Considerations when moving to a (new) document and email management system.

By Ralf Kaiser, Dominic Piernot and Patrick Binz

An increase in remote and mixed working conditions over the previous year contributes significantly to innovation processes in law firms and legal departments. However, these innovations are still under pressure. More than ever, a centralized information management tool has become the top priority for many managing partners and general counsels. Both market sides must collaborate in a centralized, secure, and controlled environment. The security concerns and aspects are enhancing and accelerating the required conversations within the management teams.

OnPrem vs. Cloud

In today’s world, the cloud has become a common standard for most legal jurisdictions (let’s put our German jurisdiction in brackets for now). With the leading DM providers offering cloud services, fast-paced law entities have often joined the club of cloud adopters in the last couple of months. To some extent, driven by Microsoft 365, the adoption rate and the cultural acceptance of tools like Zoom, Teams, O365, and a cloud practice management system fit together well with a cloud-based document management system.

When considering the” cloud, “it has to be said that some vendors have cloud-native and cloud-integrated environments, and some still are working towards a” no local server required “environment. Distinguished differentiators are native AzureAD integration, single sign-on federations exchange online native integrations for running a local service in-house, and the native integration to other cloud vendor-based tools. Examples of other cloud-based tools include 2 Factor authentication, document comparisons, automation tools, and document signature tools like DocuSign.

An essential element of the OnPrem vs. Cloud conversation is the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). While native cloud providers may come up with a monthly fee, including support, hosting, and service, onPrem offerings tend to have a license plus the internal cost of running, securing, and alimenting the environment. Therefore, we must consider price when evaluating the correct decision for each client. Coming back to our home market in Germany, the cloud still needs to be adopted by many law firms. We do see a massive push in legal departments with their enterprise IT deciding on Microsoft 365 in the short horizon. Still, the data center question is an important one. It is crucial to determine whether the vendor put his infrastructure in place or whether the application sits on top of AWS or Azure. In addition, the company infrastructure could complicate things when looking at data privacy and the data processing agreement under the GDPR regime. Finally, the US cloud act may also play a decisive role in this conversation.

On the user experience side of things, especially in Outlook, most of the daily users in your legal department or law firm (the top players in the industry) may come up with the same look and feel.

Cultural swift

If not an essential element of the project. Being involved in law firm and legal department projects for several decades, we’ve found very experienced IT and change management processes with our clients. Additionally, most people overlook the cultural elements of a project. It is a tremendous element playing into the success of any project. Through our experience, we’ve discovered different ways of working throughout each entity. Sometimes this involves a floor-by-floor approach which we can tailor to fit a practice group’s needs. Each client has, to some extent and for a good reason, a different way of working with their (internal) clients. The ultimate goal for a document management project is to have every team member participate in central document management. Central document management represents the leading knowledge resource (which can be searched and reused). That said, the tough cookie is having every team member enjoy using your document management system and simultaneously experience the work environment each team member needs to succeed in their business.

We can overcome that burden with the right expertise, language, understanding of law firms and legal departments, and the proper and sensible communication strategy. However, it also strongly depends on how we view change internally and how management represents it. When users block change, they do it for fear of being unable to deliver the required outcome.

Hence, we always emphasize that clients should consider the application support during and around the time they go live as the most critical element of the project. In addition, enhancing the stage of piloting the new document management tool and integrating key users from different teams/offices/businesses into the data migration scenarios will also make the most of the early-stage user ambassadors for the new tool.

About Sandline

Ralf Kaiser, Patrick Binz, and Dominic Piernot, our founding partners in Germany, have 30 years of experience in Legal IT projects and consulting in Germany, Austria, France, and Switzerland.

With an in-depth understanding of law firm needs, IT/information security, compliance requirements, and broad technical knowledge, we help law firms review their setup and drive digitalization in a stable and secure environment.

Our expertise lies in the diverse experience we have gained in law firms and IT projects in the legal market. We have a consultative approach to solving the nuanced challenges each project presents. From understanding the partners’ objectives, the technical requirements of admin teams, and the ability to seamlessly integrate with the consulting spectrum of law firm consultants, we are confident of the industry-specific gap we fill.