Rethink Documents

It’s easy to get caught up in the latest technology craze and forget about the workflows that are the foundation of every firm’s billable work. But, by reviewing and improving these workflows, you are innovating. Here’s why, says Ben Mitchell, global head of commercial operations at DocsCorp.

Can you imagine if we were still using a horse and cart to till a field, or sailing on a ship for 30 days to get to
Australia? Innovation is inarguably good, but these days trying to keep up can feel a bit like being on a treadmill that never stops. However, to run a good race, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. By rethinking how you use the most basic, essential technology solutions every day, you can achieve real innovation.

When it comes to harnessing the value of technology, it’s a matter of innovate or stagnate. Firms innovate by deploying technology solutions that make lawyers’ and secretaries’ jobs easier. But the more  forwardthinking firms take that extra step to look at how they use technology – not just be content
that they have it.

Think about it this way: you may have a very big and powerful rocket that can fly to Mars and back on a single tank of fuel, but what value does it have if no one knows how to fly it?

Improving how people work every day with technology is good for a firm’s bottom line since it creates efficiency, which frees up more hours for billable work. Better processes can also increase productivity; save on staff time and associated costs; increase usability and boost morale, and empower staff with the right training and tools.


Recognise that documents are the foundation of your billable work and that improving document workflows is crucial.

For firms, big and shiny projects like AI and blockchain can divert attention from the cogs in the machine that keep the firm working. While AI is exciting and all over your news feed, if your documents aren’t searchable then the AI results won’t be accurate, so what’s the point?

Instead, innovate where it matters – documents. They are at the centre of every case and a crucial source of knowledge for lawyers and partners. However, without the right technology, they can chew up billable hours with slow, tedious administrative work.

Innovating the most basic workflows – like comparing two versions of a contract – can allow a firm to deliver the business of law better, faster, and more affordably than anyone else while minimising risks to itself and its client.

How? By identifing small changes that can result in big wins.

There are many document review and governance workflows that have the potential to be done smarter and more efficiently, and technology has the tools to make this a reality.

Here are some examples:
• Cloud applications support mobility so lawyers an work outside the office as efficiently as they do at their desks.
• Integration between a firm’s applications and its document or case management system can increase  efficiency, since moving documents in and out of the repository requires more steps.
• Performance and stability issues – or just bad UX – can slow users down. Switching to more powerful tools can do wonders for productivity.

It’s not just efficiency that these changes promote. Could innovating workflows help you to manage risk better? Consider whether the firm’s metadata cleaner processes attachments sent from an employee’s personal iPhone.

If not – there’s a big hole in your data protection strategy. Run tests to check whether your metadata cleaner is catching and scrubbing high-risk metadata like embedded objects and hidden text (spoiler: often they’re not).


Lawyers have long been using document comparison software to find any changes made to contracts, case files, or discovery documents. Improving these document-review workflows can help to find every change between versions in less time and with less effort.

For example, switching from one application that uses proprietary software to another that works in Word, pdf, or Excel without conversion can eliminate inaccuracies, save time fixing broken formatting and restore user trust. The way users work with the comparison report can also benefit from other, smaller changes.

For example, working with Track Changes comparison reports instead of redline makes document review 25% faster.

Users review changes in a Track Changes document faster because comparison reports marked up with Track Changes become the next working version of a document – users can accept and reject changes as they go.

It makes sense when you consider the alternative – manually applying changes from the redline report to the original document. Making one small change (outputting a report with Track Changes instead of redline mark-up) can make a big difference.

Sending a comparison report with Track Changes to clients or co-counsel may not be right for you but consider whether doing so could save time collaborating on documents internally.

It may make your work life easier – and that’s a big win for innovation in anyone’s books.

This article featured in LPM October supplement 2018: Tin wins

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