Winston Churchill was right when he stated, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Over our time in the legal technology industry, we’ve seen our share of mistakes. We’ve found that the following are the eight most common DMS mistakes law firms and corporate legal departments should be sure to avoid:

1. Foregoing a thorough DMS assessment

Whether a first implementation or converting systems, take the time to properly identify requirements.  While clients are sometimes reluctant to make this upfront investment, the cost of implementing the wrong solution is exponentially more.

2. Overestimating the ease in which generic applications can be customized to meet the needs of legal

Seeing potential can be a great thing, but not without weighing the time, effort and money involved.  Too often we’re converting clients that originally implemented generic DMS applications, not specifically made for the legal industry.  In the case of corporate law departments, they’re often inheriting the DMS application used by the overall corporation.  This consolidation seems great in theory, but the actual result is countless hours invested into a constant project, that still never quite catches up to what an industry built DMS would natively provide.

3. Purchasing an “all in one” application, that includes DMS functionality

A single solution with great accounting, case and document management?  Sign me up!  Though the often reality are solutions that do a little bit of everything, but not particularly well.  Forcing attorneys and paralegals to use the pseudo document management of an “all in one” system is like handing a sushi chef a Swiss army knife.  It’s just not efficient.

4. Choosing the wrong partner

Sometimes firms make the mistake of choosing a partner that’s very familiar with their existing environment, but not the actual application they’ve chosen.  Since there’s no replacement for DMS experience, this can be a recipe for disaster.  Rather than having the false hope your current provider can learn on the job, seek a complementary partner that specializes in document management.  We’re seeing less and less clients rely upon one integrator, as no single company can maintain equal expertise across the vast array of different legal technologies.

5. Getting the right partner involved too late

Clients often come to us after having already purchased DMS software.  These discussions often reveal how many critical project elements were never considered beforehand.  Sometimes there are also variations in some of the software modules we would have recommended.  The earlier you can involve the partner responsible for implementing the software, the better.  They can help avoid purchasing mistakes, and take responsibility for all software being successfully implemented.

6. Omitting design time

Clients sometimes attempt to cut cost by requesting a generic DMS design.  While it might initially seem there’s nothing unique about the way your organization works, the subtle differences start to add up.  The decision then becomes increasing the scope and cost mid-project, or compromising the end user satisfaction.  Neither scenario is desirable, and both can be avoided by initially including the proper amount of time needed to design the system.

7. Insufficient training

End user adoption determines overall project success, yet so many firms skimp on training.  Most users will never understand the infrastructure and security wins of the firm’s DMS project, but will know if their daily activities have become more difficult.  It’s a big advantage to have an internal training presence, but remain realistic about how much a single person or small team should handle during a large-scale project.  Contracting outside assistance to train and supplement internal personnel is a rewarding investment worth making.

8. Falling behind

I can’t count how many times I’ve met with a firm that is completely dissatisfied with their DMS, but also 5+ years behind the latest version.  You wouldn’t complain Honda currently stinks because your 1994 Accord has roll-up windows.  Nor should you write off your DMS before upgrading from a heavily outdated release.  Amazingly, many of the firms even fork over large sums for software support and maintenance every year to stay current, but still choose not to upgrade.  Advancements happen rapidly in technology, so judge your DMS vendor on the best they have to offer.

Avoid these mistakes, and you’ll be celebrating a DMS victory!