We’ve previously written in this space on the importance of the adoption of a records management policy for your law firm (as well as the requirement, per the Massachusetts data privacy law, of a written WISP, as a subset of that policy); and, it is important, unless you want to be calling me thirty years from now, being like, ‘Hey, man, I have, like, a ton of old client paperwork in my spaceship: What do I do?’ I don’t know, though, maybe you do want to be calling me about that. But, you probably shouldn’t. Freak. That’s obviously just an excuse to talk to me.

But, somewhen you decide to embark upon creating a records management policy, draft one, revise it, make it known, and begin to implement it, you’ll have to think about platforms. How, in actual practice, will you manage your electronic records? There are, certainly, numbers of programs to choose from: formal and informal document managers, single applications and combinations of services. But, one robust option, that works for the law firm environment, is the impressive NetDocuments. (Clever, right? -Net -Documents. Your documents on the ‘net, and stuff. Nyet? Okay.)

What is it? What does it do? Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. I’m getting to it. Thank you for having indulged my introduction.

. . .

NetDocuments is a twelve-year old company (you know what that means, there is a Bar Mitzvah in the offing!–no, I won’t be there, I only attend Bar Mitzvahs with Ralph Malph from Happy Days), whose founders offer much experience in online document management and technology applications in the legal vertical (that’s my business buzzword of the week–no, I have no idea what it means, either; but, it was certainly making me sound smart until I just admitted that). (You can find out more about the origins of NetDocuments, and of the team behind NetDocuments, here.) NetDocuments has adopted the following slogan: “Content Elevated”. (I just like to include slogans in these product reviews. Don’t ask me why.) But, how is it that this said elevation of content is achieved?

Glad you asked: NetDocuments is a web-hosted, SaaS document, email and records management service. At the most basic level, NetDocuments is a place to archive and search your stuff. Beyond that, NetDocuments provides you with workspaces for organizing your documents; these workspaces can be used to establish matter-centricity (so, how everything becomes related and tagged to your client files within your derivative version of NetDocuments). With respect to documents, and in addition to the ability to tag to matters, NetDocuments allows its users to create document profiles, to manage versions, to track document history, to send email notifications related to document edits, etc., to clients and collaborators and to set document security options. And, that’s not just for documents, because NetDocuments is also NetOtherThings, including for maintenance and search of other files, like emails and webpages; in this way, NetDocuments can become your singular file repository, a veritable Fort Knox for all your most important stuff–that last part because they utilize redundant backup at secure server locations, and apply other security measures as well (more on this later), in order to safeguard all of your Net documents. You’ll also be able to do some deep dives respecting document search for everything within your NetDocuments baby universe, utilizing a method that is as familiar, and similarly capable and reliable, as Google’s. You can also continue to use your prevailing applications, like for document creation and emailing, in much the same way that you do now, only with NetDocument’s features being grafted upon your existing tools. NetDocuments is even syncable with accounting systems. Being an SaaS program, NetDocuments shares the virtue that all of those sorts of programs do: if you have an internet connection (preferably a secure one), you have your NetDocuments; and, further, you’ll have that access from any internet-ready device, including mobile devices. If you’re offline, NetDocuments offers access via offline “echo folders”–work when you need to, and the documents from your “echo folders” will be updated to NetDocuments, when you’re again reconnected.

If you stopped reading somewhere in the middle of that last paragraph because your eyes were glazing over, well, that’s cool. NetDocuments also has a quick two minute video describing the basic features of their platform in the legal vertical (tee-hee); you can view that video here. And, that’s not all they’ve got. NetDocuments appears to be gunning for some kind of unofficial Guinness World Record related to gross weight of web support. If you have any questions about NetDocuments, they’ve got you covered, with: a general “Support” page, including a great “Getting Started” guide, with lots of visuals and screenshots, and an FAQ; a robust “Community” homepage, with links for Forums, a Marketplace, an Idea Bank, a list of Channel Partners and the NetDocuments blog; a “Follow NetDocs” tab at the homepage, featuring connections to all of NetDocuments various social media portals; and, a series of video demos. Never let it be said that you could not find out everything you ever wanted to know about NetDocuments on the web. (And, we’ve, at least tangentially, previously, addressed the importance of product support, especially of the free variety, of this sort of “self-help on the internet” strain. In the realm of PDF, for example, Nuance and Adobe Acrobat aren’t all that different; however, you can find tons of forums and free advice on the use of Adobe online, and that throws them even further over the top, in my calculus. Remeber: robust online community discussion = free and easy product support, for the savvy gent, and lady.)

Not that you couldn’t find out about all of this yourself online, or at the above-mapped spaces; but, I want to take a little more time, here, in nearing the end, to co
ver some of the less obvious (unmain) features, of the NetDocuments system, that I like particularly: The ability to share documents and to collaborate on documents in a secure environment, is impressive, and easy of achievement. Internally, you can create an essential extranet, using NetDocuments as your engine, sharing documents via “workspaces”; externally, you can collaborate with clients and colleagues, easily, effectively and securely, through “net binders”, featuring security settings and access controls. NetDocuments allows you, as well, to create file retention policy definitions. Although lawyers have always tended to throw nothing out, ever, this is a good step in the right direction for those law firms starting to realize the cost of unnecessary storage, and for those who should be (i.e.–everybody else). You can also utilize NetDocuments for the archiving of emails; and, for an additional fee, you can purchase a program add-on that will allow you to drag and drop, within Outlook, direct to your NetDocuments folders. With respect to the security of your uploaded information, NetDocuments offers a number of important features. Access to documents is by unique username and password, with administrators having the ability to establish further security protocols. Connection to NetDocuments is via https://; each document remains encrypted until is opened, and is encrypted again once closed, or saved. As mentioned above, all content is stored in redundant and secure data centers. But, perhaps the most impressive of NetDocuments features is its searching capability. Its advanced search fields are active across your entire database. Searches sweep wide, but can be focused to granular matter. Learning and utilizing the search functions is a quick pick-up. Maybe the best way to view the search capabilities of NetDocuments in action, without actually owning the product, is to schedule a live demo of the system, which you can so schedule via NetDocuments’ demos homepage.

If, after reading the above, you have an interest in NetDocuments, you should, as with any product that you are vetting, schedule that live demo, and then try it before you buy it: take the month-long free trial, to see exactly how it would work in your environment.

If you do decide to purchase NetDocuments, you’re looking at the most basic package running you $20/month. From there, you can upgrade with professional editions and add-ons, which will all increase that monthly price. NetDocuments outlines its pricing structure, and attendant features, here.

But, you, o! faithful reader of the LOMAP Blog, didn’t think you were going to be paying freight, did you? Hell, naw. (That is, “Hell, naw . . . if you happen to be reading this by December 31, 2010”. There is always fine print.)

Through the end of 2010, LOMAP Blog Readers will receive a 10% discount on NetDocuments. When you buy, just mention the LOMAP Blog, or LOMAP, or Jared Correia, or Rodney Dowell. Or, the KFC Double Down. Actually, that last one is the fake one. In fact, you shouldn’t even eat the Double Down; you’ll probably suffer a massive heart attack somewhere in the midpoint of your orgiastic celebration of transfat.

. . .

Liner Notes

In continuing a fine tradition (well, this is only the second time; so, perhaps we’re still only in the starting a fine tradition stage), I have asked my vendor contact on a product review to provide me with some selections and reflections for the Liner Notes section of the blog. (No one has yet picked a bluegrass song, and that kind of disappoints me. But, I’m over it, because . . .)

Danny Johnson of NetDocuments has put together a fine selection of songs and attendant commentary, as follows:

I’ll give you five songs that I jam out to while reading the LOMAP Blog, and any other time I get the chance:

Walking on a Dream” by Empire of the Sun

-I dare you not to dance while listening to this.

Ready to Start” by Arcade Fire

-Awesome band, awesome song.

The Gambler” by fun

-I tried, but could not long resist the effervescent charm of this song.

Nineteen” by Tegan and Sara

-I really don’t know why I love this song?

Cosmic Love” by Florence + the Machine

-It’s poetry, it’s narrative and it’s love.