Law firms are besieged with documentation. From litigating and negotiating M&A transactions to forming businesses and estate planning, documents are front and centre of nearly every type of legal work. The tremendous range of documents law firms create and use - word documents, PDFs, emails, Excel sheets etc – makes it extremely difficult to calculate just how many documents law firms house. One IT manager at a medium-sized law firm interviewed as part of this research estimated his firm had around five million documents and that the top 20 UK law firms often manage in excess of 50 million documents.
The sheer volume of documentation creates a series of challenges. The first is cost. Gartner estimates law firms spend on average 3% - 6% of their revenue just on printing. Then there is compliance. Internal and external regulation means firms increasingly need to manage their documents in a secure and efficient fashion. Finally, bundles of paper documents reduce employee productivity and can lead to inferior client service.
Thankfully for the UK legal industry, an entire industry, known as Managed Document Services (MDS), exists to assist law firms and similar types of companies to manage this problem. This is not a new industry. Some of the world’s biggest companies from HP to KYOCERA provide MDS and many UK law firms interviewed and surveyed for this report have been using some form of MDS for years.
However, despite the challenges created by paper documents and the wide range of MDS providers and solutions, almost one third of UK law firms surveyed for this report do not currently use any managed document service or software. The uptake of MDS declines with smaller firms: c.80% of surveyed firms with 100+ partners currently use some form of MDS, this falls to 75% for firms with 20-100 partners and to 60% for firms with less than 20 Partners.
Our survey data also reveals that firms that have used MDS have often just utilised a relatively simple component such as scanning paper documents into a digital form (undertaken by 79% of surveyed law firms) or digital archiving and retrieval (undertaken by 70% of law firms). Far fewer firms have used less mainstream components of MDS that have the potential to deliver significant cost and efficiency benefits. For example, only 31% have implemented cloud printing and only 28% have conducted a third-party assessment of their entire document environment.
We believe there is a case for every small and medium sized law firm to evaluate many more MDS components. This report starts by outlining the benefits of MDS. It then examines law firm’s pain points relating to document management and the solutions they would like to use to address them. It then looks at certain difficulties in implementing MDS and how these can be overcome. For firms not currently using MDS or for firms considering changing their MDS provider, we conclude by analysing the factors that should be taken into account when selecting a MDS solution.