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Combining Practice Management Software and a Document Management System for an Accelerated Strategic Advantage

December 19, 2022

Among the many tools small to midsize law firms rely on are solutions for practice management (PM) and document management. While some PM tools come with a document management component, it cannot provide the complex security and governance features required for critical client documents and emails or the productivity boosters that can elevate your firm’s work.

That’s where a powerful document management system (DMS) comes in. And while some smaller firms are still discovering the overall benefits of a DMS, other firms have both a PM and DMS but have yet to connect them to experience more efficiencies and realize even greater value from their technology investments.

Our recent eBook on combining the power of a PM and DMS for small and midsize law firms is here to help. It provides a deep dive into why you need both systems, benefits of integrating these tools, best features to leverage in each, and case studies of firms finding success by integrating their PM and DMS.

Here is a sneak peek into some of what gets covered.

Top Benefits of Integrating Your Practice Management and Document Management Systems

Individually, legal practice management and document management platforms offer substantial benefits for law firms. But believe it or not, these two systems are better when connected and used together. Here are a few key advantages your firm can expect when you integrate a legal PM software and DMS.

Find the Information You Need Quickly

How much time do you and your team spend looking for files, emails, and documents each day? According to a McKinsey report, employees spend 1.8 hours every day searching for and gathering information.

Document management systems can dramatically reduce search time and increase productivity. With customizable Home pages, Recent and Favorite Documents lists, and advanced search capabilities like natural language processing, filters, and Boolean operators, DMS users can quickly and easily track down needed files in the DMS repository.

Integrating a DMS and PM can make the process even faster by linking clients and matters, which comes with many benefits such as viewing documents saved in the DMS without leaving your PM interface.

Create Documents Faster

Document templates in the DMS help users avoid repetitive tasks like formatting new documents or time wasted locating previous versions to copy from. In addition, integrated systems can use workspace and document templates to automatically populate matter details from the PM and save the completed file to the correct matter workspace in the DMS. Integration makes creating and organizing documents nearly effortless.

Access Everything From Anywhere

With integrated document management and practice management systems, you can easily access information from each system, no matter which one you’re currently working in. Just as you can pull data from your PM into document templates, you can also retrieve matter-related documents and emails within the PM workspace. You can also see different document versions, review security or user permissions, sort and organize documents, and more to help your work move smoothly and efficiently.

Control Permissions and Access to Documents and Files

Your practice relies on the steady but secure flow of information between teammates, clients, experts, witnesses, and other collaborators. If your PM and DMS are separate but integrated systems, you can apply more granular access controls within the DMS so that even if a user can access matter details in the PM, they won’t automatically have access to all matter-related documents. You can set permissions at the document level to fully customize which documents (if any) a PM user can access, as well as what type of access they have (e.g., edit, share, or view-only).

With full control over your documents, you can ensure your users have easy access to all the information they need — and nothing they don’t.

<div class="blog-post-callout-container advert" style="width:100%;max-width: 100%;display:flex;gap:20px;margin:0 auto;"><img src="https://assets-global.website-files.com/5f874a02b14267b40a9fd71b/626c70f5a82a85ab7e5c375e_casestudy_astraeagroup_thumbnail_vertical.png" loading="lazy" alt="Thumbnail graphic for Astraea Group." style="width:100%;max-width:200px!important;margin:0 auto;"  class="case-study-individual-page-asset-thumbnail">
<p style="font-size:15px;align-self:center;">Discover how one law firm combined practice management with NetDocuments’ document management system. <a href="/case-study/a-foundation-that-combines-practice-management-and-netdocuments" style="display:block;text-decoration:none;font-size:15px;">Read the case study here.</a></p>

Increase Productivity with More Efficient Workflows

When you improve the full document lifecycle by utilizing technology, you experience major gains in productivity and reduction in frustration from having to move between multiple systems and shuffle documents around from place to place to get work done. Imagine if you could pull content into a document from the PM system, easily complete document edits online, instantly send a document for electronic signature, and then have the document automatically come back saved to your matter workspace in the DMS.

Secure and Protect Your Data

Losing or exposing confidential data is not something your firm wants to deal with, whether it happens accidentally or maliciously. Operating without a DMS leaves your documents dangerously exposed to risk. PM-based document components lack the rigorous security protocols needed to protect a law firm’s documents and data.

Your DMS can provide robust built-in security plus safeguards like document-level encryption, multifactor authentication (MFA), and data loss prevention (DLP), which provide greater protection against ransomware and malicious actors. You can also prevent actions like document sharing or printing. Integrating a DMS with your practice management solution provides stronger protection for your most confidential information while still enabling collaboration when needed.

Keep Track of Time with Fewer Clicks

Time capture is a common challenge in many firms. When the DMS is connected directly to your PM solution, you can make it easier by quickly adding entries for time spent drafting, finalizing, or reviewing documents associated with a matter. All it takes is a couple of clicks for timekeepers to confirm suggested time entries from the document history and efficiently log hours to the right matter and client.

Simplify with a Single System of Record

When documents are everywhere and you have multiple places you have to go to understand what is happening on a matter, you are wasting time and introducing an unnecessary level of risk. A powerful DMS gives you a quick and easy way to file, find, and access all matter-related documents and emails — the entire digital file. If your DMS is the single system of record, you can, go to that one source and find what you need with confidence.

Collaborate Internally and Externally

Both a PM and DMS have tools to make collaboration smoother without cluttering up your email inbox. But a DMS makes it easy to share, edit, review, annotate, and discuss documents securely — all without the challenges of local copies, untracked changes, version conflicts, etc. As conversations move from email to platforms like Microsoft Teams and Slack, a DMS can make securely sharing files with a group much easier.

Integrate with Your Other Technology

Practice and document management aren’t the only systems your team relies on day to day. Fortunately, both a PM and DMS integrate with a variety of other products, such as time and billing software, project management solutions, electronic signature and filing platforms, contract management tools, Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat, and many more. A fully integrated tech stack means less bouncing between platforms and less work for your team. Your software applications do the heavy lifting, so you can get back to focusing on clients.

Keep Operations Organized and Clients Happy

With your documents, emails, and practice data organized, integrated, and in sync, your team can quickly find answers to client questions and keep the work moving forward. And with happier, more satisfied clients, you can count on better client retention and more referrals.

<div class="blog-post-callout-container advert" style="width:100%;max-width: 100%;display:flex;gap:20px;"><img src="https://assets-global.website-files.com/5f874a02b14267b40a9fd71b/5fa46c90c5aa8d9a660f1e38_integratepmsanddms_lp_thumbnail%20(1).png" loading="lazy" alt="Graphic for webinar event hosted by Rob Joyner of Centerbase, Nancy Griffing of 3545 Consulting, and Jarem Shook of NetDocuments discussing practice and document management solutions." style="width:100%;max-width:200px!important;"  class="case-study-individual-page-asset-thumbnail">
<p style="font-size:15px;align-self:center;">Watch this webinar to learn more about the benefits of <a href="/resource/integrating-your-practice-and-document-management-solutions" style="display:block;text-decoration:none;font-size:15px;">integrating your practice management and document management solutions.</a></p>

Better Together: Create Synergy Between Your PM and DMS

The combination of practice management and document management yields more than the sum of each system’s parts. You can get more value from your PM because of your DMS, and vice versa — and that synergy is something you can leverage to take your practice to the next level.

Where a PM software is ideal for things like calendar synchronization, timekeeping, and billing, many functions are better handled by a DMS, such as document automation and assembly, controlled document access with ethical walls and access rights, real-time messaging, advanced version control, integrations with Microsoft and other tools you use daily, and more.

Together, PM and DMS solutions combine to enable you to optimize and even automate many time-consuming and repetitive processes, increase productivity, and create cost efficiency for your firm while increasing your security posture. This winning technology combo can even help your team improve client service and gain a strategic advantage over the competition.

<div class="blog-post-callout-container advert" style="width:100%;max-width: 100%;display:flex;gap:20px;"><img src="https://assets-global.website-files.com/5f874a02b14267b40a9fd71b/639914434a2dbfc4523ef560_pm-dm_whitepaper_thumbnail_vertical.png" loading="lazy" alt="A woman sits at a desk typing on a computer. Combining the Power of Practice Management and Document Management Systems thumbnail cover." style="width:100%;max-width:200px!important;"  class="case-study-individual-page-asset-thumbnail">
<p style="font-size:15px;align-self:center;">Learn more in this eBook for <a href="/resource/sml-combining-the-power-of-practice-management-and-document-management-systems" style="text-decoration:none;font-size:15px;align-self:center;">small</a> and <a href="/resource/combining-the-power-of-practice-management-and-document-management-systems" style="text-decoration:none;font-size:15px;align-self:center;">midsize</a> firms about the strategic advantages to be gained by combining the power of your practice management and document management solutions.</p>

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