In an evolving and competitive market, forward thinking sets of Chambers are continually looking for ways to become more efficient and effective with a focus on retaining their clients and winning new business. As we all know the legal industry has a large reliance on documentation, traditionally in paper form. There is a shift in this tradition, with barristers being encouraged to work in a more digital way, we can already see this with the implementation of the Digital Court System for criminal proceedings. Simplifying the way case documents are shared, edited and collaborated on by the parties within a case across different locations is a great way to gain ground. If this real-time document sharing and collaboration can also be integrated with Chambers Management Software, so that the documents are linked to cases already mapped within the system, then the gains can be even greater. With potential cost savings of 50% after two years, it is something that will not only reduce expenditure but also give your Chambers real competitive advantage.
How are documents shared at the moment?
At present, creating, editing and finalising case documents is a lengthy, drawn-out process. It can involve face-to-face meetings and the existence of documents in multiple locations without the ability to effectively track the versions and communications backwards and forwards as various parties make their amendments. This is time-consuming, lengthens the process and proves costly with printing, photocopying and postage which needs to be tracked to avoid lost documents. Email does provide a faster exchange of documents, but it doesn’t make the process of collaboration any easier nor does it allow for the sharing of large file sizes.
What are the issues?
With the cost of running Chambers increasing as property prices rise, and income diminishing with a reduced legal aid budget and falling fee levels due to the highly competitive market, it is extremely important to cut unnecessary costs wherever possible. Being able to reduce the time and money spent on printing, photocopying, couriers and postage would be extremely helpful.
As barristers are leading more nomadic lifestyles, working remotely and spread across a number of courts it is vital that documents can be accessed and edited on the go from mobile devices. Barristers’ time and travel costs are saved if they don’t have to return to Chambers on a regular basis to collect or return edited documents, or even rely on couriers.
Another important consideration is the Government’s digital strategy, its digitisation budget of £700 million, and the push to go paperless by 2020 – courts and the CPS use 160 million sheets of paper annually.
How can document collaboration help?
Document collaboration can deliver real cost savings and is extremely secure with all the appropriate levels of encryption. Along with the instantaneous data back-up, this can provide real peace of mind and true disaster recovery. It is much easier to maintain confidentiality by keeping papers in digital formats rather than print-outs which could be accidentally mislaid.
Instead of having to wait for documents to arrive by post, they can now be shared instantly in real-time between solicitors, clerks and barristers and then sent back with comments for immediate review. When documents need to be shared across multiple sites, the speed with which tasks can be completed is hugely increased, making it easier for Chambers to get time-critical documents finalised within the necessary deadlines.
How does document collaboration work?
With all case documents in one place in the Cloud, barristers can collaborate within their own team or with the instructing solicitor. Barristers can also copy case documents to their private workspace for personal annotation. If a second barrister is added to the case, they automatically get access to all the relevant information, saving significant amounts of time. This additional barrister can access all the case documentation, images, sound files and video recordings at the click of a button.
Documents of any size can be uploaded instantly, eliminating the size restrictions which can be a problem when attaching items in email. Implementing document collaboration means there is also more clarity over version control, all parties can see who has edited a file, and when, and what changes have been made – as well as leaving their own comments. There are additional efficiencies, such as the ability to search and jump to annotations, which also speed up the document review process.
When document collaboration is integrated with Chambers Management Software it is easy and logical for barristers and clerks to store and access documents in one place – eliminating the need for multiple systems and logins, making the process less complex. Emails that arrive with instructions and briefs can simply be dragged and dropped directly into the folder for that case. All barristers working on the case get notified and can view the documents immediately. Solicitors are able to upload documents directly into a case folder during the life of the case and if permitted, can download documentation that individual barristers produce and share with them, such as a written advice or drafted court order.
Using a Cloud-based document management solution allows seamless synchronisation between the Cloud and a local laptop or mobile device. Selective sync can help manage local file storage to just the current cases in progress. It’s fast and efficient, as only changes to a file are synchronised. It manages real-time version control of files and allows reverting back to an earlier version of the file if necessary.
- Potential cost savings of 50% after two years
- Money is saved in document production, processing and delivery
- Unlimited fixed price Cloud storage
- Security and access control
- Compliance with disaster recovery policy
- Document version control
- Improved customer service
- Solicitors can collaborate with the barrister in real-time
- Improved workflow – easy to find and manage instructions and briefs
- Download briefs directly from local authority portals
- Quickly set-up links for secure uploading and downloading of all case documentation
- Barristers can access latest case documents on multiple platforms and devices
- Barristers can work offline on case documents
- Barristers can be notified in real-time of a new case
Document collaboration can help you re-imagine how you operate by facilitating the sharing and editing of documents 24/7 from home, the office, the court or on the move. Its enhanced security and data back-up provide reassurance that confidential and vital documents are safe, as well as being readily accessible. With document collaboration clerks can now offer an end-to-end service to barristers and solicitors that not only greatly increases productivity and reduces costs, but also impresses clients by delivering a real-time, cutting-edge digital service.
By Doug Hargrove, Managing Director, Advanced Legal.