Dropbox for Lawyers: Considering Dropbox for Your Law Firm? Read This First
When you’re running your own law firm, you get a full understanding of just how important it is to consider cost-effective solutions. Most people rely on cloud-based storage of some kind for the personal and business needs. Lawyers are no exception. One of the great things about storing legal templates, client intake forms, and even documents that you need to send to your client on the cloud is how it creates the ability for lawyers to work from anywhere. Cloud storage presents the opportunity for everyone to increase their productivity even if they don’t want to spend 12+ hours a day in the office. One of the most recognized names in cloud storage is Dropbox. Dropbox has both free and paid accounts. But, will Dropbox for lawyers work for your firm?
Here’s what you need to know.
Dropbox for lawyers has free and paid accounts. Under the free option, you get 2.5 gigs of space and you have the opportunity to get more space if you refer new account holders using a link that is unique to you. Additionally, you can upload and even share files through the free account.
Dropbox for lawyers paid accounts provide you with 1 TB of space. Under the paid account, you could even access your files if you’re offline. You could also set links to expire. For instance, if you send a link to a client so they may read something related to their case, you could set the link to expire after a certain number of days. This would help keep your client files more secure.
Dropbox for lawyers paid has multiple options and additional features depending on which paid account you choose. Dropbox Plus for individuals costs as low as $8.25 a month. While it has more features than the free account, it doesn’t have as many features as Dropbox Advanced.
Dropbox Advanced allows you to set up access limits for people on your team. The cost is $20 each month per user. So, if your team consists of you and four other people, you’re looking at $100 each month under the yearly billing option. You would receive priority customer service and tech support from Dropbox, the ability to set-up access levels for each user, single sign on integration, MS Office integration, centralized billing for employee time, and other features (such as taking as much space as you need).
Dropbox for lawyers has several strengths that should be mentioned. First, let’s talk about name recognition. When it comes to cloud storage and document sharing, practically everyone knows what Dropbox is. This has the potential of making your clients more comfortable when it comes to getting them to download a file.
Second, even the free account is useful. Dropbox’s free individual account has a decent amount of space if all you plan to use it for is storing and sharing documents. You can share certain folders only with certain people. You can even refer others to join which would increase the space you get on your free account.
Dropbox offers more advanced features, including individual log-ons for your entire team and centralized billing for your team, but depending on the size of your law office, it could be cost prohibitive. To get the best deal, you’d want to pay yearly.
Depending on the account type that you set up, you may also have access to your files when you’re not online. You’ll be able to synch your account to multiple devices and even use an app when you’re on the go.
Drawbacks of Dropbox
The limited space of free accounts can be a big drawback. Although you can refer others to earn more space or you can purchase more space. With Dropbox, you have the option to share your folders, but if you don’t have a paid account, you do not have the option of making a link expire. This can increase the risk of others accessing private client information or your work product. All it takes is sending the link to the wrong email address because of a typo.
Other features that law offices would find useful (like billing for your own payroll, individual login accounts, and auditing logs are only available on the more expensive accounts.
Lawyers who work in med mal, personal injury, insurance defense, and in any area of law where looking at medical and psychiatric records may occur, HIPAA compliance with doc storage and sharing is must. However, unless you have at least team standard plan, you won’t get it from Dropbox.
Dropbox’s structure is pretty basic: You create folders, the put documents into them. Nothing more, nothing less. Dropbox is not matter-centric, which means there’s no concept or construct for matters. You can make one folder per mature, sure… but without a system that enforces this structure and organization, things will get messy fast.
In addition, Dropbox is not a Document Management System (DMS). Rather, its basic cloud storage (and that’s all it set out to be.) It lacks many of the sophisticated document management functions that law firms often require, such as document tagging and profiling, index and search, integrated OCR, version management, document check-out/in, scanner integration—and more.
Finally, Dropbox for lawyers lacks any email management capabilities. Most lawyers need to store/manage documents and email for each matter they’re working—and need to be able to manage both in a single system. Dropbox will leave lawyers managing email in a separate system.
How Does Dropbox Compare to Other Solutions?
BoxSynch. BoxSynch is another cloud-based document storage and sharing option. One way that it differs from Dropbox is that BoxSynch offers specific services for professional industries. While Dropbox users get services regardless of industry, those services aren’t specific to any particular industry. BoxSynch allows professional services users, such as attorneys, to have more control over how complex matters are handled. BoxSynch also integrates with Salesforce. BoxSynch costs as little as $5 per user per month, and you receive 100 GB of secured storage and a maximum of three users. Yet, even at the price you get more features than you get with the $8 plan from Dropbox.
Google Drive. Another cloud-based option for collaboration and document storage. Google Drive is great because it gives you and your team access to a word processor, presentation software, and a spreadsheet program. You can save directly to Google Drive and those files tend to transfer over to MS Office equivalents with few problems. If you have a Gmail account, you have a Drive account of your own, but it’s limited in space. You can get 30 GB of storage for $5 per month. For businesses, the price is as low as $10 per month and includes video conferencing, business email, and up to 1 TB of storage per person if you have fewer than five team members. You also get access to audit reports. Compared to both the $8 and $20 a month Dropbox accounts, you get more service for your money. If you pay $10 a month with Google Drive, that covers up to five users. Whereas, getting similar (yet fewer) options from Dropbox is going to cost you at least $20 per person per month.
Related: Google Drive for Lawyers.
Uptime LegalWorks. Uptime LegalWorks is a true Document Management System (DMS), and is designed for lawyers. With it, users get the ability to scan or upload their documents right to LegalWorks, filed under the appropriate matter. Uptime LegalWorks also has optical character recognition (OCR), built0in. This is something Dropbox just doesn’t offer. An email management extension also makes handling client matters faster and easier. It also integrates with Microsoft Office. Although it is pricier than some of the basic Dropbox accounts we looked at, it’s important to keep in mind that lawyers are getting something designed just for them. A system that is matter-centric. A system that empowers users to store and manage documents and email.
You’re able to set permissions and know who is currently working on a document (through Uptime’s innovative document “check-out” system. Deadlines can also bet set for each document. When compared with Dropbox, the tools from Uptime make legal document creation easier both when you’re in and out of the office.