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Management Matters: Documents, documents everywhere

Vol. 78, No. 6 / November - December 2022

Bryce Phillips
Bryce Phillips is the senior document management consultant at Affinity Consulting Group.


Ah, winter. That magical time of year with cozy sweaters, glistening icicles – and snow days. Missouri weather can be unpredictable, so making sure you and your staff can access important documents if unexpectedly snowed (or iced) in is essential. Consider starting off the new year with a document management system.

Four simple steps to start your DMS search

A document management system (DMS) is critical to the success of any law firm. Legal-specific document management eliminates a "Wild West" approach to document storage and security, and it significantly improves your efficiency and productivity. With all its promises, selecting a DMS can still feel daunting. To make your decision easier, consider following these four simple steps:

1. Identify core features of your DMS

Before looking at a DMS, first understand the real needs of your firm. Does your team have issues capturing emails? Is finding documents difficult? Do you lack a consistent method for saving and naming documents? Identifying your firm’s document challenges is the first step toward understanding and selecting the features you need in a DMS.

2. Rank the importance of each DMS feature

It's likely that no DMS product will provide the perfect solution for every problem. Know what features are most critical to you and your firm by ranking your requirements. Which features can you live without? Which features do you not want or need? Consider selecting a DMS that has features you absolutely need over one with bells and whistles that are clever but not as useful.

3. Evaluate on-premises solutions vs. hosted or cloud-based solutions

It’s important to understand the differences between on-premises and cloud-based options when selecting a DMS configuration that's best for your firm. With on-premises solutions, you'll need resources to purchase hardware and software, as well as access to someone with the knowledge to set it all up. For hosted solutions, you'll need to consider any recurring costs (usually monthly, quarterly, or annually) used to maintain servers and store your documents. With hosted and cloud-based systems, your data will live elsewhere, so you must maintain a strong internet connection to access it. Identify the choice that best meets your needs and budget.

4. Explore solutions via a demo

A DMS product should enhance your firm's workflow. It certainly should not add more steps or challenges to it. By watching a demonstration and seeing how a document management system's features perform, you'll identify which DMS makes your office more productive and efficient. If a DMS representative says the system can perform a critical function, ask to see how it's done step by step.


Many additional document management resources are available in The Missouri Bar’s Law Practice Management center at MoBar.org. Check out the Forms Bank for DMS comparison charts, scorecards, and more.