Why the Market for Document Software Needs Disrupting

Dennis Kennedy’s latest ABA Journal column offers lawyers practical, straight-forward advice when it comes to dealing with the frustration of technology.  Kennedy says instead of just getting mad, you should look for the root of the problem—which can suggest solutions.

Do we ever agree with that!—especially when it comes to software for managing documents.

The Problems with Document Management

Everyone who’s tried using a conventional document management system (DMS) knows the frustration:  documents have to be manually uploaded into the DMS, along with the time-consuming task of filling out document profiles each time.  Asking lawyers, whose time is their stock in trade, to do this is crazy.  And there’s always a ton of stuff that never makes it into the DMS, so it’s a lousy knowledge store for the firm anyway.

Here at MetaJure we understand how fed up lawyers are with technology that doesn’t work, is counter-intuitive, or requires a huge amount of training. We came from diverse backgrounds– from technology to large law firms to in-house counsel, but all agreed that the tools we’re given to manage our documents are awful.

It’s why, just as Kennedy posits in his technology column, we believe that now more than ever lawyers must ask tough questions about their current document management systems.  It’s why we believe the DMS market needs disrupting – and we lawyers need to take the lead.

How Bad Is It?

Technology is supposed to make your practice more cost-effective and deliver a higher level of client service, not slow you down.  But, that’s just what’s happening with current DMS systems.

  • Lawyers and other information technology workers waste at least six hours a week searching for or recreating lost documents,
  • Already an estimated 80% of all organization’s intellectual property is now communicated or stored in email (Gartner), plus email traffic is growing at a rate of 7% every year (The Radicati Group), putting even more pressure on the lawyers using current DMS technologies,
  • Most law firms today capture less than 50% of their documents in a centralized location, despite often strict requirements for their lawyers to save information there, and
  • While 85% of law firms with 100 or more lawyers have already adopted a DMS provider, less than 40 percent of law firms with 50 attorneys or fewer have purchased a DMS system. (ILTA)

A Disruptive Approach

Disruption as coined by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, refers to products that do more than improve upon already-established tools. Rather they offer new approaches to a technological challenge until this new way of thinking and doing supplants the existing paradigm.   Lawyers have a reputation of being slow adopters of technology, but we feel that’s because for years they’ve been sold general purpose tools without much regard for their professional requirements.  It’s time to change the paradigm.  We need to put the needs of the users – the lawyers – first.  And, document management is where we need to start.

We’ve Got to Move Away from the Paper Filing Paradigm

The legal DMS market has been dominated for decades by one paradigm that’s based on paper filing systems. Think about it.  The key DMS technology offerings all require firms to create agreed-upon filing structures (taxonomies),and then force users to manually tag and label a document or email before it gets manually saved into the system.  Who has time for that anymore?  Especially now, when sophisticated technologies exist that can do the work for us. Our iPhones automatically label the locations and people in the photos we take.  Our document management system should do the same.  And it can.

At MetaJure, We Didn’t Just Get Mad, We Created the Solution

As we thought about it, the root cause of the problem with conventional DMS software is that it makes users into document clerks.  Like so many software programs, DMS products try to take over an entire category of files, and tell you, “Just put all your documents into our product, then your troubles will be over.”  Not only is this a pain, it makes it very difficult to switch solutions later, thereby creating a perpetual dependency on their product (which is no accident, believe me).

Going back to the drawing board, we had three requirements:  (1) the system needed to automatically incorporate all the documents in the organization without any manual work; (2) the system had to locate documents without the need for manual tagging or profiling; and (3) it had to be as easy and intuitive to use as Google.

MetaJure is the creator of the first fully automated, smart document management solution that takes advantage of this 21st Century approach to managing information.  That means that lawyers and their staff can share and find 100% of their documents without the drawbacks that have bedeviled this productivity category from the start—like manual document uploading and tagging.  And instead of forcing users to conform their work processes to the tool, MetaJure is a flexible solution that allows people to organize their work how they choose.

A Call to Action

It’s time we lawyers moved away from the old Paper Filing Paradigm and embraced a 21st Century Paradigm.  It’s time we called for technology that meets OUR needs.  Now is indeed the time for technology that takes advantage of automated data collection and smart algorithms.  It’s time we speak up.


Kevin Harrang is co-founder of MetaJure Inc and former Deputy General Counsel of Microsoft Corporation. Designed by lawyers for lawyers and staff, rather than by IT experts and back office specialists, MetaJure leverages automation to enable law firms and other companies to locate and retrieve stored documents from multiple devices with the same ease as conducting a Google search.