Leveling the playing field in the cloud

Small law firms have had access to cloud document management for a number of years. The year 2012 was perhaps a crossroads with the launch of Google Drive, and for law firms specifically, the launch of LEAP Office Cloud (now known simply as LEAP). 

Content management systems available to small law firms have become as good as, if not better than, systems used by large law firms. A new noteworthy development is small law firms using the exact same software as large firms. Subscription software accessed from the cloud with its feature of upwards and downwards scalability is making this phenomenon possible.

The NetDocuments example

We recently reported that 300 person firm, Macpherson Kelley selected cloud-based NetDocuments for its document/content management system. Even larger Australian firms have selected NetDocuments, for example Gilbert + Tobin.  Smaller firms have also been signing up to NetDocuments, including Hive Legal. 

How Hive Legal has benefited from cloud document management

While the firm’s head office is in central Melbourne, staff are encouraged to work flexibly from wherever they work most effectively, including home. As well as reducing operational overheads and offering autonomy and flexibility to staff, this approach allows the firm to accurately match its capabilities with client requirements.

Early last year, the firm realised it needed to make some changes to the way in which it was managing documents. Katie Thompson, Hive Legal Operations Manager, says existing software that had been in place since the firm’s establishment in 2014 was no longer meeting Hive Legal’s needs.

“We do a lot of high-level drafting and reviewing of documents and we needed a tool that was more sophisticated but at the same time easy to use and very functional,” she says.

“Also, we were looking for software that would have tighter integration with Microsoft Office and our overall approach to cloud integration.”

In early 2016, work began on finding a replacement document management system. The firm requested proposals and reviewed a number of alternatives. After careful consideration, a decision was made to implement NetDocuments.

“NetDocuments was able to demonstrate that its offering could provide all the features that we required in a document and email management platform,” says Thompson. “It was also very competitively priced which made it even more attractive.

Once the decision to deploy NetDocuments was made, the service was up and running within weeks. Thanks to the intuitive interface, staff required minimal training and were quickly comfortable with its use.

“We had set up daily training sessions for the first two weeks, but people didn’t end up needing to attend them,” says Thompson. “They now have access to phone support whenever it is required.”

Benefits delivered to the firm by the new document management platform have been quickly realised. In particular, the ability for teams to collaborate on documents when working from multiple locations has been significantly improved.

“The NetDocuments search function is also delivering big benefits,” she says. “Netdocs’ ability to not just search from the title of documents but to search the document content as well has brought great benefits, especially when dealing with externally produced documents which may not follow our regular naming conventions. In addition, the email filing system that runs within outlook is an enormous help. It streamlines the sometimes daunting task of filing the large number of emails we all receive each day. Netdocs achieves this by cleverly using machine learning to provide us with an accurate guess as to where the email should be filed, based on common characteristics shared by previous emails.”

Thompson says the firm’s ability to share documents with clients has also been enhanced. Teams can opt to use NetDocuments’ ShareSpaces, secure document delivery functionality, or can set up virtual cabinets and allow them to be accessed externally.

“We now also have a single, secure repository for all our documents. We can be confident that this is always available and does not cause any management overheads for our staff.”

Thompson says NetDocuments provides the firm with a scalable document management platform that will support its operations well into the future. “Its flexibility and ease of use makes it a valuable application for all staff,” she says. “It has quickly become one of our most important tools to support our operations.”

The shift to cloud document management is unstoppable and is an example of technology helping to close the gap between the capabilities of small and large firms.

© 2017 Legal Practice Intelligence