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  • Drowning in Paper? It’s Time to Streamline Document Management in the Legal Profession

    , Corporate Counsel

    Elizabeth Colombo

    Corporate Counsel


    Elizabeth A. Colombo is a generalist, but one of her major responsibilities is to work cross-functionally with the relevant business teams and stakeholders to draft, review, and negotiate commercial transactions of moderate to high complexity from the bid phase through contract execution. Elizabeth earned her B.A., magna cum laude, in Film, Television, and Theatre from The University of Notre Dame and her J.D., cum laude, from Quinnipiac University School of Law. She is passionate about corporate citizenship at Konica Minolta and serves as a Board Member at Immaculate Heart Academy in Township of Washington, New Jersey. Elizabeth loves writing, swimming, and animals, among other passions.

     

    The evolution of document management is astounding.  When I was growing up, I handwrote my homework until I had access to a typewriter at my mother’s real estate office. What a treat to type  my reports for school!  They looked so professional. What could beat that?! Enter home computers. My father’s and grandparents’ computers were the holy grail of my homework experience. I no longer had to use white-out to correct my mistakes or start over entirely. Plus, I could save  my work inside  of a computer?! Amazing!

    Cut to my law school experience where I could actually take notes on a laptop in class. I admit that I resisted this at first. I was in the minority of law students during my 1L year who handwrote her notes until I realized how much faster I could type them, and how much easier it would be to later edit them and turn them into an outline. Additionally, over the years, “snail mail” was largely superseded by faxing, then emailing, as means to deliver documents.

    While the methods have changed and advanced over time, document management is a core necessity of any attorney’s practice. What are some of the document management challenges attorneys face? (See: How to Choose The Right Legal Document Management Solution). Here are my top four:

     

    Record Retention

    Attorneys are often thought to be the keeper of all relevant documents, which can be quite a burden to bear. It can be untenable to keep and organize all documents using our old methods. Remember the days of manually searching through filing cabinets and hoping against hope that a document was properly filed? When it wasn’t properly filed, it was like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack to locate the one document you were looking for in rows and rows of filing cabinets. Searchable electronic content directories and document management services have made attorney life immeasurably easier.  Ideally, we file our documents properly. However, when we don’t, we can make use of search functionality and find what we need in a matter of moments. I was like a child discovering her first roller coaster when I discovered that optimal character recognition (OCR) exists.  “I can scan a document and that document can become searchable,” I thought excitedly. There are inestimable ways to more efficiently retain and organize documents in 2018 with impressive solutions like Konica Minolta’s Dispatcher Phoenix. (Watch: Konica Minolta Legal TV – Casner & Edwards Testimonial).

    As we become more entrenched in this age of new and ever-changing technology, legal departments and law firms have to keep record retention policies and practices continually updated. That can be difficult when an attorney’s main focus is serving her clients.  For example, with all of the documents attorneys use and marshal, it can be an onerous task to ensure that documents are destroyed when record retention policies, contracts and laws dictate.  Attorneys need IT solutions, like All Covered, to keep up with record retention and manage documents without sacrificing valuable time spent working for their clients.

     

    E-Discovery

    Tied into record retention are the challenges attorneys face when it comes to the discovery process. Any particular case can demand the production of thousands of pages of documents. With clear record retention policies, a method to keep up with those policies, and help with e-discovery, litigation can be a much less painstaking and tedious process than it has historically been.  Additionally, with e-discovery services, there is no longer a need to manually administer litigation holds, redact documents with markers, Bates stamp/number each page by hand, arduously collate pages, and laboriously deliver discovery documents to the appropriate parties. Much, if not all, of this can become a seamless workflow instead of taking up hours, days, weeks, months of attorneys’ and support staffs’ time by using innovative and powerful eDiscovery Solutions & Services like those offered through Konica Minolta Business Solutions.

     

    Contracts Management

    In addition to general record retention and litigation matters, document management challenges extend to contracts management and negotiations.  Attorneys and Contracts Teams are often faced with multiple versions of the same contracts as they engage in protracted negotiations. Time is often wasted attempting to decipher which version is the “latest and greatest” and ensuring that the most recent version of a contract has all changes the parties agreed to.  There is no longer a need to manually track approvals and chase versions of a contract when there are solutions that will automate the contract review, approvals, and negotiation processes. This frees up time for attorneys and contracts professionals to tackle more important and pressing tasks including strategizing about and negotiating important points. It also makes the whole process more efficient and client friendly. (See: A Perfect Marriage: Legal Document Management Solutions & Artificial Intelligence).

     

    Convenience

    The final document management challenge in my top four is that attorneys are so often on the move from their offices to courtrooms to client meetings and elsewhere. Attorneys crave the conveniences that the technology of 2018 allows. No longer do attorneys have to lug boxes upon boxes to the courtroom or wait until they return to the office to print and sign that urgently needed contract. Mobility device management and e-signature solutions allow attorneys to work on the go, thus, allowing them to meet demands more quickly.

    It’s fascinating to think back to the origins of document management, contrasted with how far it has come. My whole law school experience changed when I gave up my stubborn attitude about typing my notes in class. Likewise, attorneys now have the ability to utilize attorney and staff time much more effectively by making use of technology and automating menial tasks that used to dominate available staff hours.  Although we attorneys have a reputation for being slow to adopt new technologies – and it is true that many are slow to change – today’s technology offers game-changing opportunities for the legal industry because it allows attorneys to focus their and their staffs’ efforts on their clients and their practice of law. They just need to see and experience all it can provide.

    March 20, 2018

    Cloud, Content Management, Customer Experience, From Our Experts, Solutions, Strategy, Technology, Thought Leaders

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