Magazine Article | March 22, 2007

Making A Case For Document And Workflow Management

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Technology allows an attorney in a one-person office to more easily handle the myriad of documents associated with his cases.

Integrated Solutions, April 2007

As the sole practitioner in his own law firm, Attorney William Engelhaupt is comfortable with juggling hundreds of cases at any one time. But handling the multitude of paper documents that pertain to each case has always been more of a challenge.

In late 2005, Engelhaupt, who employs two paralegals on a contract basis, decided that using paper-based document handling methods no longer worked for him. "There was just too much paper to sort through," he says. "It made locating and looking through case files difficult, and sometimes documents weren't processed in a timely manner."

By January of 2006, the attorney was ready to shop for a document management solution. The system had to include a workflow component, so that Engelhaupt could easily track the progress of his cases as well as paralegals' work on them. Other 'musts' included ease of use and the option of e-mailing managed documents to clients, courts, and other parties involved in cases. Engelhaupt's busy schedule and large docket of cases also made "a system that would not be too time-consuming to manage" a top criteria on his list.

Engelhaupt investigated four different solutions, eventually selecting Dokmee Document Management from Office Gemini. "I picked this product because it was the only one that had all of the functions I wanted, at the price [mid three figures] I was willing to pay," he notes. Additionally, he liked the fact that the vendor was willing to customize the application on request should the need arise. Such a situation has yet to occur, but the attorney says the flexibility to tweak the system remains important because it will enable him to best leverage his technology investment.

The system was deployed in July 2006 via an online download and training session conducted with the vendor. Engelhaupt had previously participated in one of the weekly Webinars offered by Gemini for its prospective and new customers; hence, "I already had some training under my belt," the attorney reports.

Over a period of two to three months following the rollout, all paper documents that had been in the office files were input or scanned and imported into the software. The latter resides on Engelhaupt's PC and supports all file types, including, but not limited to, TIFF, JPEG, PDF, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and e-mails. All files and documents are now indexed upon entrance into the system, and a multilevel, search-and-retrieval feature permits Engelhaupt to retrieve and open files instantly. "I have become more efficient in locating and looking through case files," he states. "I also am able to keep everything in one centralized and secure location rather than scattered through my office and computer."

In addition to facilitating overall document handling, the technology has streamlined the day-to-day process of working on cases and serving clients. Engelhaupt utilizes the system to put any documents stored in the office's database directly into a workflow. "I create different workflows and specify the steps through which documents in each workflow should go, then monitor workflow status on a screen provided in the system," he explains. This, along with the ability to 'push' individual file elements forward and backward within steps in a given workflow as needed or reject documents and suspend them in a step, ensures that he does not forget or neglect to process and amend documents at every appropriate stage.

Engelhaupt says a feature that lets him launch documents in a workflow to an external application such as Microsoft Word in order to edit them, as well as the option to refile  updated documents within or save them outside Dokmee, has contributed to his overall efficiency. "What's more, it is far easier to send documents now, as they are already scanned and ready to e-mail," he asserts. "And of course, the technology has reduced the amount of storage space I require for paper."