Practicing Law: When Simple Document Management is Not So Simple


Documentation is fundamental to practicing law. On any given case, there could be hundreds of relevant documents to deal with. That says nothing of those services that have nothing to do with litigation: contracts, real estate deals, etc. By its very nature, law relies on documentation for legitimacy and authority.

One would think that document management is an easy task. But in an industry that generates so many documents, management is not so simple. Document management is one of the most complex parts of running a law firm. It is one of the most cumbersome tasks as well.

Unhappy with Document Management

The 2019 State of the Digital Workplace survey from CMS Wire shows that document management continues to be a problem across nearly every business sector. The survey reveals that companies consider document management technology more important than artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other high-tech tools. Only 12% of the respondents say that their document management systems work well.

In short, companies of all types and sizes are unhappy with their current document management systems. Those systems are old and outdated, and most are inefficient. Worst of all, CMS Wire says that as much as 85% of the information companies manage is either redundant, obsolete, or trivial. This suggests that companies are managing tons of documents they do not need. That just makes the task so much harder.

Problems with Legacy Software

There are lots of things we could point to in search of an explanation for poor document management in the legal sector. Most telling of all would be taking a good look at all of the legacy software packages law firms rely on.

Legacy software was never designed to handle the amount of information the modern law firm handles today. Furthermore, a fair number of legacy applications are not capable of meeting modern document standards. As such, law firms have to rely on multiple legacy packages to handle different document formats.

Unfortunately, these different legacy packages do not work well together. The end result is one of trying to maintain different kinds of documents in different ecosystems. All of this is exacerbated by the reluctance among law firms to upgrade their software systems. It is easier and less expensive to simply maintain the status quo despite the fact that document management is wanting.

The Upgrading Problem

There is a temptation to say to the modern law firm, “just update your software.” But again, it’s not so easy. First of all, there are a ton of choices. Run a quick search on the phrase ‘document management’ in your favorite search engine and see how many results you get. Everyone and his brother seem to have a document management tool to offer.

The legal sector does not need a separate document management tool. They need integrated document management in a case management application like NuLaw. They need a document management tool that fully and seamlessly integrates with every other aspect of their software.

Jumping in and signing up for the first cloud-based case management application that comes along is seldom a wise idea. As the people behind NuLaw can testify, every case management application has its strong and weak points. One app might be better for a law firm while another app is better for a corporate law department. There is no one solution that works for everyone.

It is clear that document management is wanting in the legal sector. It’s also clear that docket management isn’t so simple. Solutions are out there, but law firms have to look. They have to be willing to invest too.