Finding the Best Legal Document Management Software

If your law firm has outgrown storing documents on a local file server, basic cloud storage, or within your Legal Practice Management software, chances are you’re evaluating Legal Document Management Systems. And you are probably wondering, which is the best legal document management software?

A legal document management system (also called “DMS”) brings document organization and management to your firm. But, there are a bunch of options out there. So, which is the best legal document management software for your firm?

There are many factors and questions to answer:

  • Should you select an on-premise, server-based or cloud-based solution?
  • What DMS features does your firm require?
  • What other technology tools will your firm need?

There are a lot of options out there, and having to test out each of them would be extremely time-consuming. And for solos and small firms, that’s time you just don’t have. Thankfully, we’ve done the hard work for you.

In this post we’ll walk through how to evaluate the different legal document management software solutions, including selecting a delivery model (cloud or otherwise) as well as help you determine what features you’ll need. And, we have a handy comparison tool so you can more easily determine what is the best legal document management software for your firm.

Factors when Evaluating Legal Document Management Systems

On-Premise, Hosted or Cloud-based

The first step in finding your best legal document management software – where will it be located? Do you want a document management system that is premise-based, which requires an onsite server—or hosted or cloud-based, which do not. Some legal document management systems are meant to be run on-premise, others are cloud based. Generally speaking, document management solutions fall into one of three categories:

  • On-Premise means the software is server-based and requires a server at your location to run (which requires IT support to maintain). The client software is installed on each of your firm’s individual computers.
  • Hosted means the software is server based but can also be hosted in a third-party private cloud service, such as Uptime Practice.
  • Cloud-based means the software is natively cloud-based, or web-based: You access it from a web browser and need no server on-site and no software to install on your computers.

DMS Functionality

Next, you’ll need to determine what exact functionality your firm will need. The best legal document management software does not necessarily do everything, but it should do everything you need.

Many legal document management systems share some common functionality, but don’t assume that every DMS does everything your firm needs, the way it needs it.

We recommend evaluating the list of common document management functions and determining which your firm needs. Sit down with key people within your firm and get their take as well.

Functions and features included in some legal document management system providers:

  • Matter-centric Organization of Files and Folders
  • Email Management / Outlook Integration
  • Microsoft Word / Office Integration
  • Index & Search
  • Automatic / Integrated OCR
  • Local Sync / Offline Access
  • Document Version Management
  • Document Check Out / Check-In
  • Scanner Integration
  • Fax Integration
  • Favorite and Recent Documents
  • File, Folder and User Permission Management
  • File and Folder Change Alerts / Audit Trail
  • Document Tagging / Profiling / Metadata
  • Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint)
  • Adobe Acrobat
  • Exchange Email

Other Technology Tools

Your firm’s DMS may be the epicenter of your practice but it’s not the only technology tool you’ll need. We recommend making a list of related applications your growing firm will need, and may need to work with your DMS, such as:

  • Email (Outlook, Gmail)
  • Word processing (Word, WordPerfect, Google Docs)
  • Practice management (Clio, MyCase, CosmoLex)
  • Accounting software (PCLaw, Quickbooks, LawPay)
  • Time and billing (Bill4Time, Freshbooks)

Finding the Best Legal Document Management Software

To help jump-start your search for the right Legal DMS for your firm, we’ll skim the tree-tops of the four most popular Legal DMS applications in the market today. These are, in no particular order, Worldox, iManage, NetDocuments and LegalWorks.

For each of these four Legal DMS solutions we’ll provide an overview, a video demonstration and a link to the product’s website where you can find more information. And we’ll wrap things up by linking to our comparison chart that provides a side-by-side comparison of these four leading products.

In the interests of full disclosure: Uptime Legal’s provides hosting service for Worldox and iManage via Uptime Practice, its Private Cloud solution for law firms. Many of Uptime Legal’s Uptime Authorized Partners (UAP’s) provide consulting services for Worldox and NetDocuments. LegalWorks is an Uptime Legal product.

Worldox

Worldox is a long-time player in the Document Management space. Worldox’ was at its most popular in the era of on-premise servers and local IT guys. Today it remains a solid, mature application (albeit a bit dated-looking.) Worldox can be run on your own in-house server or in a private cloud.

Worldox Demo:

Learn more about Worldox at www.Worldox.com

iManage

iManage is also a long-time DMS. It’s known for being powerful and robust, though it’s also known for requiring significant server resources, and requires an IT expert to implement and administer, more so than probably any other DMS on the market. The iManage company has also been sold multiple times in the last decade. Still, it has a fairly significant user base. iManage can be run on your own in-house server or in a private cloud.

iManage Demo:

Learn more about iManage at www.iManage.com

NetDocuments

NetDocuments was among the first web-based/cloud-based legal document management systems. It has a solid install base and is well-regarded in the industry. NetDocuments is made for a number of industries including legal, financial services and healthcare. NetDocuments is natively cloud-based, meaning it requires no servers onsite and no software to install.

NetDocuments Demo:

Learn more about NetDocuments at www.NetDocuments.com

LegalWorks

LegalWorks is a cloud-based, matter-centric legal document management system (as the name implies). LegalWorks allows you to create matters and store and manage documents, email and notes within them, making it a very legal-centric DMS. LegalWorks is natively cloud-based, meaning it requires no servers onsite and no software to install.

LegalWorks Demo:

Learn more about LegalWorks at www.UptimeLegalWorks.com


Comparison Chart

To wrap things up, we recommend downloading our Legal Document Management Comparison Chart.

This chart dives deeper into the features of each application:

  • Which of the four leading Legal DMS’s include version management?
  • Which include automatic OCR?
  • Which include options for other legal tools such as Microsoft Office and Exchange email?

We hope this post and the companion comparison chart help you navigate the Legal DMS landscape and ultimately guide you to the right DMS for your firm.

About the Author: Dennis Dimka
Dennis Dimka is the CEO and founder of Uptime Legal Systems, North America's leading provider of technology, cloud and marketing services to law firms. Dennis is the author of Law Practice as a Service: How and Why to Move Your Law Firm to the Cloud, and was an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist in 2016. Follow Dennis on LinkedIn.

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