ASPs for Cost-Effective Management of Litigation Documents
IKON Office Solutions
As many firms have noticed since the advent of the digital age,
clients today are demanding more. Information, that is. With virtually
instantaneous access to information available in every aspect of
their personal and work lives, thanks to the Internet, clients have
come to expect the same level of information-when and where they
need it-from their legal services providers. In fact, in a survey
by The Legal Technology Institute of the University of Florida,
20 percent of respondents reported an increase within the past year
in client requests for real-time access to case-related documents-a
figure that jumps to 43 percent for large firms.
also true that the legal profession has become more techno-savvy,
and more firms are turning to technology to give clients what they're
looking for, while in turn improving the firm's own productivity
and cost-effectiveness in managing litigation. However, the same
study shows that only 8 percent of firms currently offer clients
access to case-related documents via an extranet. Clearly, for a
multitude of reasons, the legal profession has a long way to go
in terms of satisfying emerging client needs for real-time access
to case-related documents.
Many firms just haven't found a cost-effective solution or the time
and capital to invest in the right technology.
ASPs (Application Service Providers) for document management, and
you have the potentially perfect solution for many law firms. ASPs,
through which users rent software applications over the Internet
on a subscription basis, are hosted, deployed and supported by the
service provider. Via the Web, document management ASPs provide
anytime/anywhere secure access to case-related documents, solving
the information access issue-not only for clients, but also for
geographically dispersed attorneys, co-counsel, expert witnesses
and others. They also reduce the costs of communication and improve
productivity in the information sharing process by providing a secure,
real-time collaborative, online workspace.
ASP "software rental" model offers benefits to law firms
of every size. It allows firms to implement new technologies with
unprecedented speed. It provides the freedom to focus on the practice
of law, rather than on technology support. And it replaces large
capital expenditures for hardware and software with manageable monthly
payments, which can then be billed to clients.
as with any new technology, no matter how powerful its benefits,
it's no surprise that the legal profession has taken a cautious
approach toward ASPs; only 9 percent of law firms today use ASP
services according to The Legal Technology Institute.
also no surprise, given the nature of the legal profession, that
lawyers in the recent LegalTech and DocumentForum.com Technology
Leadership Survey cited the following factors as the greatest drains
on their ability to generate work product effectively: travel, coordinating
meetings, collecting input from multiple parties and searching for
files or materials. Oddly enough, these are the exact challenges
that a document-related ASP can help law firms resolve.
experts predict that ASP adoption rates will continue to grow, as
they develop a stronghold on the legal profession by proving their
security, reliability and benefits. In fact, 26 percent of firms
in the Technology Leadership Survey cited ASPs as their preferred
deployment model for new software solutions in the next 12 months.
that in mind, it's time to consider how a document management ASP
can benefit your firm. You also should think about which ASP is
right for you, as well as what features and functionality are required
to satisfy clients and ensure the maximum cost control benefits
for your firm.
management ASPs are a low cost of entry solution that can facilitate
collaboration through anytime/anywhere access to case-related documents
via the Internet. This functionality enables firms to not only handle
cases more efficiently, but also to handle larger cases than they
otherwise might have the capacity to. In addition, the technology
allows for workload balancing among offices and attorneys, who can
easily access the appropriate documents from multiple locations.
Going a step further, a document management ASP can actually enhance
the firm's relationships with its clients. Not only is the firm
providing clients with the information access they want, the ASP
solution also enables closer collaboration that can lead to an even
better understanding of your clients' needs and goals.
the technology side, another benefit of document management ASPs
is that, as technology changes, the application service provider
automatically upgrades the offering, ensuring that the firm is not
saddled with a capital investment in an obsolete in-house system.
And, as competition among ASP market players intensifies, the price
of subscriptions should remain low.
to Look For
ASP you choose will depend, of course, on the specific needs of
your firm. But there are a few general guidelines to follow in evaluating
service providers and the systems they offer.
of all, examine the service provider very carefully. As you are
well aware, your confidential case documents are the most precious
assets you have to work with, so choose wisely. Whether the ASP
is a public or private company, find out if it is financially stable
and will be in business for the future. When evaluating an ASP,
here are the other key issues to consider:
ASP physical infrastructure: Find out where the hosting provider's
servers are located. Are they in a secure, limited-access environment?
Do they have redundant Internet connections? Are the connections
expanded based on heavy user demand to avoid information bottlenecks?
ASP data treatment: How frequently is the data backed up? Get
details. The longer the time between backups, the more data could
be lost in the event of system failures. Does the ASP have sufficient
and qualified staff to competently convert your data to the ASP
system and then back to other standard management systems? What
is the timeframe for loading new data? The sooner your data is
available in the system, the sooner your firm can work on the
Security: Compare security measures among providers. Standard
industry practices include 128 bit SSL encryption and SecureID
tokens for each user. Is the ASP using the latest firewall technology?
Do they engage active monitoring software to detect unusual behavior?
Are they prepared for denial-of-service DNS attacks? Does the
ASP conduct routine employee background and drug tests?
A full-service provider: Before an ASP can host your documents
online, a detailed technical effort is necessary with regard to
document imaging, document coding and digital conversion. You'll
find that some service providers offer a full range of these litigation
document services, while others just host documents. A full-service
provider with a specific legal focus offers you the advantages
of overall legal document expertise, a single party continuously
responsible for your critical documents and a better understanding
of your business objectives.
The true cost: You need to ask whether there are hidden costs
for support, upgrades or any other ASP services. Before adopting
an ASP, you'll want to conduct a detailed "apples-to-apples"
cost comparison among your alternatives. Determine your needs
first and then discuss pricing. If there are variable costs, such
as hourly support costs, you may be able to negotiate a monthly
fixed rate or maximum cost. In any event, don't be shy about asking
how much typical clients pay over the course of a year.
addition to evaluating the service provider, you also need to determine
up front what system functionality you need and find a solution
that meets your requirements.
Ease of use: Select a system that allows your attorneys-some of
whom may be less techno-savvy than others-to be up and running
in little time. A Windows-intuitive "drag and drop"
interface offers ease of use and can become productive very quickly.
Multimedia capability: Some ASPs offer the ability to manage documents
in any electronic format-from Word and Excel files to graphic
images, audio files and electronic transcripts. This functionality
allows for greater efficiency in areas like managing evidence
and assembling witness kits. Other ASP systems have limited capabilities
and can only manage TIFF images.
Full training and support: An ASP that provides full support,
both live and online, can help ensure maximum uptime and system
usage. The more comfortable attorneys and staff are using the
ASP, the greater the efficiencies you will achieve.
Multi-tiered access with self-administration capability: Not all
eyes should have access to all documents and data. The system
should allow an in-house administrator to set document and collection
access permissions for firm users, which is a more cost-effective
and responsive option than having the ASP manage this task.
Robust reporting capabilities: The ASP should offer both document
and administrative reporting. Document reporting enables full
search capabilities by any criteria and allows for efficiency
in tracking communications and revisions. Detailed administrative
reports can improve billing efficiencies, allow for attorney and/or
staff performance management and enable the firm to assess system
usage and maximize ROI.
Robust document production capabilities: When managing large volumes
of litigation documents, robust document production and high-speed
printing capabilities are essential. But printing thousands of
pages locally from the Internet can be slow to virtually impossible.
As part of a full-service document management solution, some providers
offer document production and other related services that can
help support your needs.
these issues before selecting an ASP will help ensure that your
document management solution adds the maximum in efficiency and
cost savings to your firm. Not to mention giving your clients the
real-time information access they're craving.