Dine Law, P.L. is a small law firm providing Elder Law services in Manatee & Sarasota Counties, and in October 2012, the members of the firm embarked on quite a journey together as we moved our entire practice (server, telephones, time-keeping and document management systems) into the cloud. Bios for each member of the firm can be found here, but if you’re short on time, here’s what you need to know:
- Dine Law is writing this blog as a group because it believes all members’ opinions are valuable. Each blog post will cover a different topic involving technology and this post’s topic is DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT.
- Erika Dine is the founding attorney and has been a practicing lawyer for 10 years. Logan Elliott and Sierra Pino are associates and have been practicing for 3 and 6 years, respectively. Heather Muncy is a paralegal and office manager with 10 years experience in the legal field. Diane Roy is a full time paralegal and Jet Stewart is a part-time paralegal. Together they have 60 years of combined experience!
- DISCLAIMER: We often refer to the specific programs and products we are using because we took the time to research them and they are a good fit for Dine Law. There are many technology choices and options available to you, and we just want you to use something to help make your life a little easier!
Summer 2012 – The Dilemma
Document: Hi my name is internal document. I was drafted within the office of Dine Law. I’m now sitting here in plain sight with all my friends, but the folks at Dine Law can’t even find me…I want to be here for them, anywhere they go, but I don’t know how. I am a pleading with a great argument, but if no one knows I was written for the John Doe case, they won’t find me. That is because Dine Law has their documents sorted on a shared drive in file folders organized by client. I can’t be found any other way!
Heather: I can’t find anything without it taking forever to look through our server. It takes me longer to find the right document I want to use as my layout than it does to actually draft the document.
Making the Decision
We sat down as an office knowing none of us were happy with the storage system we currently had. We discussed how we could make the transfer from an off site server to a document storage system in the cloud. After demoing several different programs we finally made our decision to go with NetDocuments.
After making the decision to go with NetDocuments we had a lot of training to do. Sierra and Heather became responsible for knowing the system inside and out. They received the most training and then assisted everyone else when they came across a road block. During the setup of NetDocuments, we set many deadlines on when things needed to be in place. Sometimes we met them without problems . . . other times, not so much. Sierra and Heather took many hours and drafts and redrafts at how we wanted our cabinets, workspaces, and profiles to be laid out and how each template would most benefit us. Sierra and Heather went back to the “drawing board” several times after input from everyone else because each person has a different view on how documents should be categorized or labeled. We had to find the best solution for ALL. Some things are still a work in progress, but we’ve made it through the tough stuff…
October 2012 – The Beginning of NetDocuments
Document: Ahhhh, you finally did it, took you long enough! I’ve got my cabinet and my workspace and oh, my beautiful profiles. Yes, profiles! When I am saved into NetDocuments, I get profiled with certain information like the date I was created, my size, my client/matter, and the type of document I am.
Document: Now you know everyone is going to resist filling out my profile fields, right?
Heather: No, I think we can trust them to do the right thing and dress you properly. It’s for their benefit in the long run.
Document: Sure, talk to me again in a few months and see where that gets you.
Heather: Well document, you were right. I should have listened. Now I have to go be the “fashion police” and make dressing you mandatory! Everyone is going to hate me, but oh well, they’ll get over it.
Document: Told ya so.
Heather: After almost a year of NetDocuments, it seems to be running smoothly. Everyone has a good perspective on where things go and are doing pretty well with it. Obviously, there has been some resistance, but nothing too horrible and finding a document now is fairly simple. As nothing is ever perfect, there are still a few bumps and I’m sure there are more to come. Overall it’s been a great transition and definitely a much needed one.
The remainder of this post is intended to give you our individual perspectives of transitioning to a cloud-based document management system. We will cover specific tasks such as filing mail, faxes and emails, as well as profiling, searching for, signing and sharing documents. In closing, we will leave you with a short story authored by Logan about a document’s journey from the paper mill to the Dine Law shredder.
HEY MR. POSTMAN: MAIL/FAX/E-MAIL THIS!
Document: Hi, my name is Incoming Document, better known as “Mail”. When I arrive I am totally new and without any identity. I feel so alone!
Jet: Oh, Hi Mail! Welcome, come on in and let me show you around. Why don’t you have a run through our ScanSnap and let’s give you a home with some really cool profile fields and get you dressed up nice. That way everyone can see you.
Jet: There you go Mail – how does that feel?
Document: Wow – I fit right in; I’m really happy here!
Jet: Being fairly new to NetDocuments and arriving in the middle of the transition, I can appreciate the hard work of Sierra and Heather. With their help the learning curve for me was fairly painless. I was working along in NetDocuments, happy as a clam, then one day the “road block” popped up. Of course when the “fashion police” (better known as Heather) had to step in because not everyone was really good at “dressing” their documents, I was a bit taken aback too. Not to worry, it all worked out well.
In the beginning the mail flow was a little cumbersome but with NetDocuments in place, the handling of incoming mail has been centralized and with one person responsible for scanning and “dressing” the mail before distribution, the flow has been pretty smooth.
Diane: All the faxed documents that arrive at Dine Law come through our email system from an online program called Maxemail. I am the person that receives every fax as a PDF attachment to an email message. In addition to forwarding the fax to the relevant people in the firm, I OCR the document (optical character recognition) and then save the PDF to NetDocuments.
Document Thank you for OCRing me Diane! This makes every word in my fax searchable in NetDocuments.
Sierra: Even our emails are saved in NetDocuments and are searchable. NetDocuments integrates with Microsoft Outlook so when we receive an email, we can file it away in NetDocuments using special folders that “live” in our Outlook Inbox which correlate with our Client and Matters set up in NetDocuments.
Document: And when you send me in the form of an email, a screen pops up in Outlook asking you whether you want to save me into NetDocuments.
PROFILING AND SEARCHING: THEY ARE RELATED!
Diane: I’m not a great proponent for change. When our office decided to implement a new document management system, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too excited. It scared the heck out of me, but at the same time, the thought of having everything in uniformity was exciting. My comfort level slowly increased knowing that there was no second guessing on how and where to save our documents. Conformity is key. But not without hesitation on my part…..
Kudos to Heather for making it “a no option but to profile each document” as we go.
Document: Hi Diane. Welcome to NetDocuments… time to save the document you just prepared. Don’t be scared, take it step by step and remember everything Heather and Sierra taught you about dressing me up and properly naming and profiling me so that I won’t be invisible. You know how you like to search for documents? Well, if you do this right, you’ll find me with only a few clicks of a button. Remember, time is money.
Diane: I know. It all sounds good, but all I want to do is prepare my document, name it and go on to the next task. This seems to be taking so much time. Heather and Sierra’s instructions to me were to name the document (okay, simply enough. I have to do that anyway), name the client, (okay, easy) name the matter (okay), the sender, the attorney, the issue date, the document type, then refine the document, state whether it’s a draft or final copy and whether it’s discovery related, then, and only then, can I click the “ok button” (okay, now that’s asking for way too much information, I don’t have time for this). I’m sure I can skip some of these profiles.
Document: Don’t do it.
Diane: Too late.
Diane: Hey, what’s going on? I tried opening a document I did just last week, and the profiling screen popped up asking me to go through and name each field. I can’t seem to skip through the profiling fields anymore. Really? Wait! That can only mean one thing. Heather’s on to me.
Document: I tried telling you.
Diane: Wow! Don’t tell them, but you were right. The more information you have in each profile, the easier it is to find a document when searching. Just today, I realized when I clicked on a document (that I properly profiled), it opened right away without bringing me to the profile screen. Now that’s quick service. Thank you Document for all your good advice and thanks to Heather for forcing me to properly dress you.
Diane: It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year that we started talking about a new document management system for our office. Everyone has worked so hard to make this work (mostly Heather and Sierra). Just two weeks ago, I learned how to create a share space in NetDocuments (read Sierra’s post). It’s been fun and look forward to the next challenge. Yup, I said it.
SHARING IS CARING
Before we transitioned to NetDocuments, the computers at Dine Law were all connected to a single network. This allowed one user to open a document, make edits and save the document on a shared drive. Each user would then be able to view and modify the most recent changes. However, if you wanted to keep a draft with the old changes, you needed to save the changes you made as a completely new document. As a result, you sometimes had multiple documents taking up space in the shared drive. With NetDocuments, you can save multiple versions of the document without having to create separate documents, and you can keep track of those versions by entering the date the version was made and who made the changes. Sharing our documents internally and with clients and opposing counsel externally has changed with the implementation of NetDocuments as well.
Document: Hi! I’m an existing document and the kind folks at Dine Law want to share me internally. Heather drafted me at your request Sierra and now she is going to send me to you without having to download me as an attachment. The “email link” option in NetDocuments sends an email to you which contains a link.
Sierra: I just received a message from Heather in my Outlook Inbox with a link to you. I click on the link and NetDocuments opens in my internet browser. I asked Heather to draft you and here you are, just waiting patiently for me to review you. I can open you, modify you and save you, all without having to rename you. Now I want to send you to our client for her review.
Document: Okay, Sierra. You have a couple of options when you want to send a document to someone who is not a member of Dine Law.
- You can open Outlook and attach me from NetDocuments directly to your email;
- You can email a copy of me directly the from NetDocuments internet site;
- You can download me to a file on your hard drive and then email it;
- You can deliver me in a secured link; or
- You can set up a secure Share Space within NetDocuments for other individuals to access me.
Sierra: Well, it would be helpful to know a little bit more about each of these options before I choose how to send you along.
Document: Sure thing jellybean. Options 1, 2, and 3 are similar in that you are sending me as an attachment to an email.
Option 1 is used when you draft an email and then realize you need to attach me to it. Since I am living within NetDocuments, you can just click the “Attach File – NetDocuments” button in Outlook and your internet browser will open to NetDocuments where you can search for me and select me which attaches me to your email.
With Option 2, you simply click the “Email Copy” button next to the document while you are logged into NetDocuments. It will automatically open Outlook for you and create a new email with me as an attachment. You then write your message and click send.
With Option 3, you download the document from NetDocuments to a temporary file on your local hard drive called a “Briefcase”. Then, if you start a new email in Outlook, you can simply click on “attach file” and locate me within your Briefcase to select and attach me.
Sierra: Why would I ever choose Option 3 to download the document first when I can simply email you directly from NetDocuments using Option 1 or 2?
Document: Ahhh, that is elementary my dear Watson. Option 3 is ideal when you are e-filing. You see, NetDocuments is already integrated with Microsoft Outlook which allows you to save the step of downloading and attaching me. In contrast, your local court system is not integrated and you will need a place to temporarily store me while you upload me to the court’s website for e-filing.
Sierra: You said “temporary”. That can mean a lot of things to a lot of people…
Document: … And lawyers can spend an awful lot of time an energy trying to convince others your definition of temporary is the correct one! But to answer your question, the default is 14 days, but that time frame can be changed by the administrator.
Sierra: And to respond to your comment, Mr. Document, that wouldn’t be good time management. Perhaps you should read our previous blog on that subject here. We’re getting off track now. Let’s re-focus. You’ve explained Sharing Options 1, 2, and 3, but what about Options 4 and 5?
Document: Option 4 is to deliver a secured link. It is similar to the NetDocuments link Heather emailed you (where NetDocuments opens in the recipient’s internet browser and I am waiting there, patiently, for the user to view me), except that you can provide for additional security. There are four main security features to choose from. You can:
- prevent me from being downloaded;
- lock a version of me before sending;
- password protect me; and
- set an expiration date for the link to function.
Sierra: Sounds spiffy. What if I want to send many documents and share them with several people? For example, we co-counsel with two other firms on a monster case and want to share all the deposition transcripts and exhibits with both of them.
Document: That’s where Option 5, the Share Space, comes into play. Think of it as a secure container where Dine Law members can collaborate and share with others who are not NetDocuments users. It allows you to place documents in a virtual Share Space without creating multiple copies as you do when using email. You can limit the access you grant to the individuals using the Share Space, permitting them only to view the documents or letting them download or edit the documents. You can also set up discussion groups regarding the Share Space.
Sierra: Thanks, Document. You’ve been very helpful in walking me through my options on how to send you to the client. Since you are a document containing financially sensitive information, I am going deliver you in a secured link so that I can password protect you.
Document: You say “password protect”; I say “chastity belt”.
Sierra: [clicks send]
Document: Away I go….
SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED
Document: Well, I’m drafted and there isn’t even an attorney around to approve and sign me.
Paralegal: There has to be a better way, this document is important and has to get out today.
Document: I’m so glad you asked. You are right. There is a better way and you don’t even have to print me to sign me.
Paralegal: Really?!!! Tell me more!
Document: It used to be if the attorney wasn’t at the office that was the end of the line for me until the attorney came in and could review, approve and put their pretty blue pen to my beautiful paper. Now, I can be emailed to the attorney for approval and electronically signed. There are a few ways this can be done. Let me explain:
- The attorney can import me into an app on a tablet and sign and send me off to either be mailed or e-filed;
- After the attorney has approved me and given authorization to a staff member, the staff member can place a pre-designed signature stamp on me in Adobe; or
- Similar to number two, after approval and authorization to a staff member, that staff member can type an electronic signature directly on to the document using /s/.
Paralegal: Wow, so you are saying I don’t have to wait!
Document: That’s right!
Paralegal: Off you go to Erika for approval and e-signature.
Erika: There are a couple apps that I like to use when I’m on the go. Sign Easy and iAnnotate PDF are apps I use on my iPad. I use Sign Easy when you are a one page document I need to sign. It is very basic and user friendly. Best of all, it is free. If you are a larger document or I want to review and comment on you, I use iAnnotate. For $9.99, I am able to highlight you and make notations using the type-writer tool. I find the Notes Summary function in iAnnotate particularly useful. The Notes Summary takes all of my markups and places them into either the body of an email or my iPad clipboard. The Notes Summary is a perfect tool to cross check work after a paralegal has made changes to you based on my markups.
A SHORT STORY ABOUT A LONG JOURNEY
By Logan Elliott
I’ve had a lot of time to reflect lately . . . a strange way of looking at things now that my days are numbered. It’s been a long journey, one that all started back home on the farm in Polk County, Florida. I grew up on a timber farm, just another member in a long line of what you might call the family business. I spent a lot of time outdoors in the Florida sunshine; soaking up rays in the summer and cooling off in the afternoon showers. That is, until it was time to go to work.
Pretty early in life I ran into a man with a chainsaw who cut me down just above my stump. He tossed me on the back of a semi where I rode all the way to the mill in Haines City. When I got there, I was stripped and processed and thinned out a bit before I was nestled into my first office with 500 of my friends. At the time, I was just paper, but now I’m a document.
After leaving the mill, I made a brief stop at a distribution center, an office depot, and finally the Dine Law supply cabinet. I spent quite some time watching my friends being pulled from the cabinet and chosen to go to work wondering when it would be my turn; wondering if I were good enough. One day I got my chance when a tall guy in a boring grey suit opened the cabinet muttering something derogatory about a printer. I knew I had better bring my A-game, because this guy was a real grouch. I knew I didn’t want to meet my demise as a balled-up blank sheet of paper like my no good uncle.
Alas, I was fed into a printer tray. I knew this was it; this was what I had been waiting for! The suit man pressed control p. Nothing happened. He pressed it again, only this time with considerably more authority. Again, nothing happened. I heard him muttering under his breath as he opened and closed the printer in frustration. When suddenly, something was happening . . . I was being fed into the printer and I could feel all those ink jets doing their thing. This was it, I was finally a document!
When the ink jets were finished, suit man pulled me from the printer and stared at me intently for what seemed like an eternity before he placed me on his desk. I wasn’t sure what to think until I saw him come at me with a blue pen. This was it, I must have passed the test, he was actually signing me!
After he signed me, I was placed in a scanner where suit man had a few more choice words before pounding the flashing blue button. After having my first picture taken, suit man two-hole punched me, introduced me to a new group of about 500 friends, and filed the whole lot of us on the end of an oak shelf where I have been ever since.
That was over a year ago. Since then, I’ve sat here in this binder at the end of the oak shelf and watched suit man create document after document. Every time it’s the same; print, sign, scan, NetDocuments, and shred. That’s right, shred. Ever since Dine Law implemented their paperless system, any paper document is quickly filed electronically and then destroyed. I’ve sat here at the end of this oak shelf watching all of those files to my left slowly disappear over the last few months. Suit man flips through them, staring diligently at each page looking for the few originals documents the office must keep. The rest of my brothers are torn out of the binders and fed to the shredder.
Going paperless makes sense; I’ve sat on this shelf since the suit man created me. Since then, he has circulated countless copies of me while I sit here, perfectly un-circulated. I know the system makes sense, but I still can’t help feeling like Arnold Schwarzenegger in The 6th Day. Here I sit on the shelf while my clones get all the glory. Meanwhile I’m counting down the days until suit man gives me one last onceover before taking me to the shredder.