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The legal profession has a long association with archival excellence – many of its processes rely on being able to take deep dives into historic records. Unfortunately, the procedures involved can be labour intensive, adding cost at a time when there’s increasing pressure to deliver “more for less”.
Russell Sanderson, Director of Technology, Outsourcing & Professional Services at Iron Mountain and Catherine Bamford, Legal Engineer, CEO and Founder of BAMLegal
The legal profession has a long association with archival excellence – many of its processes rely on being able to take deep dives into historic records. Unfortunately, the procedures involved can be labour intensive, adding cost at a time when there’s increasing pressure to deliver “more for less”. Any forward-thinking legal firm will therefore be interested in converting its records into agile digital assets that can be sorted and searched, quickly and effectively.
However, transitioning legacy workflows into structured, searchable data can be complicated. To deliver a positive outcome, the transition needs to be carried out consistently and accurately if the full value of enhanced digitisation is to be achieved. For legal practitioners, who are dependent on the reliability of their documentation, only the best result is acceptable. But instigating the steps required to accomplish that result can be problematic.
Furthermore, digitisation isn’t simply about improving response times, it’s also about adding functionality. This is important as to remain competitive law firms are increasingly recognising the need to offer digital services that can help their clients better run their businesses, such as providing enhanced levels of data about what’s in their contracts. These sorts of insights are important. According to management consultancy McKinsey & Company, ineffective supervision can annually erode a contract’s value by 9%. KPMG states that up to 40% of a contract’s worth is lost due to ‘value leakage’ during its lifecycle.
Contract lifecycle management can be significantly improved using digital documents in combination with artificial intelligence (AI), which can extract valuable insight from contracts while also speeding up the management process. However, to ensure this can happen there needs to be a rigorously applied set of standards in place at the start of the digitisation process.
Turning paper documents into PDFs is just part of the process. Without consistent formatting and the ability to have them searchable, within single documents and across families of files, the procedure will be ineffective. It is therefore essential to establish a standardised nomenclature at the start of the digitisation process to ensure conformity within the digital filing cabinet. This will help ensure the archiving and retrieval of files is consistent and logical, improving the timely dissemination of relevant information. It will additionally help users identify meaningful relationships between files by means of a search function.
After digitisation is complete, a number of additional benefits will become available. First, it will be possible to mine the archive and catalogue the findings, in the process discovering potentially untagged but significant data that can be classified in meaningful and beneficial ways. It will also be possible to set permission levels, protected behind passwords, to ensure an appropriate level of access. In addition, new documentation can be added in logical and relatable ways, maintaining archive cohesion.
Moving the storage of a digitised archive to a cloud-based solution provides anytime, anywhere access, an important feature when operating a hybrid workforce. Importantly, it adds an additional level of security – having cloud storage removes the need for digital files to be stored on laptops and USB drives that can be lost, stolen or infected. Also, its one document/many users' scalability eliminates the need for duplicate files, which removes the possibility of different versions of a single document being accidentally created.
Historically, the legal profession has been dependent on large volumes of paper, which creates issues around speed of service, access, sharing, retrieving information and storage. Enhanced digital document management can help lawyers and solicitors overcome these difficulties, which in turns streamlines legal and regulatory workflows. Another major advantage is that it can significantly improve collaboration between partners, with clients and across geographical locations, all while providing audit-ready, legally admissible electronic document storage.
Investing in a scalable, secure and consistent digital document platform can save money in the long term by ensuring a seamless upgrade path. However, creating an easy-to-use and secure service that can deliver all these benefits requires experience and resources. Simply scanning a physical archive will not provide a satisfactory result. That’s why the legal profession should always work with a trusted digitisation specialist that can provide a secure and fully searchable archive and has a track record of delivering complex implementations on time, on spec and on budget.