Digitize Your Litigation Consulting: It’s Easier than You Think
Using software to digitize your litigation consulting practice
How well does your current document management system measure up? Learn more about the latest trends and techniques in using electronic data storage and how accountants are uniquely positioned to transition into the use of this technology in their litigation consulting engagements.
Your current software may already have features that could digitalize your litigation consulting work.
It wasnâ€™t until the subpoena came that Rob Carmines really came to appreciate the importance of having a comprehensive, electronic management system for legal documents.
â€śA client of mine was going through a divorce, and the opposing sideâ€™s lawyer had requested a massive amount of information about his business,â€ť said Carmines, managing partner at Carmines, Robbins & Company, PLC, based in Newport News, VA. â€śThis would have been boxes and boxes of paper records.Â In fact, the lawyer showed up with a dolly to take it all away. Â I met him in the parking lot and put a single DVD on the dolly. Â I had all his records stored electronically and I think it took me about 10 minutes to pull them and burn them to a CD.â€ť
With that, what could have been countless hours of non-billable drudgery was reduced to a few clicks.
â€śCentralized document management has been an essential tool for our accounting work for a long time now. Â That experience really made me think about how important it is for legal work as well, be it an unexpected subpoena or the litigation consulting work that we do,â€ť he said.
While the courts are just now catching on to the world of digital information in many cases, accountants are finding that the electronic document management systems that have automated their tax practices are also important tools for controlling the flow of information in litigation consulting work. Â The sheer volume of documents in a court case combined with todayâ€™s unprecedented mobility of information can be a volatile mix without the right checks and balances. Â Accounting professionals are well-positioned to provide those checks and balances with document management systems that, in many cases, they already have.
For Carmines, Robbins & Company , it was simply a matter of adapting features they already used for accounting to the firmâ€™s litigation consulting work. Â They have found, for example, that integration with their client portal system is a great way to control the flow of information.
â€śThe integration between our electronic record management and our client portal system has been incredibly useful for legal work,â€ť he said. â€śIt allows us to make documents available electronically while keeping control over who has access to them. We can even add annotations that can only be seen by certain people. We can see who has looked at a document and when, and we can take documents down whenever we choose. You get the convenience of doing business electronically, but not the worry about information flying all over the place.â€ť
Many document management systems also include sophisticated automation for document naming, enabling firms to set up naming conventions that standardize document scanning and management. Â At Carmines, Robbins & Company, for example, workers use standardized naming conventions to create a faster and more standardized scanning process.
Another key question that firms face whenÂ migrating to a centralized document management system is whether to use an on-premise system or one of the newer, cloud-based systems. Â Many document management systems are available in either configuration, so itâ€™s largely the firmâ€™s call. Â While the idea of storing sensitive data off-site makes some firms uneasy, more and more are coming to realize that cloud-based systems can actually provide a higher level of security than on-premise systems. Â The ability to recover almost immediately if a fire, flood or other natural disaster strikes the firm is a big incentive, as well.
While Carmines, Robbins & Company uses locally hosted document management software, they also maintain their data on an off-site server that can restore data quickly if needed.
â€śOur area has been hit by an earthquake, tornadoes, and a hurricane in the past couple of years, so having our case documents stored off-site has been absolutely essential,â€ť Carmines said. Â â€śIt helps me rest a lot easier, and itâ€™s a big selling point for prospective new clients, as well.â€ť
For Carmines, Robbins & Company, the document management-, client portal- and remote storage-systems they use for their tax practices are proving to be essential for litigation consulting work, as the legal profession begins the slow, but inexorable march toward digitalization. So, for accounting firms looking to modernize their litigation consulting branches, the solution may be .
In many cases, the question of whether your existing document management system is up to the job of managing your litigation consulting information comes down to a few key features. Â It may be wise to put together a checklist to see if your systems measure up. Â Some of the most important features include:
An Audit Trail: Many document management systems keep detailed records of who originally created a given document as well as who has accessed it and when. Â This can be important information in a court case, and it can also alert you to unauthorized access or even document theft.
Robust Annotation Features: Look for annotation features that enable you to make detailed annotations that are attributable to specific users. Â Equally important is the ability to make annotations visible only to certain users.
The Ability to Attach Additional Files to a Document: Some systems enable you to attach files to documents. Â For example, an important phone conversation about a document could be recorded and then attached to the document for quick reference in the future.
Off-Site Storage and Backup: The cloud is becoming an essential tool for backing up data.Â It also enables you to access documents from anywhere. Â It makes clients feel much more at ease about the security of their information.
Integration with Client Portal Systems: Client portal systems enable staff members to collaborate with outside parties and share information, while keeping you in control of sensitive documents. They dramatically increase the usefulnessâ€”and the securityâ€”of any digital document management system.
Take a few moments and assess your document management system. You may already have the necessary software to digitize and manage your documents. Â You may be closer to moving into the Digital Age than you think.Â
Â [author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://m.c.lnkd.licdn.com/mpr/mpr/shrink_200_200/p/4/000/14c/0a4/0e04568.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Jordan Kleinsmith is a Product Managerâ€”Enterprise, Tax & Accounting with Thomson Reuters.Â He is a graduate of Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan, and maintains a small tax and accounting practice.[/author_info] [/author]