It may not be sexy, or even much thought about and appreciated, but document management systems (DMS) are one of the central vertebra in the corporate backbone. Like an old friend, document management has been used to track and file electronic documents throughout much of the enterprise for decades. Despite this longstanding familiarity with DM, however, experts say that legal departments have lagged in adopting DM tools, and are still searching for the most effective ways to use them.
Part of the problem is that many legal departments have never had the option of choosing their own DM solution. Companies frequently impose the enterprisewide DMS, or a specific vendor, upon the legal team, which can be problematic because lawyers’ needs typically differ from those of other departments. In those cases, counsel simply have to make do with what they’re given. But when given a choice, a host of new, legal-specific DM technologies are currently available.
In response to this need, DM solutions now have the ability to deal with large volumes of documents with the addition of assisted or automatic filing capabilities. A DMS can now learn where a user files a certain email or document, and the next time a similar item arises, the DMS automatically asks the user if he wants to file it in the same folder. This ability can be a boon, especially in large legal departments that generate a great deal of information because filing these documents is likely not high on the attorneys’ priority lists.
Observers note that corporate legal DM users tend to be more sensitive about security these days, especially due to the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Because of this, DM users are more vigilant about controlling who can view or download documents, as well as encrypting documents when they’re stored or passed to others.
Another trend Araujo sees are customers saying they’re taking more of a platform approach to document management—finding one system to solve multiple problems rather than trying to stitch together multiple disparate systems to achieve the same goal.