JWS Lawyers prepares for the digital future

Managing documents and email is of huge importance to lawyers in every type of practice, but in the case of leading independent Australian law firm Johnson Winter & Slattery (JWS), the issue becomes even more critical owing to the many complex disputes and deals it handles for prominent local and international clients.

Some high profile recent cases include successfully acting for Seven West Media in its highly publicised injunction proceedings against its former employee Amber Harrison. JWS also successfully represented the State of Victoria in two significant disputes with Tabcorp Holdings and Tatts Group over compensation following the expiration of their gaming licenses.

Like most law firms, JWS handles a staggering volume of documents. It is essential that the vast array of documents, forms, and letters it receives on commencement and during a case are accurately processed and placed in a trusted repository that groups them according to the matter being represented.

Busy lawyers and paralegals complete, process, file, share, and look over dozens of documents on a daily basis. Whether preparing for discovery, collaborating with associates or filing with the court, every document must be processed accurately, efficiently and cost-effectively. 

Over the past three years JWS has been undergoing the difficult and challenging task of migrating from a legacy EDRMS to a series of iManage solutions.

It has also successfully adopted an EzeScan scan and OCR workflow for ingestion of documents into iManage.

The solutions deployed by JWS include iManage Work for document and email management as well as iManage Work Mobility, which gives employees access to their work product at any time, from any location, and iManage Insight for enterprise-wide search

“To put it simply, our existing document management system no longer met our practice requirements,” explained Ross Forgione, Chief Information Officer, JWS.

“There were functionality and usability problems as well as speed and performance issues. As a result, user adoption of the system was very low.”

“iManage met all of our requirements based on the features we identified as most important to our firm,” said Forgione.

“Beyond the functionality of the product, we were impressed by iManage as a company: their position in the market, financial stability, ability to execute and reputation. The fact that they had 17 of the top 20 law firms in Australia and glowing reviews from existing clients was also a plus. It became quite an easy choice to make in the end.”

JWS worked with iManage and EzeScan partner OIA to purchase and implement a series of iManage solutions which have now been rolled out to nearly 250 users, achieving 100% adoption. Thanks to a firm-wide policy, all documents and emails go into iManage Work rather than being stranded in different hard drives, file shares, and inboxes. In addition to supporting the firm’s governance requirements, this centralisation streamlines and simplifies daily tasks, making critical work product easy to save, file, organise, and search.

Every matter begins with a bundle of documents that must be manually sorted and ingested into iManage. This typically involves a staff member manually sorting the bundle and individually scanning them at an MFD as well as adding relevant labelling and metadata.

Prior to the deployment of EzeScan, all these documents would be scanned to a network drive where somebody would have to locate them, rename and drop the files into the EDRMS where they would live as an image-only PDF that was unable to be searched.

JWS has now integrated the EzeScan inbox into the Equitrack software control panel on the MFDs in each office.

“So, when a staff member logs in it automatically identifies you and presents you with a list of your present matters or allows you to search across matters,” said Forgione.

“Once you have scanned a document, EzeScan then picks it up, straightens the scanned document, OCRs it and places it into that matter directly. So, basically in one step, you’ve got documents ready to go and in the right place.”

EzeScan also directly integrates into the individual iManage users’ workspace via the EzeScan Barcode Generator WebApp.  A user can simply right click on a matter in WorkSite and launch the EzeScan WebApp to produce a custom barcode coversheet for that matter. 

The EzeScan WebApp is also used to generate barcode coversheets for back scanning the large volume of existing hardcopy files.  With its direct integration with iManage the barcode provides intelligent capture capabilities using all relevant metadata for the matter file being scanned.

Placing the coversheet on the document or file being scanned allows EzeScan to automatically name the documents using the predefined convention, apply the required metadata, convert the document to a text searchable PDF/A and file it to the correct matter in WorkSite.

“I think of our EDRMS implementation as a hub-and-spoke situation, and the EzeScan product is one of those spokes that provides us with some pretty key functionality. It does what it says it would do on the box, as well, which is always nice.”

“We’re looking to retrospectively scan a lot of the documents that are not OCR’d at the moment, to bring them up to speed, and we know the EzeScan system will handle that quite well.  We’re just looking at how best to pull a document out of the matter, scan it, and put it back into the matter.  It’s early days on that process right now,” said Forgione.

On the heels of the successful iManage Work implementation, JWS will begin rolling out Mobility to a firm-wide user base over the coming months.

“Our practitioners and their staff are incredibly dedicated, and it’s not uncommon to see people working late into the evening,” said Forgione. “With Mobility, they can access their critical files from any location and be as productive at home as they are in the office. That helps drive good work/life balance allowing employees to leave the office a little earlier and spend more time at home with their families.”

JWS sees additional areas for iManage to add value throughout the firm as the deployment expands. “We have big plans for iManage Share and we’re also excited for iManage Insight, which will strengthen our existing knowledge management processes,” said Forgione.

“With their recent purchase of RAVN Systems, iManage is making some impressive investments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Those capabilities are a real game-changer as far as allowing us to analyse and extract more value from the millions of documents we’ve accumulated over 20 years. Unlocking that cache of information allows us to compete more effectively with other firms. It’s just one more way I see iManage taking us above where we are now.”

“In a perfect world, where no-one’s scared of technology, and efficiency is the key and the goal, using information technology and services from EzeScan and third parties and bringing it all together, we should be able to go paperless from start to finish.  I believe that’s achievable; I believe that technology can allow us to do that.  But what you do along that path is you have to decide on junctions where, if you have to inject a human element, whether it’s to make people feel comfortable or whether someone can’t access the technology to allow that to complete, you have to allow those on-ramps and off-ramps to occur, and that’s, when you’re designing these end-to-end pieces, that’s what you have to keep top of mind.  It’s not just about convenience, it’s about the end-game, and getting the end-game completed.”