The Future of Legal Technology Q&A with Neil Davison of Farrer & Co

September 22, 2014
Salt Lake City, UT

Five firms sat down in the UK to discuss the future of legal document management. This CIO roundtable event was then summarized and written up in a nice whitepaper. In addition to the whitepaper write-up, we sat down with Neil Davison, the IT Director at Farrer & Co to discuss NetDocuments and the legal technology landscape. Here is the Q&A with Neil...

Why was it necessary for to you to re-look at your document management environment?

We came to the realization that to move forward as a business our current system wasn't cutting it. We needed a single repository, an e-file type product that could contain everything and support our way of working. We wanted to move forward and have a more intuitive product that people could work with.

What were you hoping to achieve by going out to the market?

We wanted to ensure that we carried out a comprehensive review. It is so easy to be a lemming and follow the Joneses. We wanted to buy something that could last for ten years, not just two or three years.

Many of the legacy document management products were built 15 to 20 years ago. They were not developed with mobility in mind, working in different locations, working on tablets and being able to share documents with clients. If you take consumerization, these products were not designed with that in mind. IT is changing so quickly and I don't expect those legacy products to last in the generation of technology that we are in at the moment. ... click read more for the full interview.

What were your primary considerations when making your selection?

We wanted to make sure the document management system covered all the basics and frankly we were working with a board of partners and fee-earners from around the firm to ensure that this was a genuine business decision. We wanted something that was more intuitive and easy to work with, that could work with different types of documents seamlessly, with email seamlessly and be able to control and manage these various types of document that we work with. We actually ended up with an awful lot more than that. We felt that NetDocuments was the only product that delivered that, was truly intuitive, had the mobility aspect, and had the ability to share documents with clients and third parties.

What influenced your decision at the end of the day?

Users are influenced by the look and feel of the product. NetDocuments has the look and feel of a web browser, not a classic document management system with gray boxes and a load of lists. It is totally different. It's intuitive and user friendly. The fee-earners were enthusiastic about mobility and then there was the collaboration aspect with the ability to share documents.

The other thing was simplicity. With document management systems you usually end up with a complex infrastructure with numerous servers. You have all this back-end stuff that needs to be installed over several months and it's only in the final quarter of implementation that you get to the important stuff. With NetDocuments, the entire project was focused on what is important to the end-user rather than the issue of installing servers and bits of software. You have the cost savings that come as the system grows. You also have infrastructure savings in terms of time and money.

How do you think firms are going to address the content management question in the coming years?

I think that collaboration on documents and mobility are the key things going forward. Office 365 is the only natural step to take for firms so you need to work with a system that supports it. Collaboration and Office 365 are linked and NetDocuments has already addressed that. They seem to have a vision, and looking forward they are able to adapt the product in line with what is going on in the market. Most document management systems around these days handle documents and email, they tick all the right boxes, but can they adapt to the market changes in three or four years? A SaaS product has the ability to adapt.