The modern legal IT landscape is more complex than ever and the cost to law firms for staying on top of that pace of change continues to rise. One of the key drivers of this challenge is the increasing number of legal technology applications that are requiring either a transition to the cloud or more robust internal resourcing.

Many law firm leaders have concluded that, as their applications grow in capability and complexity, it is no longer enough to just adopt the latest tools and put them to work. Today’s most successful firms must have the expertise and agility to capture evolving technology opportunities and sustain them on an ongoing basis.

In this fast-changing environment, a growing number of savvy law firms are turning to an alternative model for supporting their firms’ technology applications. This approach is known as Application Managed Services (AMS), in which the firm partners with an outside service provider to maintain some of their high-value applications. The most prominent example of where AMS can typically make an immediate impact is by providing document management system platform management.

DMS: The Cornerstone App

A Document Management System (DMS) provides a comprehensive electronic organizational system for all documents created or handled by a law firm. Those documents could be related to case files or client matters, business development activities or law firm administrative operations. The best DMS platforms allow you to limit access to certain users, create audit trails that track which users have touched each document, and collaboration tools that enable multiple users to work on the same document.

By some measures, a law firm’s DMS is the most important application of them all. This is because it houses every document and controls who is able to review, edit or share each document. It is essential to choose the best DMS for your firm, train your lawyers and staff members to use the system properly, and keep the platform updated with the latest features and data security patches.

This is the first post in a four-part series that will illustrate how AMS can deliver significant efficiency and profitability gains to law firms by helping them more successfully leverage the power of a document management system. We begin with explaining how a skilled AMS team can design and build a DMS architecture that gives your firm a competitive advantage.

Design

If you purchase a piece of land and decide to build a house, you first select an architect who can work with you to create a vision for the property and sketch out how to transform that vision into reality. The architect brings a level of expertise to this job, identifying gaps and potential pitfalls, and then develops a structure that will meet your needs.

There is a similar process to follow for any law firm that is considering the implementation — or redesign — of a DMS. The first step is to reach out to an experienced law firm IT advisor, such as an AMS provider, and obtain an independent opinion for the optimal approach to configure your DMS ecosystem in a way that is user-friendly and meets or exceeds all IT security requirements. This includes integrating the apps into your firm’s unique workflow.

For example, you might have one practice group that prefers to work in Microsoft Outlook, another group that likes to work in Microsoft Teams and yet another group that prefers to work in OneDrive. A good AMS team can architect your platform in a way that allows the firm’s professionals to use their preferred method of working while still ensuring data security and governance across the enterprise.

This is especially important given the migration of DMS platforms to the cloud. Harnessing the power of the cloud allows for much greater elasticity and scalability, but it also brings with it a different set of technical needs that require more sophisticated management. Working with an AMS provider gives your firm access to a pool of IT talent that has a proven track record of designing DMS platforms for law firms.

Build

An architect of a modernized DMS platform can help law firms work more effectively, productively and securely. But as with building a house, the architect’s plans are only as good as the construction work that is done to build the structure that has been designed. It is a major challenge for law firms to recruit, acquire and retain the talent necessary to build a software architecture that supports their DMS. By partnering with an AMS provider, a firm can draw on the AMS team’s deep cloud functional and technical skills — as well as expertise across a wide range of enterprise applications — to ensure a stable, high-performing environment for the firm’s users.

For example, with a modern DMS platform, the nucleus is data organization and management that aligns with mission-critical legal technology apps and the unique workflow of law firms. An experienced AMS provider has a team comprised of skilled experts who are competent in all relevant law firm technologies and thoroughly understand how your firm’s apps were developed. This empowers them to build a software architecture that is customized to your needs without a steep learning curve into the nuances of law firms and legal tech.

In our next post in this series, we will explain how the AMS model can be leveraged to drive the rollout of key applications by engineering the appropriate transformation and working to increase adoption throughout your environment. This role, Transform and Deploy, is an important way that a law firm can maximize the return on investment in their DMS platform.

If your firm is ready to explore whether the AMS strategy might be a good fit to supplement your internal IT team, it is important to look for an AMS provider that is dedicated to serving the legal industry. This domain expertise is critical to understanding applications built for the unique needs of the practice of law. For more information, please contact me at [email protected]

Sue Keno

Author Sue Keno

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Effective November 10, 2022, HBR Consulting's Advisory business was acquired by Renovus Capital, resulting in the separation of HBR’s advisory business from our IT Managed Services and K2 Services businesses.

We are excited about the opportunity to independently focus on our IT Managed Services and K2 Services clients and our core technology-related strengths. As part of this transition, we are reviewing our go-forward branding – watch for more news in the coming months!

Read more details in HBR’s press release.