Six Steps to Better Legal Document Management
December 8, 2022
In today’s busy world, legal document management is a hassle for even the most organized small law firm. With digital copies, hard copies and duplicate copies of documents floating around, it can be tough to find what you need when you need it. And when you’re copying and pasting client details across countless different forms, things get even more complicated.
But unfortunately, document creation isn’t going anywhere. It may be time-consuming and tedious, but it’s an important step in winning cases, keeping clients happy, and communicating effectively across the entire firm.
The good news is that streamlining all of your legal documents doesn’t have to be as big a headache as it used to be. Now, the right tools and law practice management software can streamline your entire process.
Here are six ways your law firm can build better document management systems today.
Document management and
automation make a difference.
See why implementing Smokeball document management and automation in your firm is worth it in our latest infographic.
What is legal document management?
When law firms put together contracts, motions, letters, and other documents, it can easily take up much of their billable hours if done manually. Document management and automation tools provide “plug and play” capabilities for document creation that haven’t existed in the past.
Lawyers can enter client data into a software program. That application will generate the right kinds of documents without manually customizing each document for each new client. In its basic form, document automation utilizes templates and data fields to quickly generate customized legal documents specific to each client’s needs.
A step-by-step guide to improving your legal document management
STEP 1 – Identify the documents that your firm uses regularly
The first step to solving any problem is to understand it better. So when it comes to ironing out a better legal document management system for your firm, it’s important to start by getting a lay of the land.
Identify which documents your firm uses most frequently. If you’re a personal injury practice, perhaps it’s liability waivers. Or if you’re a family law firm, maybe it’s child support filings. No matter your practice area, you likely have key documents you use daily or weekly. Those are the ones you’ll want to prioritize first.
Gather your entire team, and ask them to share the documents they use most often. Compile them into an organized list, along with notes about how often they’re used, who on your staff typically fill them out, and what steps are required to complete them.
STEP 2 – Make digital document templates
Let the document automation begin!
Now that you know which legal documents you’ll need to access regularly, the next step is to turn them into templates. This is a crucial step to streamline your document creation process moving forward. It will give your entire law firm a standardized starting place when they’re filling out forms, reducing errors and saving everyone hundreds of hours.
Create or update your templates for all of the documents you outlined in step one. Go through each one with a fine-toothed comb: is your law firm’s contact information listed correctly? Is the language current? Is the design and formatting standard across all of your templates?
When they’re finalized, put your new document templates in one shared folder, so they’re ready to use at a moment’s notice. Be sure to communicate with your staff about how to use these templates and where to find the most up-to-date versions. Consistency is the goal!
Pro tip: Creating document templates is a breeze with Smokeball!
Streamlining the forms your firm uses gets a lot easier with legal document management software like Smokeball. With Microsoft Word integrations, a library of over 20,000 commonly used legal documents, and the ability to customize your own document templates depending on your practice area, we’ll help your team stay organized and focus on what really matters: your clients.
STEP 3 – Empower your clients to sign documents digitally
Nowadays, signing documents digitally is as commonplace as ordering food from your phone. Firms that don’t offer clients an e-signature option are behind the eight ball and run the risk of losing business to more tech-forward legal practices.
Digital document signing is secure and confidential and helps lawyers speed up their document workflows without having to meet in person. So make sure your document templates allow clients to sign from anywhere, on any device. Tools like DocuSign make it easy to request and store digital signatures.
Image courtesy of DocuSign
Pro tip: Smokeball integrates seamlessly with DocuSign!
Drafting and sending legal documents for client signatures has never been easier. Smokeball’s integration with DocuSign lets you automatically fill out forms with the correct case details, review and send them to clients for signature, and store signed documents right on our platform.
STEP 4 – Create a centralized document storage system
Once you’ve got your digital template folder in place and have updated your client signature practices, it’s time to organize all of your existing case documents.
Although it might sound like a big task upfront, it’s worth the time and effort you’ll save in the long run. Create a shared folder and ask everyone in your firm to add every existing client file they can find. Make subfolders for each client, including contact information, signed documents, and court appearance dates. Once you’ve reviewed all of your documents, check your email, too. File away any important communications you’ve had with each client, so it’s handy throughout the case.
Lastly, make sure each client folder is accessible to the people in your firm that need it. That way, they’ll know exactly where to go for information whenever a client calls. Your staff looks smarter, and your client gets the answers they need quickly—it’s a win-win.
STEP 5 – Use Smokeball to keep everything in one place
Step 4 can be an overwhelming feat for many law firms. (And we don’t blame you!) That’s where Smokeball can step in to take the work out of legal document storage.
Our legal document automation software integrates with the tools you’re already using (like Microsoft Word and Outlook) to capture client details, store them to their case file, and automatically generate necessary legal documents. We’ll store everything in the correct client matter for you, so you’ll never have to search for the right form, email or phone number again.
Specifically designed for small law firms of up to 15 people, Smokeball’s cloud-based platform makes it easy for your entire staff to access what they need—no matter where they are or what device they’re on.
Want to save time and money?
Read how legal document automation helps you do just that >
STEP 6 – Standardize your document management process across your entire firm
Whether you’re tackling digital document organization yourself or allowing Smokeball to do the work for you, develop a plan to get your entire law firm on the same page. Everyone from the office manager to your senior partners should use the same system in the same way.
Be sure to communicate your document management process to maintain consistency across your entire team. It’s not just about letting people know where to find the documents they need. It’s about empowering them to use your document templates, create new forms for client signatures, and store new documents in the right place. Giving your staff the structure they need to create, manage and organize documents the right way means they can better serve your clients—and win new business.
Ready to automate your document management process?
Getting a handle on all your legal documents can feel like a never-ending chore. But with legal document automation software, the whole process gets a lot easier. Find out how Smokeball can help your team be more efficient, reduce human error, and spend more time on what really matters: winning cases.
Learn more about how to manage and automate your legal documents with Smokeball >
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