Concerned that their general-purpose file management and collaboration solutions don’t meet the stricter regulatory or legal compliance requirements, some firms turn to dedicated, purpose-built legal Document Management Systems (legal DMS). While these solutions offer lots of features and capabilities specific to the legal sphere, they also have a few notable drawbacks.
First and foremost, acquiring a legal DMS solution means your organization must now support an additional application. That means dealing with seat licenses, user provisioning, admin rights, and training. This adds extra overhead to the IT department, appends additional steps when onboarding new employees, and creates one more layer of complication to the overall IT stack.
Second is the additional cost of purchasing or licensing this software. That could include hefty setup and configuration fees, ongoing monthly or annual payments, and sometimes additional support contracts. While these surplus expenses may be manageable for some organizations, it’s still another cost item in the budget for this year and for years to come.
But the primary downside to opting for a dedicated legal DMS is the actual user experience. Employees required to interact with the legal DMS must now learn yet another tool and its own workflows, user interface quirks, terminology, and organizational structure. For workers busy dealing with contracts, licensing deals, and other legal matters, the last thing they want to do is master yet another application during their overscheduled workday.
Furthermore, legal DMS users must continually switch contexts between the productivity tools they use for most of their workday. Knowledge workers and legal professionals primarily spend the majority of their time using applications under the Microsoft 365 umbrella and are already familiar with how they work. These employees author and edit documents in Word, send and receive emails using Outlook, collaborate with their colleagues using Teams, and store and access shared files and resources on SharePoint.
Introducing another application means they must exit the Microsoft 365 universe to interact with a completely separate legal DMS application. This undoubtedly comes with a cost to productivity and potentially a lack of compliance and uniformity. Not everyone will be excited to work with this legal DMS or particularly diligent when it comes to using it properly.
Organizations with an identified need for a more structured and rigorous approach to legal document management have options. While a business can certainly go the dedicated legal DMS route, for existing Microsoft 365 customers, there’s already a viable solution in-house.
Between Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, there’s ample functionality and support for common legal DMS use cases. Both provide hierarchical folder structures and file management capabilities, including setting permissions at the folder and file level to ensure only appropriate staff have access. And with expanded support for metadata, every file can be quickly tagged by customer, partner, internal team, geographic region, or whatever other categories match the organization’s needs.
Using Microsoft 365 for this purpose also means colleagues can cut back on emailing files as attachments, which are dangerous in any context but particularly problematic in the legal domain. Instead, links with baked-in permissions settings can be shared, ensuring that only authorized personnel can read and/or edit different files while keeping outdated versions from floating around or sensitive files falling into the wrong hands.
Most importantly, since employees already use Teams for internal communication and collaboration, all the files stay within the overall Microsoft 365 environment. This prevents version control issues and the extra effort of having to interact with files there as well as in a separate legal DMS.
While the out-of-the-box Microsoft 365 offering is fully capable of safely and securely managing sensitive legal documents and other materials, it gets even better when businesses add harmon.ie to the mix. This inexpensive plug-in to Microsoft 365 turns a serviceable user experience into a seamless one with a few key features.
One of the biggest pain points for Microsoft 365 users is finding files since there are so many different places they might end up. harmon.ie solves this by offering search results across multiple applications, finding the files users need regardless of whether they’re saved in Teams, SharePoint, or OneDrive.
harmon.ie also makes things quicker and simpler by supporting drag-and-drop across different Microsoft 365 applications, letting employees instantly save files anywhere in one step. Users also get the chance to add valuable metadata and set retention labels from the interface as well.
And since email communications fall under various regulatory compliance and discovery requirements, it’s just as easy to do the same with individual messages. By getting important, relevant emails out of individual inboxes and into Teams or SharePoint folders, now everyone with the appropriate permissions can access them. They’re preserved for records and information management (RIM) purposes and, when the time comes, they can be destroyed on schedule.
Ready to find out if harmon.ie is the missing piece for your Microsoft 365-based legal document management needs? Sign up for a free trial today.