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The In-House Counsel Guide To Active Legal Document Management Software

A key part of corporate counsel’s responsibility is to ensure that when called upon, they can find relevant documentation fast. As such, proper management of digital documents is of great importance to any corporate legal department. Complete access to all potentially relevant information makes Legal more productive and efficient. Having the ability to find relevant documents boosts legal confidence. 

To achieve these goals, legal departments look to legal document management software (Legal DMS). Having a reliable Legal DMS means in-house counsel can be sure they can find all the relevant information.

Finding the right Legal DMS can be a challenge, with plenty of options to choose from. In this article, you’ll find an outline of what to look for, what to consider, and what to keep in mind when selecting a Legal DMS. 


What is legal document management software?
The benefits of Legal Document Management Software
What to look for when purchasing legal document management software
Innovations in legal document management software



What is legal document management software? 

Legal Document Management Software is a software tool that allows in-house counsel to organize, store, and access digitized legal documents. Moreover, it provides users with the ability to search those documents. By using advanced search tools, they can rest assured that the search results are complete. This sets Legal DMS apart from storage solutions.

Storage solutions, such as Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, File Servers, etc., do no more than hold files. When document security is the only consideration, no more may be required. A Legal DMS does more than hold files in place. It allows users to track metadata and redact information for privacy. It can also make otherwise non-searchable documents searchable. It can also help reduce digital debris as part of an information governance policy. 


In essence, a Legal DMS helps create legal confidence by assuring that all relevant legal documents will be found whenever needed. At the same time, it helps reduce liability by enabling compliance and providing structure to a data environment that tends to be chaotic

The benefits of legal document management software 

  • Reduced liability and risk. By storing documents in a secure environment, Legal DMS protects critical data and confidential information. Besides offering document security, an Active Legal DMS also helps lower liability by providing automated anonymization or pseudonymization. This helps ensure your compliance with data privacy laws. 

  • Better productivity. Through effective means of searching, Legal DMS helps in-house counsel be more productive. Less time is spent searching for relevant information by hand. This means in-house counsel can spend more time reviewing relevant documents.

  • Making documents searchable. An Active Legal DMS may also come equipped with features to create searchability. This means that all documents in the Legal DMS are fully indexed. This includes image scans of documents, non-searchable PDF, or audio/video files. This greatly reduces search time and helps in-house counsel focus on work that matters. 

  • Improved collaboration. Legal DMS solutions offer ways to manage both internal and external user access. This allows legal departments to share files with colleagues or external counsel in a secure way. Gone are the days of having to resort to email or other means of transferring data. Version discrepancies are also avoided since all users work in the same system. 

  • Remote access. As access is no longer tied to a specific location, a Legal DMS lets in-house counsel remotely connect to the system. This enables them to work from home or any other location, without a physical tether to the office. In a general sense, access management allows in-house to set levels of access authorization for specific files and folders. This further bolsters security and collaboration. 

  • Advanced Search capabilities. What sets an Active Legal DMS apart from traditional storage solutions, is its search capabilities. In-house counsel can perform comprehensive searches of the data kept in the system. Advanced search types include simple keyword searches, technology-assisted searches, and many others. By making use of these functionalities, in-house counsel is able to return results on their inquiries faster. That way, they can be sure while being sure no stone is left unturned. 

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What to look for when purchasing legal document management software 

During the selection process for a Legal DMS, many solutions advertise different features. Although every organization will have specific needs and wants from a tool, a few considerations stand out. They include:

  • Capture & storage capability of the tool. At its core, a Legal DMS should be able to quickly and effectively take in and store data. Scan paper documents and convert them into digital files. Collect, upload, and store all case-related or client-specific documents in a secure location. 

  • Compliance and security features. Most (if not all) legal data that is to be stored in the Legal DMS is subject to regulatory or legal oversight. It follows that the solution should have proper tools to ensure compliance. First, this concerns the security of the tool, which should be beyond reproach. Second, are features that aid in redacting, anonymizing, or pseudonymizing confidential or private information. 

  • Advanced Search Capabilities. Legal DMS has to inspire legal confidence. It should allow users to perform comprehensive searches of the database. This means full-text search, dealing with non-searchable formats, and even AI-assisted searches. Users need to be able to rely without reservations on the results produced. 

  • Operating Speed. Legal operations and searches almost always come with a time limit. Though operating speed shouldn’t be the primary concern of legal professionals, it is an important part of the equation to keep in mind. After all, a Legal DMS that finds all the results but takes too long to do it will still bring with it legal risk. Timeliness can be just as important as comprehensiveness when the pressure is on.

Innovations in Legal document management software 

Legal professionals have a reputation for being slow technology adopters. As such, finding the most cutting-edge experimental solution out there may not sit atop the list of priorities. Not all innovation is created equally, however. Some trends in the Legal DMS space from other areas, such as eDiscovery solutions. These are battle-tested features that can improve the performance of a Legal DMS and inspire more legal confidence. They include: 

  • Creating searchability. Not all relevant documents are searchable by default. Some may only be available as image scans of documents or are stored in non-searchable PDF files. Relevant information could also be hiding in compressed files, or in file types that can’t be readily read by searching tools. 

  • Optical Character Recognition (OCR). OCR is a technology that converts image-based text into a computer-readable format. Without OCR, such files are not searchable, meaning they will be missed during searches. The only alternative to using the technology is to retype the information by hand. This comes with the risk of eliminating context in the form of metadata. Today, most Legal DMS solutions offer some form of native OCR. 

  • Automation-assisted compliance. Active Legal DMS lets users automate tasks in order to remain compliant. Features like notifications for retention or preservation deadlines help minimize digital debris. Privacy, privilege, and confidentiality can be maintained by automating redaction and classification. This helps in-house counsel minimize risk and liability. 

  • Translation capabilities. A Legal DMS capable of translating text ensures that relevant information won’t be missed. By searching translated text, no information is overlooked because it is in a language other than the one searched. This is especially useful for multinational organizations or companies that do business internationally. 

  • A/V transcription. A growing amount of potentially relevant information comes in audio/video formats. This is due, in part, to virtual meetings becoming commonplace. The ability to transcribe such sources to make them searchable allows for more comprehensive searches. As with OCR, a manual alternative does exist but comes at the cost of context and the potential for minutes being incomplete. 

  • Data Analytics. By making use of data-driven analytics, in-house counsel can gain insights from the results of their searches. Analytics can help to understand search results and inform strategies moving forward. 


At its core, an in-house Legal Document Management System can provide in-house counsel peace of mind. Through advanced searches, a Legal DMS provides comprehensive results faster. This allows more time for a thorough review. It makes compliance less of a headache by keeping track of metadata and retention deadlines. New ways of creating searchability in documents help reduce the risk of missing relevant information. 

In terms of finding a solution, finding the right balance between functionality, security, and operating speed is key.