How Different is Legal Document Management?

By Richard Medina posted 04-04-2013 22:37


Most Legal firms and Legal departments have requirements around litigation, e-discovery, compliance, corporate governance, and intellectual property. If you’re one of them then you have a range of options. Your options include simple shared drives, SharePoint, focused ECM solutions for Legal DM (like OpenText eDocs or HP/Autonomy iManage), and general ECM suites (like Documentum, FileNet, or OpenText’s primary suite). This post will help you sort out your options.

First, let’s get clear about what we’re talking about. I’d say “Legal DM” is a pattern of activity that includes the following capabilities.


  1. Library Services: Dynamic DM capabilities that include document profiling/indexing, check-in/check-out, revision history, and audit trail
  2. Configurable Structured Repository: Repository capabilities for managing the range of Legal’s documents, including Legal’s own documents and records, possibly other corporate documents, legal opinions, correspondence and memos, contracts, and collected documents under litigation hold
  3. Advanced Search: “Enterprise” search, although search is typically limited to all same-DM product repositories in the organization, with some capabilities to search databases and other repositories from the same vendor
  4. Guaranteed, Restricted Content: Provides guarantees and restrictions on content, authorization, security, authenticity, or accuracy (ensuring that exactly the right people can access exactly the right documents)
  5. Granular Security: Includes security on annotations and redaction; security protects search content based on user access rights; access control can be strictly enforced 
  6. Integration with Desktop: UI integration with (typically) MS Office and Outlook
  7. Document Workflow: Process management capabilities, particularly for author-review-approve workflow and document lifecycle management


Standard is Baseline plus:

  1. Records Management: RM capabilities, including behind-the-scenes capture of content as a record, and standardized integration with electronic and paper RM products and modules
  2. Team Project Collaboration: Capabilities for team- or activity-based, document-centric collaboration capabilities, focused on providing a common virtual environment to share information and interact on a particular task, project, or activity


Advanced is Standard plus:

  1. Advanced Version Management: Advanced Library services, particularly red-line management and version merging/branching
  2. E-discovery Capabilities: Inherent capabilities and strategic/technical integrations with third party products for all stages of the EDRM, including pre-trigger information lifecycle management
  3. Integration with Legal Software Applications: Strategic/technical integrations with Matter Management and related legal software applications
  4. Bates Numbering and Other Special Legal Capabilities: Includes various specialized legal capabilities not included in other categories

I divided the Legal DM capabilities into Baseline, Standard, and Advanced:

  • Baseline capabilities (1-7)are necessary for any Legal firm or department doing anything significant with their documents.
  • Standard capabilities (8 and 9 – RM and team project collaboration) are highly desirable. I don’t put them in the first category because you can “do” adequate team project collaboration and RM without buying and implementing a product with those capabilities (those it’s not easy), and those capabilities are more specialized than 1-7.
  • Advanced capabilities (10-13) are highly dependent on your particular requirements and require specialized components or products.

A good first step is to estimate how far down the list of capabilities you need to go (just Baseline or all the way through Advanced), and how you might weight your need for each of the capabilities. Then look at your general solutions options.



You have four general solution options for Legal DM.

Option 1: Simple Microsoft Approach: You could continue to do what you may be doing right now for Legal DM – using Microsoft shared drives, hard drives, Office, and Outlook/Exchange. This approach says to continue doing this but leverage the full portfolio of capabilities in those products, including search, security, and routing. Supplement these capabilities with policies and training designed to leverage the tools effectively. This approach can either aim low or aim higher. If you aim low, you are shooting for effective execution of minimal adequacy in the Baseline capabilities. If you aim higher, you are shooting for full Baseline (which will be really tough). This approach doesn’t include SharePoint and has no chance of getting beyond #7.

Option 2: SharePoint Approach: You could implement SharePoint or – if your organization is typical -- expand and enhance the use of SharePoint. If you have an ECM program already rolling, then implement SharePoint for Legal DM in alignment with your enterprise ECM initiatives and program. This approach can provide Standard Legal DM, and with the help of SharePoint partners can provide partial and risky Advanced Legal DM.

Option 3: Legal DM Focused Product Approach: If you are really hankering after the Advanced capabilities, consider implementing a DM product that is designed and marketed for Legal DM. The two most viable products for this approach are HP iManage (HP/Autonomy/Interwoven/iManage) and OpenText eDOCS (OpenText/Hummingbird/eDOCS DM/RM). Both products are sold as individual DM products by vendors who offer a more comprehensive catalog of ECM tools. These two products have a long history of use by legal firms and departments, even where the “enterprise” ECM standard is different or there is no other ECM tool in use. They can both provide most of the capabilities required for Advanced Legal DM, though usually through integrations with other products or third parties. When you consider this option don’t just consider the benefits – carefully weigh them against the costs and risks of what you may be getting into.

Option 4: Mainstream Enterprise ECM Product Approach:The last option is to implement the DM capabilities or module from a top tier, leading ECM vendor. The most viable candidates for this approach are from IBM (FileNet P8), EMC (Documentum), OpenText (ECM Suite, the main non-eDOCS product line), and Oracle (Webcenter Content/Stellent). This option may involve using one – or one of – your enterprise ECM standards. Or it may involve engaging with a new vendor and implementing a general ECM product that is not designed for the specific DM requirements of Legal firms and departments. But it has the advantage of greater general depth and breadth of capabilities, and of lower product risk (since these products are the leading vendors’ core ECM offering instead of a specialized product). This may be the route that’s best for you, but -- as with Option 3 -- don’t forget to carefully consider what you may be getting into. These general ECM suites are overkill in many areas not important to Legal, may be inadequate in those areas most important to Legal, and are resource intensive. And don’t forget that one of your enterprise ECM standards may be SharePoint. So you get some of the benefits of the “mainstream enterprise ECM” approach with Option 2.


#documentmanagement #MatterManagement #SharePoint #legal #e-discovery
1 comment


05-31-2014 21:13

Cloud is the way to go. We took Office 365 approach for implementing Legal Document Management System