The COVID-19 pandemic has made remote work the norm for numerous industries. The legal space is no different. In 2019, 70-90% of all law firms were conducting business in-person in traditional office spaces. By April of 2020, 48% of firms had transitioned to fully remote work, with another 40% employing a hybrid approach.
But working remotely comes with a whole host of challenges, namely around technology—an area where the legal space has traditionally been slow or even resistant to change. The digital transformation revolution has swept through many industries, including financial services and manufacturing, bringing with it key innovations that drive efficiencies. But the legal industry hasn’t been as receptive to tech implementation.
As Jeanne Somma, chief legal officer at Lineal, writes, “Much of the roadblock to technology adoption has nothing to do with the technology and much more to do with the way we think and feel about ‘technology’ and the work we do with it.”
In order to adjust to the current climate, law firms have been forced to embrace tech solutions that facilitate remote work—and do so quickly. One of the areas where firms have been the first to play catch-up is with document sharing tools.
Documents are ubiquitous byproducts of the legal industry. From court documents to discovery documents, to forms and letters, documents are as essential to the legal process as hammers are to carpentry. Completing and maintaining legal documents takes a significant collaborative effort within a firm, and storing them in a secure location is critical. Typically, a firm might call a private meeting with the necessary personnel in a conference room to work with documents, and then store them in locked filing cabinets or closets. But what happens when that collaborative effort is conducted virtually, and those documents need to be stored in the digital realm?
What was once a tried-and-true process with a few individuals has become a complex digital challenge for firms. Providing efficient and secure document storage during this period of remote work should be a top priority for law firms. Thankfully, numerous cutting-edge solutions exist to help firms manage virtual document sharing.
In this blog post, we’ll explain what document sharing is and how it works. We’ll discuss the importance of security in document sharing, and outline the many benefits of adopting virtual file-sharing tools. Finally, we’ll delve into implementing these tools into your law firm website. Read on to get a crash course on digital document sharing in the legal space.
WHAT IS DOCUMENT SHARING?
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines document sharing as, “The situation in which two or more people use the internet or a piece of software to access a document at the same time.” While this may seem like a basic definition for a rudimentary function of technology, the concept has proven to be revolutionary for businesses. Businesses have harnessed the power of the internet to facilitate real-time collaboration and communication with employees, clients, customers, and other stakeholders around the globe. Being able to easily share and collaborate on documents of all types can help to create a more efficient and cost-effective business.
In the earlier days of the internet, document sharing was largely conducted over email. Often, however, files were too large to be sent via email, and needed to be burned to discs and physically mailed. Thankfully, those days are long gone. The explosion of cloud computing software has made large document sharing and real-time collaboration a reality.
Make no mistake, this is a massive boon for the legal space. Handling paper copies of documents and sifting through massive email chains to find the exact version of a file you’re looking for is time-consuming work. This results in more billable hours that could be spent improving strategies and delivering added value to clients.
Simple, secure document sharing technology can help legal firms operate safely and more efficiently. But for firms that handle sensitive documentation and client information on a daily basis, security is crucial. Thankfully, document sharing platforms have evolved to offer extensive security tools and protocols.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SECURE DOCUMENT SHARING
Attorneys and law firms are subject to strict rules and regulations when handling sensitive client data. Additionally, it’s essential that firms maintain the sanctity of confidential client documents to ensure that they are acting in good faith and in the best interests of clients. But in the digital world, it can be difficult to ensure confidential documents remain protected. These days, even a novice computer user can easily make a copy of a PDF downloaded from an email chain. Traditional methods of file exchange are just too risky for the legal space. Secure document sharing solutions use a bevy of tools—like digital watermarking, audit logs, and data encryption—to make sure sensitive information and data stay confidential.
BENEFITS OF DOCUMENT SHARING TOOLS
Cloud computing has revolutionized the way firms conduct business. By storing and accessing data, programs, and files via the Internet, firms cut out the expensive and time-consuming practices of implementing and maintaining on-premise servers. This has opened up numerous opportunities to improve productivity while keeping costs low. Let’s look at some of the benefits of cloud-based document sharing tools.
By adopting document sharing solutions, firms can save their employees immeasurable amounts of time and energy. With document sharing, gone are the days of printing paper copies and passing them on for review and edits, only to have to manually enter all changes for another round of printing and review. Not to mention having to print multiple copies for all stakeholders—and having to manually redact documents for certain sets of eyes. With cloud document sharing tools, documents can easily be shared across an organization and to all relevant stakeholders with just a few clicks. All editing can be done in-browser from any device with an internet connection. Firms can manage permissions so only users who are eligible to receive access to certain documents can view or edit them.
Cutting down time and effort associated with manual tasks is fundamental to driving efficiency and productivity in a firm.
The main incentive for businesses to switch over to the cloud is cost savings. Cloud document sharing solutions do not come with the hefty installation costs and maintenance fees associated with on-premises infrastructure. Firms can pay as they go, with pricing models structured around the number of users and the volume of resources required. In the case of document sharing solutions, pricing is frequently tied to the total amount of data stored in bytes, and firms have the option of scaling up or down based on their own individual needs.
With cloud document sharing solutions, firms get a reliable solution with a simple pricing structure, free from the sizable costs associated with operating an on-premise solution.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new business reality. Working remotely is now the norm. For better or for worse, employees are no longer chained to their desks to complete tasks, meaning document sharing tools need to be able to reach them wherever they may be, be it at home or on the move.
One of the biggest benefits of cloud-based document sharing is that it allows your employees—and your clients—to access documents from anywhere with internet access. This enables your workforce to complete tasks from wherever they are located—and puts valuable documentation in the hands of your clients and other stakeholders in a convenient and timely fashion.
THE BEST CLOUD-BASED DOCUMENT SHARING PLATFORMS
Taking document sharing to the cloud has transformed solutions from simple file transfer tools into powerful collaboration platforms. Let’s consider some of the top cloud-based document sharing platforms for law firms.
A popular option for consumer document sharing, Dropbox is also commonly used by lawyers. In fact, according to the American Bar Association’s 2020 Legal Technology Survey Report, 67% of respondents said they use Dropbox for document sharing.
Dropbox’s robust security features make it extremely easy to ensure that firms can safely collaborate on casework. Users can access documents at any time from a number of interfaces, including desktop, web, and mobile. Utilizing block server technology, Dropbox splits document files into “blocks,” using a cipher to encrypt each block, and synchronizing only the blocks that have been edited or modified between revisions.
This technology provides a further layer of protection beyond the secure servers that Dropbox already uses to store files. Dropbox’s extensive safety and security functionality make it a top choice for firms seeking to prioritize security in its document sharing approach.
Box is another cloud-based document sharing tool that gets a lot of love from lawyers. Similar to Dropbox, it overs extensive security capabilities, but its set of cutting-edge features is what really makes it shine. Box allows you to share large files, including zipped folders, with the ability to preview over 120 file types—including the standard Word, Excel, and PDF files attorneys are accustomed to dealing with.
Box can also seamlessly integrate with a host of any business software, including Microsoft Office and Outlook, Google Apps for Work, Salesforce, DocuSign, and Clio—the popular law practice management software.
Box is a great option for larger firms who need a reliable solution that can successfully integrate with its other cloud services, forming a holistic tech stack.
Technically, OneDrive is an application within Microsoft’s larger Office 365 set. But firms currently using the set for day-to-day operations can take advantage of OneDrive’s powerful document sharing capabilities. OneDrive for Business offers 1 TB of cloud storage, allowing you to house and securely share them internally with your team or externally with clients.
OneDrive’s innovative sensitivity label functionality allows you to assign protections—like encryption and visual marking—to certain documents. This allows you to manage permissions throughout the entire lifecycle of a document.
IMPLEMENTING DOCUMENT SHARING INTO YOUR LAW FIRM WEBSITE
Secure document storage is a fundamental component of a solid client portal. Using document storage tools as part of your client portal allows you to assign, modify, and manage tasks. Within a client portal, you can share documents for review, or forms to sign. You can track client progress in completing these tasks, saving your firm the time and energy in having to bother clients via phone calls or emails.
The main benefit of solid client portals is that all attorney-client communication can happen within the portal. With secure document sharing, you can attach specific documents to tasks, and know that clients will be able to easily and safely access them. After tasks are completed, your firm gets a notification, and can then move forward in the process. No waiting on paper copies to come in the mail, no sifting through endless email threads, and no pesky fax machines. Those are still around, right?
To learn more about implementing a client portal into your law firm’s website, check out this blog.
A COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH TO MANAGING LEGAL DOCUMENTS
The power of the cloud has yet to be fully realized in the legal space. Whether it’s due to a lack of understanding, an indifference to change, legitimate security concerns, or just plain ignorance, law firms have been slow to embrace the transformative nature of cloud computing.
Perhaps nowhere is the cloud more beneficial to firms than in document sharing. It allows firms to securely store and manage sensitive information, share that information with relevant stakeholders, and collaborate on documentation in real-time from anywhere in the world, at any time.
So if your law firm’s been lagging behind, there’s no better time than now to embrace the cloud in all its document management glory. Codal works with legal firms and corporations across to achieve the ambitious goal of updating, streamlining, and transitioning decades of paperwork and processes into innovative and extensive digital platforms.
From an audit, to contract management, to litigation, Codal builds custom solutions that streamline legal service delivery and help your organization run more efficiently and effectively. Interested in learning more about Codal’s cutting-edge solutions for the legal space? Get in touch today.