Law Firm Document Management Options
Back in 2016, we wrote about the choice between Box.com or NetDocuments. In the ensuing six years, a lot has changed for legal document management workflows. Today there are other players in web-based content management for law firms: (Dropbox, Epona, MS365 (which includes OneDrive and Sharepoint), as well as Google Workspace (Google for Business and Google Drive).
This article will update the Box vs NetDocuments competition and explore these additional document management systems.
Box vs NetDocuments
NetDocuments is more of a practice management tool and Box.com is a document storage tool. Some of the core differences:
- Box.com costs $35 per month for the three users vs. “it depends” for NetDocuments.
- NetDocuments requires you to be onboarded with a NetDocuments channel partner. This is a 3rd party entity that is certified by NetDocuments to help your firm get integrated into using NetDocuments. The estimated cost is $1500 – $2500, depending on the size of your law firm.
- Equal. Both have a culture of security although, I would put Box ahead in this category. Box aspires to be a public company. With this comes greater scrutiny. Also, they are a classic Silicon Valley company, which inherently allows them to recruit the best of the best. Lastly, the industry is indicating Box.com as a security leader. Specifically, the DOJ adopted Box.com as their cloud storage vendor.
- Given that NetDocuments is more of a “practice management” tool, there are inherent benefits. The ND organizational scheme is “matter” centric and thus, feels logical in your workflows. The UX designers had one discipline in mind when they built the tool… law practice. Both products have a deep integration into the Microsoft365 portfolio of tools but NetDocuments will present a workflow where Box.com will offer more of a generic tool. Box forces the user to develop a data management scheme for their practice. While this puts a burden on the end user, it also can be liberating in not being forced to use so many steps to do basic functions. Box is developing tools that will help facilitate workflows, but it still will be the end users burden to stitch together their workflow.
- Box.com has a direct integration into Microsoft 365 that it did not have six years ago. NetDocuments used to have the edge regarding this practice management functionality, but no longer. They now both have integrations with Google Workspace as well, thanks to open APIs: Gmail and Outlook are both on the table — just depends on which one your prefer.
Mobile and Everywhere Access:
- Box used to lead here. Now, both apps are available on every device, both iOS (iPhone, iPad), and Android — any laptop or tablet. Given how you work, the nimbleness of Box.com architecture will integrate well with your mobility.
Box.com has a marketplace of apps that extends its functionality into other workflows in your law firm. It integrates with CRM tools and other practice management platforms such as Clio or Amicus Cloud. Newer SaaS (software-as-a-service) companies such as Factbox, a trial prep software, leverage documents stored in a Box.com environment, allowing the attorney to add facts and notes without having the documents live on a local machine.
Box.com really shines here in the app integrations. They have an app store with over 1500 app integrations including:
- DocketBird — and more
NetDocuments also has a slew of app integrations that it didn’t have six years ago:
- Microsoft Office 365
- Thompson Reuters — and more
Other DMS Apps to Consider If You Don’t Want Practice Management Software
LeanLaw’s Choice: Epona
Epona is a document management system with a deep integration into SharePoint, Office 365, and the Microsoft Office Suite. Because of those Microsoft integrations, and because Microsoft is also integrated into QuickBooks Online, a law firm can put together a practice management-like ‘tech stack’ with all the best in breed software that they enjoy using. Ten years ago when law firms bought document management solutions, Microsoft didn’t have all this functionality — and in real time. Now, it does and you should take advantage of what you’re already paying for.
The benefit of using a tech stack instead of an all-in-one software is that most practice management software is not good at everything. A law firm will buy the software for task management or for case management or whatever is their best feature. All the bells and whistles that come with that initial feature are not as dialed in. Why not use the best of everything?
Because of LeanLaw’s integration with both Epona and QuickBooks, there is a seamless connection between the financial world and the document world of the law firm — document management is streamlined, connected to billing and all matter-related. All of the matter’s most pertinent information is accessible: Metadata and other components can be scripted into the workflows.
An attorney who uses LeanLaw can onboard a client in 9 minutes and because of Epona’s automation, the secretarial function is gone. Not only are their cost savings, there are real time savings as well.
More Good Choices: Dropbox, Google Drive
File storage, file sharing, document management — these functions can be effectively connected through open APis with the software you are already using. If you like Drive or Dropbox or OneDrive — stay with it! You’ll use it more and you’re already paying for it.
The idea here, is to consider the advancement of your current technology and to see if it can be integrated into a manageable law firm tech stack. If so, you’ll use it more and therefore, it will outperform the “better” software that you are loathe to learn and use.
Be kind to yourself. Use software you love.