Failing to find documents can have a serious impact on your bottom line


Posted by Paul Darby, Head of Global Pre-Sales at Legal Futures Associate DocsCorp

Darby: Up to 30% of documents invisible to search

The dictionary defines the term Achilles’ heel as “a seemingly small but actually crucial weakness”. It aptly describes indexing and searching in content management systems, which have serious weaknesses that haven’t always received the attention they need from law firms.

Law firms have invested significantly in technology to ensure they have instant access to documents and information upon which they make business decisions. Our research indicates that as much as 30% of documents in a content repository are actually invisible to search.

The culprit usually turns out to be image-based documents – JPGs, TIFs, PNGs and image PDFs. While many of these documents undergo optical character recognition (OCR), where a layer of text is added to the document, many do not. Since they are image files with no text, they do not get indexed, which makes them invisible to search technology.

This represents a serious risk to law firms and law departments on three distinct fronts: compliance, business decision-making, and productivity:

The world of regulatory compliance

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) means it’s critical that firms can search and find every document relevant to a particular client/matter when presented with a data subject access request, data return, erasure or portability request.

Scanned identification documents – such as passports, driver licences, etc – that contain personal information will be invisible to search technologies. Failure to produce this type of information can lead to significant fines.

You don’t know what you don’t know

Decisions need to be made quickly in response to business needs, and information needs to be readily available, accurate, and complete.

The fact that 30% of documents are invisible to search means a firm may not have all the information it needs to make sound business and legal decisions.

Let’s consider a fairly typical scenario, where a firm has been involved in a number of mergers and acquisitions with tens of thousands of documents being ingested into their system. How would a firm know if it had a conflict of interest with any future client without having all the information in their systems available to them? Legacy documents that never underwent OCR present a similar risk.

Time is money

Also, legal professionals spend a significant amount of their time looking for, and not finding, the documents they need. In many cases, more time is wasted recreating what they couldn’t find. The time staff spend looking for information could be better spent on billable work.

Law firms have seen the volume of documents added or ingested into their systems continue to grow every year. They now deal with millions of documents rather than hundreds of thousands.

Law firms need to have a strategic plan in place to ensure that documents are fully searchable and indexed for search, so they avoid unnecessary compliance fines, poor business and legal decisions, and time wasted by staff looking for documents.

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