What is Legal Document Management (and Why Your Law Firm Needs It)

The legal industry thrives on information. Contracts, case files, emails, and mountains of other documents form the backbone of every legal matter. But managing this data efficiently can be a nightmare. Enter Legal Document Management.

Written by Knowledge Team, posted on April 12, 2024

secure legal document storage

What is Legal Document Management

Legal Document Management (Legal DMS) is the process of storing, organizing, securing, and retrieving legal documents electronically. It goes beyond simple storage, offering features like version control, access control, and powerful search functionalities.

Why Law Firms Need Legal DMS

In today’s fast-paced legal landscape, a robust Legal DMS system is essential for several reasons:

Enhanced Security

Data breaches are a costly threat. According to the IBM Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023, the global average cost reached a staggering $4.35 million. Legal documents often contain sensitive client information, making law firms prime targets for cyberattacks. Law firm document storage with robust security features like encryption and access controls can significantly reduce this risk.

Improved Collaboration

A study by Thomson Reuters found that legal professionals spend an average of 9% of their workday searching for information. Imagine the time saved if all documents were easily accessible and searchable within a centralized platform. DMS systems streamline collaboration by allowing team members to securely share documents and work on them simultaneously.

improve law firm collaboration with dms

Streamlined Workflows and Boosted Client Service

Legal teams spend countless hours searching for lost or misplaced documents. A Legal DMS centralizes everything, allowing for instant access from anywhere. This translates to faster document retrieval, quicker responses to clients, and improved client satisfaction. Additionally, Legal DMS can automate repetitive tasks like document routing and approval processes, further boosting productivity.

Search Efficiency

Time wasted due to poor document management is a real problem. A study by McKinsey & Company suggests that businesses waste an average of 1.5% of their revenue due to poor information management. Legal firms are no exception. DMS offers powerful search functionalities with filters and advanced keyword options, enabling lawyers to locate critical documents in seconds, saving them valuable time.

streamline legal workflows boost productivity

Client-Centric Benefits of Legal Document Management

Faster Turnaround Times:  Legal DMS streamlines document retrieval for your team. This translates to quicker responses to client inquiries and faster completion of tasks, ultimately leading to faster case turnaround times. Clients appreciate efficiency, and the solution helps ensure they’re not left waiting for updates.

Secure Online Client Portals

Many legal case management software offers secure online portals where clients can access relevant case documents 24/7. This empowers them to stay informed about their case progress, review important documents at their convenience, and securely upload requested information.

Enhanced Communication and Collaboration

DMS platforms can facilitate secure communication with clients.  You can share documents within the portal, eliminating the need for insecure email attachments. This streamlines communication and fosters a more collaborative client relationship.

Improved Client Satisfaction

Faster turnaround times, secure access to documents, and better communication all contribute to a more positive client experience. By leveraging cloud DMS, you demonstrate your commitment to efficiency and transparency, leading to higher client satisfaction.

legal case turnaround times dms

The Evolution of Legal DMS

The concept of legal document management has come a long way. Traditionally, law firms relied on physical file rooms, leading to inefficiency, and wasted space. The rise of personal computers ushered in the era of Electronic Document Management (EDM) systems. However, generic EDMs lacked features specific to the legal industry, such as matter-centric organization and eDiscovery capabilities.

Modern Legal DMS solutions address these shortcomings, offering a comprehensive suite of features tailored to the unique needs of lawyers. Here’s a closer look at the evolution of Legal DMS:

On-Premises Legal DMS

Early Legal DMS solutions were installed and operated on a law firm’s own servers. This approach offered greater control over data security and customization. However, it also meant significant upfront costs for hardware, software, and IT staff to maintain the system.

Cloud-Based Legal DMS

The rise of cloud computing revolutionized Legal DMS. Cloud-based solutions store data in secure, off-site servers. This eliminates the need for on-premises infrastructure and reduces the IT burden. Cloud-based Legal DMS also offers benefits like:


SharePoint as a Legal DMS

Microsoft SharePoint is a popular platform within the Microsoft 365 suite used for document storage and collaboration. While not a dedicated Legal DMS, some law firms leverage SharePoint for legal document management due to several advantages:

Microsoft 365 Ecosystem

If your firm already uses Microsoft 365, SharePoint offers a familiar interface and easy integration with other tools like Outlook and Word. This can extend your existing investment in Microsoft products.

Ease of Setup

SharePoint offers a relatively user-friendly setup process compared to some dedicated Legal DMS solutions.

law firm compliance and e-discovery with dms

Choosing Between On-Premises and Cloud Legal DMS

The ideal Legal DMS deployment model depends on your firm’s specific needs and priorities. Here’s a quick comparison to help you decide:

FeatureOn-Premises Legal DMSCloud-Based Legal DMS
SecurityHigh degree of control                Robust security protocols
CostHigh upfront costs (hardware, software, IT)Lower upfront costs, subscription-based
Scalability        Limited scalability        Scales easily
AccessibilityRequires on-site access            Accessible from anywhere
IT Expertise RequiredYesMinimal IT expertise needed


Investing in a robust Legal DMS system is a wise decision for any law firm. It streamlines workflows, enhances security, empowers your team to find information quickly, and ensures you have a clear audit trail for every document revision. By carefully considering your needs and evaluating the available options, you can choose the Legal DMS system that propels your firm towards greater efficiency and success.