Meeting tight deadlines for filing motions is stressful by itself. But it’s even more nerve-rattling when legal research, drafts and comments are scattered all over the place and not accessible when needed. In a typical law firm, email-based workflows are a big part of the problem.
Substituting a secure cloud collaboration system for the email workflow can overcome this problem, helping law firms save time and money throughout the process. To illustrate, let’s say your firm is working on a motion for a personal injury case, in which emotional distress is one of your main arguments. Here are three ways the right cloud program can make motion drafting more efficient.
1. Tracking Version Control and Redlined Changes
Once associates complete a draft of a motion, they usually email it to a partner as an attachment. The partner then redlines and emails it back, maybe with additional guidance in the body of the email — for example, “Can we argue negligence in addition to emotional distress?” Now comments are in two places: the redlined document and the email. Comments become even more fragmented and buried deeper in the trail as the draft ricochets back and forth between associate, partner, other members of the legal team, co-counsel and possibly the client.
In contrast, what if you shared, edited and annotated drafts using a secure cloud collaboration system that you can access at any time? Preserving draft history in one place saves time and avoids the risk of review comments falling through the cracks. In addition, partners can advise new associates to review similar motions before submitting their first drafts in other cases, sparing themselves from having to make the same comments every year, like, “I need you to find three citations for this” or “Talk to Carol Wolfe, who tried a similar case.” Fewer review cycles for motions frees up billable time for both partners and associates.
You can also invite co-counsel to review and comment on documents in your secure collaboration area. For example, co-counsel might upload additional research and note, “Page 2 has a great argument for another element of emotional distress.” You can even invite clients to view the final or nearly final version of motions, avoiding their concerns about emailing sensitive information and the like.
2. Accessing and Editing Motions Anywhere, On Any Device
Almost nine out of ten lawyers now use smartphones, and about a third use tablets for work, based on ABA data. So I’m always surprised when I see lawyers in courtroom settings still laboring with stacks of paper and colored highlighters. Bringing along a file on a USB drive or emailing it to yourself is an improvement, but there’s always the worry that you’ll forget to do it, or leave behind a drive containing sensitive documents.
Keeping the file in a secure cloud-based collaboration system, where it’s accessible from anywhere on any device, gives you the same capabilities on the go that you would have in the office. From wherever you are, you can securely log in from any PC, laptop or tablet to view, edit and sign motions. You don’t need any special VPN or FTP software or have to remember separate processes. This kind of mobility also helps with client satisfaction because they don’t have to wait for you to return to the office to make a minor change.
3. Leveraging the Firm’s Investment in Case Research
Finding cases on Lexis or Westlaw with law that you can cite might take a couple of days or more, which clearly is time-consuming and costly to the client. The problem is that lawyers typically access these cases only once, or on a per-matter basis. And if they save them, it’s on their own hard drive. Then, not knowing that the case has already been downloaded, other lawyers who work on similar matters months from now take the time to find the same case again — and pay for it again.
Saving cases in a cloud-based collaboration space enables all lawyers in the firm to access them for their own cases. Even before checking online research sites, associates can do a keyword search of the firm’s own content to find relevant cases to cite, potentially saving hours of research time. Also, associates can see comments or highlighted portions provided by other lawyers in the firm, to quickly identify the main reasons why those cases are important.
The process is simple. I’ve created a folder for shared files on my desktop, and set it up so that all documents I save in that folder automatically sync with my cloud storage folder (in my case, Box). If I download a case to that folder, it automatically appears in my cloud folder, where others in the firm who have been granted access can find it. When I’m working on a document while on a plane, for example, without Wi-Fi, the edited document automatically appear in my cloud folder the next time I have a network connection.
The bottom line: Using a secure cloud collaboration system can shorten review cycles, simplify collaboration among all parties, save money on research for future motions and help you to be more responsive to clients.
Nitin Gupta is Legal Vertical Lead at Box, an application that delivers enterprise content collaboration for lawyers anytime, anywhere, and from any device. Prior to Box, Nitin was the co-founder of LawPivot, the largest online marketplace for consumers and businesses to connect with lawyers. Nitin also practiced law as an intellectual property lawyer at Townsend and Townsend, a top national intellectual property law firm. Follow him @nitin88.
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