Palm categories. As far as I am aware ContactEase is the only program to offer this functionality.

   ContactEase integrates with any 32-bit Messaging Application Programming Interface (MAPI) enabled program, including Outlook, GroupWise and various fax programs, such as RightFax, Cheyenne’s FaxServe, or WinFax. It appears as an additional address book in those programs. If you are using older, 16-bit programs, you will need to upgrade.

Custom Relationship Management

   The "Customer Relationship Management" functions allow the user to track a variety of activities (meetings, calls, notes), and includes a pop-up "Tickler," or alarm, feature to notify you of To-Do’s, call-back notifications or meetings. It also includes a "Relations" function. On the principle that no one is ever more than one or two people away from somebody you know, this lets you follow the trail of a friend who has a client who has a close relation with an important potential client.

   ContactEase’s network security (an additional charge in the Access version) allows you to grant access to additional users on a field-by-field basis. For example, since the program has two "Notes" fields, you could have one for general notes and the other for private notes to which you (or whomever the administrator is) can prohibit others from accessing. In addition, you can select which individuals or groups are able to see which records within the context of which fields are available.

   What are the downsides? The program is fairly expensive and some firms might find the expense hard to justify. This problem is compounded for a firm that is already using some form of case management program with its own built-in rolodex feature that isn't MAPI-compliant. Implementing ContactEase along side such a program would create a double entry issue. This would not be a problem with Outlook, but could be one for firms using Amicus or TimeMatters.

   Every time I discover a new information manager (PIM)/rolodex program, I check it against ContactEase. So far, I have found nothing that better suits the needs of a small- to mid-size law firm.

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An Advocate for Too Much Simplicity (Advocate 2002)

Advocate 2002 is an entry-level case management system heavily oriented toward small personal injury and litigation firms. Its interface is modeled on a combination of Microsoft Outlook, and Internet Explorer.

On the left of the main screen there are Outlook-style buttons, while on the right you can open a "Case List" that resembles the help feature in Microsoft Word XP. The main functionality for each case is listed in browser-style buttons across the top. There is a Web address entry area located in the same place as on your typical browser and a large number of Web sites listed at the right of the screen.

The program includes modules for parties, details of the case, documents, discovery, depositions, research, witnesses, exhibits, meds cataloging, docket management, call log, jury selection, billing, To Dos & mail.

For example, you can track jury selection, descriptions of prospective jurors, objections to each and more using the jury selection tool. The meds cataloging module contains the information a firm needs for tracking medical bills (though it doesn’t allow you to do a total of all medical bills).

A simple "New Case Wizard" walks you through the basics of setting up a new case, which can be based either on a standard template or a previous case. The billing setup is particularly clear and easy to understand, although you can't link billing entries to time, billing or accounting programs such as TimeSlips, PCLaw or QuickBooks. Types of law can be customized on the fly, and there are up to 20 custom fields available for each type of law.

The program is set so that you can use either the Outlook calendar and Rolodex or one native to Advocate 2002.

For users that already have a lot of time invested in Outlook, this can be extremely convenient because there is no learning curve.

For a single case, Advocate 2002 provides a considerable amount of functionality at a very reasonable price ($239). The program has network support built in. However, the program’s structure may cause problems when working with larger numbers of cases. There is no central database for the program because each case is contained in its own database. While this isn't a problem for just a few cases, even a small firm could easily have several hundred cases and just listing them would become unmanageable. You also cannot perform searches within a given case or across cases. However, Advocate 2002 does have an "All Contacts Database" which stores contacts from all cases.

More importantly, even within the program many of the links between its various pieces are incomplete or not fully thought out. For example, when you are configuring a case and entering parties, witnesses, or opposing counsel, there is no easy way to utilize existing information from a central Rolodex file. You can transfer information from a case to the central file, and if you start from the central file you can transfer information to a case, but there is no lookup button that would let you start from a case and pull information from a central file. Although both modules can be open at the same time, this is still quite inconvenient.

A similar lack of integration is apparent in other areas as well. For example, it is possible to create a list of relevant Statute of Limitations for your particular jurisdictions. However, it's not possible to attach these to any calendar entry or create any kind of "tickler" to let you know when the SOL expires for a given case. While you can define a "Cause of Action" for a given case, this list is not related to Practice Areas. Thus you will always have irrelevant information when it comes to opening a case.

In addition, the contact information is limited: you can have only two addresses, four phone numbers and one email address for a given contact. In this day and age of massive cellular communication, this is woefully inadequate.

Conclusion

It would be a mistake to view Advocate 2002 as a competitor of major case management programs such as Amicus or TimeMatters. Rather, its design targets an audience that wants much more basic functionality as an adjunct to Outlook.

It's a program with some potential, and can evolve quickly in response to users’ needs. At present, however, it would be much too easy to outgrow the program as your needs become more complex over time.

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Microsoft Exposed: Convenience Over Security

    John Dvorak recently got it right when he referred to Microsoft's relation to security as the company's "core incompetency." The question is: Why?

    It has always struck me as extremely strange that Microsoft's approach to networking stems from the perspective of an individual user on a standalone PC rather than networked users. I don't know why this is the case, but the evidence seems irrefutable.

    Until recently, Word didn't come equipped with a network install routine, Outlook assumed that users would always use the same PC and that they would be the only user of that PC (hence the recommendation that users store their e-mail on the local PC rather than the network) and so forth. The end-user perspective focuses more on convenience than security.

    In addition to focusing on the user, Microsoft also seems relentless in its concern for making communication easier. Thus, the same "features" (Visual Basic Scripts, ActiveX controls) that provide seamless access are the very vulnerabilities that virus writers target to maximize the spread of their creations.

    I recently had a debate with someone representing Microsoft's viewpoint who asserted it was more important for users to enable the automatic launching of the Windows Updates than to protect against viruses and worms.

    A number of computer experts have proven through the development of utilities that Microsoft could plug security holes while still providing ease of use. However, rather than go this route, Microsoft has taken an all or nothing approach to security in Windows XP.

    The bottom line concerning security on Microsoft Windows platforms is that although Microsoft has the ability and certainly the money to develop bullet-proof security, it doesn't consider it important enough to pursue. This posture perhaps helps explain why the Gartner Group recently recommended users abandon Microsoft's IIS for security reasons.

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E-Mail: the Killer Apps of Case Management Software

Law Office Computing, Aug-Sept. 2001

    The basic goal of case management software is to capture the desktop; that is, to have lawyers use the case management program to access all other programs --  word processing, e-mail, etc. -- through the case management program.  Until recently case management programs could not live up to this goal because they lacked integration with other programs.

    For example, saving email messages entailed a two-step process: You had to save a given e-mail message as a document, and then associate that document with a file in the case management program. (Worldox, a document management program, features a "drop zone" that resolves the lack of e-mail integration to some extent by allowing you to drag & drop an e-mail message or attachment to save it in the document management database.)

    For several years, case management programs have made it possible to launch e-mail programs. And then came Time Matters 3.0, which came not only with a built-in e-mail client, but with Outlook integration as well. Time Matters 4.0 improves on Time Matters 3.0 which is a good thing because Time Matters is no longer the only e-mail game in town.

    Amicus Attorney V integrates with both GroupWise and Outlook, and the Client/Server Version features full integration with Outlook. (Note that both Amicus Attorney and Time Matters require full or extended Message Application Programming Interface (MAPI). E-mail programs that use simple MAPI, such as Outlook Express, will not integrate fully). Both Amicus Attorney and Time Matters includes the ability to automatically save new e-mails to a given file if the e-mail address exist for the client on a file.

    There are two main advantages to this integration. First, it makes it much easier to save e-mail messages to a file. Secondly, and more importantly, it adds significantly to the "all your information in one place" concept of case management. Users can now see all their messages, phone calls, and e-mails together in one place. Once saved to a file, everyone working on the file can view e-mail messages.

    For me the question isn't whether e-mail integration is a necessity, but rather whether this integration will become the killer app that enables case management to move beyond its relatively small implementation percentage (less than a third of law firms use case management programs).

    With e-mail integration, case management programs have become too powerful and offer too many advantages not to expand their installed base. Law firms that use case management software to assemble all their information in one place will gain a competitive advantage over firms that don't use case management software. I believe the writing is on the wall.

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How To Choose Case Management Software

Law Office Computing, Dec-Jan 2001

    Before you can intelligently discuss the merits of case management programs, you need to decide what you want the software to do.

    The answer depends on your particular practice. The needs of a personal injury firm differ dramatically from those of a real estate firm. Thus, you must develop a needs assessment based solely on your firm.

    After performing this assessment, you must prioritize. You probably can find a program that caters to 90 percent of your needs, but customizing it so it does the rest could be difficult and expensive. Suppose you want two features, A and B. One program does A very well and B very poorly or vice versa.

    Once you list and rank your needs, you can begin to evaluate case management programs. some of the functionality you want to consider includes the following (I refer to Amicus Attorney and Time Matters through this column because these two programs have become so pervasive; however you can apply these criteria to almost any other programs as well).

Ease of Use

    How high is ease of use on your list of priorities? Do your users love or hate their computers? Amicus Attorney has a much lower learning curve than Time Matters (with some exceptions, such as group scheduling). Ease of use is an overriding consideration for may law firms -- especially smaller ones, which often choose Amicus Attorney as a low-maintenance program that's usable with minimum training.

Customization

    Do you want to make the program jump through hops, or can you make do with minimum customization? Must the program perform specific tasks for it to work well in your practice? Time Matters can be customized to a much higher degree than Amicus Attorney (but expect to pay extra for a high degree of customization).

Security

    If your firm needs a secure solution -- one that enables it to restrict some users' access to certain areas or features of the program -- look no further than highly customizable programs such as Time Matters. Amicus Attorney doesn't provide multiple levels of security [NB: this was partially resolved in Amicus V. JH]

E-mail Integration

    Amicus Attorney and Time Matters integrate with e-mail, but in very different ways. With Amicus Attorney, you can launch any Messaging Application Programming Interface-based (MAPI-based) e-mail program, but you cannot use Amicus Attorney itself as a client for external e-mail.

    Time Matters features bi-directional synchronization with Microsoft Outlook e-mail and calendaring (as of Service Pack 3) [NB: These differences are not so pronounced in the latest versions of the programs - JH]

Specific Functionality

    You may require specific add-ons to make the product work acceptably. Amicus Attorney integrates with CompuLaw court rules (although the licensing terms are extremely restrictive) and with Lernout & Hauspie's voice recognition software.

    Amicus Attorney also features a telephone add-on module that enables the program to manage all your telephone calls.

    Time Matters accommodates a variety of add-ons from third-party developers. Both programs feature bi-directional links to various programs, such as PCLaw and Timeslips.

Support

    Don't overlook the support available from the various companies. More importantly, find out whether a talented consultant for the program is in your area. In many cases, the best program depends upon the best available consultant in your area.

Scalability

For firms with more than 50 individual users, scalability -- or how well the program adjusts to a particular law firm's needs -- is important. Thanks to its proprietary database structure, Time Matters scales significantly better than Amicus Attorney.

Cost

    The return on investment for any case management program is so spectacular that cost shouldn't really be an issue. You can reasonably expect to recoup your total implementation cost in less than three months of use through savings in time and increased efficiency.

    That said, Time Matters costs less than Amicus Attorney, but the total cost of implementation, including training, is likely to be higher for Time Matters than for Amicus Attorney.

    The above criteria often conflict with one another, which explains why you must prioritize. For a successful implementation, you also need to make sure everyone in your firm is "sold" on the program and has adequate training.

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Security Risks at Law Firms

Law Office Computing, Oct-Nov 2000

    There is an axiom about security -- the more you implement, the more it will inconvenience end users. I am continually amazed at the number of firms who don't require passwords to log into the network at all, or permit Mary Jones to have a login of "mjones" with a password of "mary." A frequent rationale is "it's too much trouble." A firm with this attitude will never implement any kind of serious Internet security.

    Security restrictions are also complicated by the fact that increased restrictions will be countered by increasingly inventive end user evasion. For example, at one large law firm that required employees to change passwords every 90 days, I found a senior member of the IS department with the password of "marypeter37." When asked if that meant his children are named Mary and Peter and that he had to change the password 37 times, he sheepishly grinned.

    Apart from these end runs by end users, the most common security risk at law firms involve disgruntled employees. And law firms involved in high profile deals and cases are at risk for targeted attacks. Generally, protecting against end users is easy and nonobtrusive, whereas protecting against disgruntled employees and targeted attacks is more difficult and likely to result in some inconveniences.

Think Carefully About Restrictions Before Implementation

    Since most lawyers believe in the power of rules, many law firms rely on restrictions to protect against well-meaning employees. The two most common restrictions consist of limiting the size of files that can be transmitted as attachments and restricting access to certain Web sites. Limiting attachment file size may restrict legitimate business use. Restricting the sites that employees can access through the firm's firewall is plagued by two problems. First, people resent this form of "censorship." Many employees feel that unrestricted Internet access is on a par with the ability to use the telephone for personal use. Second, restrictions require a lot of work to administer.

Firewalls & Virus Protection

    Firewalls can range in price from essentially free (such as BlackICE Defender or ZoneAlarm) to tens of thousands of dollars for programs such as Gauntlet, CheckPoint FireWall-1, or MIMESweeper. The more complex the software, the more you will need to invest in consulting time to configure and maintain it properly. If a firewall is not configured properly (including changing all the default accounts, for example), it's essentially worthless.

    Hackers don't only break into systems; they also create viruses. Therefore, virus protection is an important component of Internet security. There are two levels of response to the virus threat. The first is education. Make sure users understand that they must never open an e-mail attachment unless they are expecting it, even if it appears to come from someone they know. The second level of virus protection consists of configuring and keeping your anti-virus software up to date.

E-mail Protection

    Despite ABA Formal Opinion No. 99-413, which states that unencrypted e-mail has an acceptable "expectation of privacy," many firms aren't satisfied with the ABA rationale. The recent revelation that the FBI has developed software (appropriately named "Carnivore") that will allow it to scan millions of e-mail messages in a manner of minutes reminds us that what the bureau can do today, anybody can do tomorrow.

    At present, three solutions for e-mail and document transmission privacy exist: encryption, virtual private networks and biometric authentication. Nowhere is the axiom that increased security means increased inconvenience truer than with encryption. Using PGP ("Pretty Good Privacy") or similar programs to encrypt e-mail requires an extra step on each end.

    Virtual private networks (VPN) enable people to send and receive e-mail and attachments without any extra steps, but both the sender and recipient must subscribe to the same VPN service. This solution may become more widespread, but at present tends to exist only at larger firms.

    The future of Internet security undoubtedly lies with biometric authentication, such as fingerprint readers attached to computer keyboards. While they require substantial setup (the digital signature for a given fingerprint must be created and stored somewhere), biometric solutions have the advantage of being virtually foolproof and extremely easy to use. Just put your index finger on the reader, and you can log into the computer, no need to type in any other password.

    Internet security is analogous to computer backup -- everybody knows they need it, but many lawyers just don't bother. Not surprisingly, lawyers who have had data destroyed by disk crashes suddenly become very concerned with the quality of their backups. The same is true for Internet security. You must decide what level of security your firm's practice requires and its culture will accept.

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For Document Management

Medium and large law firms have long used document management systems to organize, index and control their documents. For a firm with 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 and judicious use of their word processor’s document summary feature 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.

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. A "document" in this sense is anything that has a Windows association for document extension: not just word processing, but images (*.tif files), PowerPoint-type presentations, even database files, although not all systems will manage all types of files.

When a user starts to retrieve a document, a "work list" of the last 20 or so documents he or she has worked on, including the long document description, appears first. If the desired 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.

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 winds up retyping it!

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 those responsible for 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 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 boolean search of the type "find all documents created in the last six months by Jones that are briefs and contain the word "accident" within ten words of "damages". " 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. While some searching can be done either with Windows or functionality provided by WordPerfect, those searches are much slower and not nearly as robust as the capabilities provided by document management systems.

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 adapts repeatedly. 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.

Web Access. All the major players in the document management field have released Web Access modules. These typically allow a user to access the list of documents, and search and retrieve documents. However, since the Web cannot currently reproduce legal document formats, the user must download or "check out" the document to work on it. While this is potentially a very powerful addition, there are still major security issues.

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." However, GroupWise 5.5 has restored most, if not all, of the SoftSolutions functionality that had been stripped from the original release. GroupWise document management does, however, suffer a potentially fatal structural problem in that if ever the GroupWise database was totally destroyed, a firm would lose all its documents. While the risk of this happening is very very small, it is still unacceptable to many firms.

In the last several years, a number of new players have emerged, notably iManage and Worldox. Worldox offers considerable flexibility, which can be attractive to firms that are not certain 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. Worldox has a number of installations in the 200-400 user range, as well as smaller firms.

Document Management and Case Management

Document management programs are typically qualitatively much more robust than the functionality offered by case management programs such as Time Matters or Amicus Attorney. Such programs typically do not offer full text indexing or boolean searches and you have to manually choose where to put the document. The best approach to the case management/ document management issue, therefore, is to find a document management program that integrates with the case management program you are using. Worldox can be integrated with Amicus Attorney and Time Matters is working on Worldox integration as well.

Document Management and the PaperLESS Office

To the extent that "document management" programs can access any type of file (and not just programs that are ODMA compliant) they can be an integral part of what Ross Kodner’s term for an office that has less paper than it had heretofore: a paperLESS office.

Aside from the not inconsequential issues of cost and training (imaging ALL incoming files), and the question of ingrained habits, there are two objective barriers to the paperLESS office: computer screens and mobility. The standard resolution of a printed document today is 600 dpi (dots per inch) or 300 dpi on older printers. The typical resolution of a computer monitor is 75-100 dpi, or what was available on dot matrix printers around 1985. The fact is that computer screens are harder on the eyes than a piece of paper. Until this changes, you will get less eyestrain from reading paper than a computer screen (a consideration that becomes more important the later at night it gets).

The second barrier is the issue of mobility, which can be summed up by pointing out that you can’t read a document on your computer while in the bathroom. Perhaps when there is a palmpilot-size device with adequate screen resolution into which you can download a document, but not until then.

Return On Investment

Although Return On Investment estimates are not always very convincing, with document management the case for it is fairly spectacular. If an attorney billing $200 an hour saves 10 minutes a day with a document management system (a conservative estimate), based on a mythical 5-day work week (250 days a year), the attorney saves something on the order of $8,000 per year. Compared to this the typical implementation cost for a program such as Worldox is not likely to be more than $1,000 per user.

Conclusion

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.

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Swiss Army Knife Approach to Case Management

Law Office Computing, Feb-Mar, 1999

 

    I agree with the Swiss Army Knife analogy for case management. What you really want is a knife module that you can plug tools of your choice into. What you cannot pick are the rolodex and calendar modules. These are pretty good, but by no means the best available. However, it does let you use as much or as little as you want.

    I have clients who depend heavily on the document assembly routines; others that don't use them at all. This is going to be the case with any case management system: the investment in the up-front setup is going to pay dividends in time saving if you do it to automate processes that are truly repetitive.

    Unfortunately, to get something that really lets you plug in just about any module you want, you are looking at really large-scale apps which often start at $1,500 a seat plus customization. There are also problems in transferring billing rates to case management programs like Amicus, since many time and billing programs have more rates than Amicus. I understand this is being "worked on" (which is sometimes a synonym for don't hold your breath).

    As for as the Corel Legal Edition is concerned, there seem to be a number of misapprehensions floating about. Obviously, the other products included are stripped-down versions to get you to buy the full version. Why else would any self-respecting capitalist enterprise go in on such a deal? However, in the case of Amicus, it is only marginally more to get the Legal Suite, then upgrade than to buy Amicus alone. WordPerfect Legal Suite ($200) plus the upgrade version of Amicus ($149) is only $50 more than the cost of Amicus alone ($299). So that path is a really good deal if you want both products. So if a firm wants to go with Amicus and WordPerfect, it will save a fair amount of money by upgrading from the Legal Suite. If they just want to "try it out," they haven't lost anything.

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