What is it?
A document management system (DMS) is a system used to track and store electronic documents.
In the Legal world, DMS are organized around the concept of a Matter, a case or a team:
All documents related to a specific Legal team, practice area, case or matter are stored in the same location so that various people who need to have access to these documents can view, open, save these documents.
Why is it important?
A good document management system can help organize all of your files and data in one place, keep track of all of your critical documents, speed up your workflow, improve accuracy and provide around the clock access to documents from any part of the world.
What to look for in a Document Management System?
In no particular order, these are core features that UpLevel looks for when assessing a Document Management System:
1. Access and Sharing
Most significantly, DMS are installed on a central server that the appropriate people in the legal department will have access to. Documents are not stored on individual “C-Drives” or even a network “shared drive” but on a dedicated server. This is the foundation that allows DMS to deliver the remaining features described below.
A key feature of any DMS is the ability to easily retrieve documents. The smarter the search, the better.
A user doesn’t just “open” a document, they need to “check it out”. This ensures that only one user works on the document at any point, avoiding conflicting versions. When saving the documents back in the DMS, users “check in” the document, making it available again for the other users.
4. Version control:
Most DMS automatically take care of adding a version number to the document and if appropriate incrementing the version number. This avoids accidental overwriting on versions and provides better document history audit functionality.
5. Document assembly:
Most DMS also provide the ability to easily create documents such as NDA, Letter of Understanding or more complex document (contract) based on the information maintained in the DMS or provided by the user.
Subcategories of Document Management
Document Management & Collaboration
Collaboration tools is a catchall term used for different types of software and online services that allow people to work together on common projects, regardless of their physical location. It can be something as simple as email and as complex as sophisticated project management software.
Document Generation & Automation
Document assembly (or document automation) software allows you to automate the creation of documents by generating them from intelligent templates. This technology makes it possible to draft even the most complex documents in a fraction of the time it would take using other methods. It can also help prevent drafting errors.
Document assembly software provides a rich functionality far beyond that native to word processing programs. While generating a document, the user is prompted for information and choices needed to assemble the final product. In addition to “filling in the blanks”, document assembly programs support conditional branching, including or excluding language based on user choices. Templates can contain sophisticated logic and mathematical computations, the results of which can be reflected in the finished document.
Document Management for G-Suite
There are specific vendors that offer Document Management Solutions for companies using G-Suite. G-Suite can create issues of ownership because it is user-focused as opposed to company which typically has a broader focus. Issues arise particularly with G-Suite being used for document management when employees switch teams or leave the company.