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Document management systems — paper vs. digital 8 min read
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You probably won’t find many businesses today organizing files and important information solely by hard-copy filing. Even the least tech-savvy companies store emails or schedule calendars online. However, if you find that your firm leans more toward the paper side of document management, odds are it’s costing you valuable time and money.

Proper management of legal records improves your law practices’ efficiency, productivity, and legal compliance. In this article, we’ll delve more into what document management software is, why law firms need it, and how to choose one for your business. We’ll also link out to some helpful templates and an app in our apps marketplace you can use to manage legal workflow on

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What is document management software?

Online document management is essentially a robust electronic version of the office filing cabinet. Managed documents are categorized by case number, client surname, or subject matter, in the same manner as with your old paper filing system. However, unlike the old metal filing drawers, these specialized software programs are designed to allow more than just a central location to store important files and information.

In addition to standard organization, files are assigned document tags and metadata filters that correspond with a built-in, fully searchable, database index. The powerful combination of these tools allows users to navigate even the most expansive document libraries with ease. Sensitive files are protected by assigning user authentication and encryption.

Advanced document management platforms include features that aid in administering numerous aspects of your business — not just document-related tasks. These more robust systems may include the following capabilities:

  • Document versioning
  • Audit trails to track user access
  • Document collaboration
  • Secure file sharing with external users
  • Optical character recognition format conversion
  • Corporate email management and system integration
  • Image capturing
  • eBilling

Why do law firms need document management software?

While the advantages of secure document storage and sharing are useful to any business, legal document management software caters to the specific functionality needed by legal professionals. To choose the most appropriate software, you must first understand how these specialized applications provide necessary organization and why it’s critical to the successful operation of your legal practice.

Choosing the right document management software allows legal professionals to spend more time working on the case behind legal files than maintaining the paper.

The right document or case management software helps improve productivity and strengthen client relationships. With all of your firm’s documents housed on a single platform, important documents are readily available to ensure a timely response from legal teams to any pressing legal matter. Documents and case details are consistent with real-time edits, so staff team members can work faster and more effectively.

Built-in secure client portals allow users to view and edit legal forms while preventing unauthorized access and improving the security and confidentiality of your documents. In the wake of the Formal Opinion 477 of the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, which concluded that sensitive client information can no longer be shared via unencrypted email, it’s important to remember to look for document management software for law firms that includes the ability to confidentially store client-related matter and share associated documents using secure online portals.

With so many document management software solutions on the market, it’s important to find software that pertains to your firm’s matter and workflow. These matters usually pertain to the type of law or issues you specialize in.

Choosing the best document management software for your law firm

Legal document management solutions should include the following key components:

  • Matter-centric software: Using a matter-centric filing system creates centralized, searchable electronic documents. All client information — such as documents, email, and time and billing details — are linked by common metadata. Storing all related documents in one location mitigates the risk associated with decentralized matter information.
  • Email linking: Law firms rely on legal emails to interact with their colleagues and clients making integration with your current email platform a necessary feature of any document management solution you consider.
  • Integration with business platforms: To reduce the potential for clerical errors, your document management system should easily integrate with business applications. Additionally, regulated industries (e.g., law, healthcare, finance) require application integration to reduce the risk of security or compliance errors.
  • Document tagging: Legal departments have many forms that need to be organized and tagged to conform with industry compliance and secure access standards.
  • Time stamping: For posterity purposes, audit capability, and transparent billing, it is imperative that your system can annotate documents with the date and time they were last accessed.
  • Cloud-based technology: An outdated system can limit access to time-sensitive changes in case law. Cloud-based legal document management software is regularly and automatically updated to current standards.
  • Versioning and audit trails: Knowing when a document was last accessed, by whom, and if any edits were made is vital information — after all, a simple error like a misspelled name could put a motion or entire case in jeopardy.
  • Secure Collaboration: To protect sensitive document access, graduated access levels determine a user’s authority to interact with each file. Compliance with attorney-client privilege helps protect your clients, your legal department, and your partners. offers some solutions that meet many of these requirements. And you can integrate other tools with our Work OS to create robust legal workflows that help keep teams on the same page and ensure you provide clients with fast, data-backed information.

Get started — document management software for law firms

When working on, legal professionals can automate tasks by using templates designed specifically for case management. Using workflow automation tools to track important deadlines, schedule meetings with clients and co-counsel, and stay up-to-date on relevant changes in case law allows your legal staff to stay focused on their highest and best use — protecting and advancing the interests of your company or their clients.

Consider trying out the following legal document management templates and solutions offered by

  • Process Documentation Template: Create a process flow that you and your team can use again and again.
  • Legal Case Management Template: Easily plan and execute cases and share progress with your partners.
  • Due Diligence Template: Use an organized and intuitive checklist for your due diligence analysis.
  • OP.Sign app: Available in the monday apps marketplace, OP.Sign is the most advanced electronic signature service, serving thousands of clients worldwide by delivering a state-of-the-art digital e-signature solution for clients.

We know that choosing the right software for your law firm or legal team is a big deal. Keep reading below to find out more about software for law firms in our FAQs section.

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Frequently asked questions about document management software for law firms

Is SharePoint a document management system?

SharePoint is a cloud-based content management system created by Microsoft. It’s primarily used for sharing documents, collaboration, and documenting business processes. Due to its highly customizable capabilities, the use of SharePoint varies greatly from organization to organization. However, this versatility means that configuring systems to fit your business specifically will require a lot of work to maintain, especially for large and growing companies. Most businesses eventually reach a point where maintaining SharePoint alone requires hiring a full-time staff member. If your business has reached that stage, consider integrating third-party software from for more effective and efficient document management.

Is Dropbox a document management system?

Also cloud-based, Dropbox is a storage service that allows users to move large files from their computers or smartphones to an online database server. From there, you can share files and folders with others, and any changes made will sync with all registered devices to your account. While similar in functionality to Google Drive, Dropbox does provide stronger security and file encryption, making it a better fit for legal professionals.

However, Dropbox does lack the following necessary capabilities required by legal professionals:

  • Document history: The file’s creator or revisions aren’t logged.
  • Database searchability:  Dropbox organizes its documents in the old folder/file model. This limited search capability does not provide the timeliness or efficiency required by those in the legal field.
  • Security and privacy: While Dropbox does encrypt files prior to being shared, it retains the encryption keys. This permits them access to any document you store on its servers, posing a threat to information protected by the attorney-client privilege.

Closing arguments for using for legal teams

While the use of digital technology has been slow to reach the legal profession, most law firms are now embracing these tools as a means to improve efficiency and performance. The case management software tools and templates offered by can help legal teams move faster, enhance communications, and better serve clients.

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