The Document Butler – The Meaning of Document Management

The “Value-Add” in Document Management goes well beyond storage and backup.  Steve Best, in an article in Law Practice Today (“Document Management: Finding it in the Cloud“) captures the essence of what distinguishes a document management system from mere cloud storage when he uses the term, “The Document Butler”.

I can picture The Butler scurrying around to make sure everything is in its proper place.  I can envision the document appearing by “automagically” as my fingers reach for it, courtesy of my butler.  It is always the RIGHT document that I need at the exact moment I reach for it.  And more importantly, when I am finished with the document, it automagically gets filed in the right place where others can find it.

So what is this Butler worth to you?  Is it worth $38/month to have him (or her) at your beck and call 24 hours a day?  That rate is equivalent to 1/10 of an hour of an attorney’s time a month or 1/3 of an hour of a paralegal’s time.  Just on document search and retrieval, many multiples of that amount are wasted each month.


So what should be in a proper document management system.  Let me quote Steve Best directly and then point out at least one document management system that lives up to that test. Document management software requires:

  • That users take a moment and profile each document (which is absolutely faster than browsing your mandatory, but not really mandatory, document saving folder structure);
  • The proper storage of documents pursuant to protocols that you design;
  • All words of all documents are kept in an indexed database for fast (really fast) and accurate searching;
  • The indexing of every single word of word processing docs, spreadsheets, PDFs, emails, email attachments, etc.;
  • No one gets to bypass the system. DMS software locks down how documents are stored and retrieved. This forced user compliance that can’t be bypassed makes the investment worth every penny;
  • Check in- Check Out – know who has your document and when it was last removed;
  • Complete AUDIT TRAILS of document history including modification dates, times and by whom;
  • Remote (web based) access to your knowledge (document) system;
  • Version Control – will it track different versions of a document;
  • Security – keeping unwanted eyes out of the system;
  • Document Retention – automatically archive old documents;
  • Scanning/Imaging – most DMS systems work hand in hand with your scanners or central scanner copy stations including OCR (optical character recognition) capabilities; and
  • Centralized E-Mail management. Most systems integrate with Microsoft Outlook (and some with Google Mail) to ensure that e-mails are a part of the knowledge foundation of every single file/matter that you handle in the office. Many are simple click and drag systems similar to subfolders that many users create currently off of their own Inbox.


So let’s look at NetDocuments.

  • PROFILES: NetDocuments supports “document profiles” for its storage cabinets.  They can include required profile fields.  However, it goes beyond.  You can also have an optional folder hierarchy, and then have a “profile” of values associated with the folder definition.  That means you can drop a document (or set of documents) into a folder and the entire contents will be automagically profiled.
  • PROTOCOLS:  NetDocument’s profiles are custom designed for each firm.  There are recommended profile structures that represent Best Practices.  But you are not limited by those practices.  You can even have cabinets which have different sets of protocols and different levels of permissions.
  • MASTER INDEX: If your document storage system doesn’t have full-text indexing, toss it out as worthless.  NetDocuments goes the next level.  You can combine “profile-based” searching with full text indexing.  The indexes include whole word and partial word, as well as soundex.  And you can use proximeters, where one word is within a certain number of words of the other search term.
  • AUTOMATIC INDEXING:  Full-text indexing occurs automatically with NetDocuments.  The process is continuous, throughout the day and night.  The profile indexing is in real-time; the full-text indexing occurs as NetDocuments balances its resource load.
  • OFFICE INTEGRATION & LOCKDOWN: An “optional” Document Management System is a recipe for disaster since there is no certainty that everyone will use the central repository.  NetDocument ships with built-in integration with Microsoft Office (Word, Powerpoint, Excel), Microsoft Outlook, and Adobe.  Whether you are opening a document or saving a document, NetDocuments will intervene and force you into the system;
  • CHECK IN/CHECK OUT: By default when you open a document from NetDocuments, or create a new document, that document profile is “locked” and the document is put in a Checked Out state.  With the Office Integration, when you save and close the document, it is put in a cue for automatic check-in.  No need to remember to “upload” your last work when you finished.
  • AUDIT TRAILS: So who worked on that document last?  NetDocuments tells you who, what and where.  You can even subscribe to an RSS syndicated feed of all the changes — happy reading.
  • REMOTE WEB ACCESS:  Hey, NetDocuments is “in the Cloud”.  It defines remote web access. For a small fee you can have local backup synchronized automatically. Otherwise, whereever you are, and whatever device you use, you can access and edit your documents.  Don’t have a Word Processor on your machine; there is even a web-editor.
  • VERSION CONTROL: Hey, this can be a real mess with each person having different conventions.  In Word, choose SAVE AS and a NetDocuments screen comes up prompting you whether to replace or save as a new version (among other options).  And if you save as a new version, you can designate an “Official Version” and explain what is special about this version.
  • SECURITY: If you are in the cloud, this really should have the first item you checked.  This includes secure access, secure end-to-end encryption, and security of the stored documents from access. Read the NetDocuments White Paper on security.  They read the book and went a step further.
  • DOCUMENT RENTENTION:  This is a tricky matter to define.  With NetDocuments you can define business rules that look for inactive Matters and “flag them” for retention policies.  And then there are procedure to migrate these files to archival storage areas.
  • SCANNING AND IMAGING: NetDocuments lets you scan directly to a workspace, their metaphor for a Matter Folder, or to an actual folder.  You can scan to an email address that automatically profiles the document to a particular folder.  You can also create “Cover Pages” for scanned documents that are designed so that when you send in the scanned stack of documents, they get automagically profiled correctly.
  • EMAIL MANAGEMENT: Again NetDocuments has thought quite closely about this. You have a number of options.  The EMS Profiler lets you select a single or multiple emails, and profile them by selecting a client and matter dropdown.  The EMS Folders gives you a folder tree in Outlook that represents your active workspaces and you can DRAG the email into the appropriate folder and it will automatically upload.  Or you can drag the email to an autoprofile folder on your computer’s desktop and it will save to the document management system.

If you are interested in trying out NetDocuments, please visit our Contact Page and arrange a time for a free half-hour consultation.  We are certified NetDocuments implementation partners.