A document management system (DMS) is a system used to track and store electronic documents.
In the Legal world, DMS are organised around the concept of a Matter, a case or a team:
All documents related to a specific Legal team, practice area, case or matter are stored in the same location so that various people who need to have access to these documents can view, open, save these documents.
Important features include:
- Access and Sharing:
Most significantly, DMS are installed on a central server that the appropriate people in the legal department will have access to. Documents are not stored on individual "C-Drives" or even a network "shared drive" but on a dedicated server. This is the foundation that allows DMS to deliver the remaining features described below.
A key feature of any DMS is the ability to easily retrieve (find) the documents. The smarter the search, the better
A user doesn't just "open" a document, they need to "check it out". This ensures that only one user works on the document at any point, avoiding conflicting versions. When saving the documents back in the DMS, users "check in" the document, making it available again for the other users.
- Version control:
Most DMS automatically take care of adding a version number to the document and if appropriate incrementing the version number. This avoids accidental overwriting on versions and provides better document history audit functionality.
- Document assembly:
Most DMS also provide the ability to easily create documents such as NDA, Letter of Understanding or more complex document (contract) based on the information maintained in the DMS or provided by the user.