Tuesday, August 28, 2012

ILTA Demo: Potential Advances In Document Version Control and Editing

At first glance the Litera IDS product appears to be a significant improvement over now-standard legal industry methods of collaborating around drafting Word documents.  Essentially it differentiates between document owners and revisers in how documents are revised, and also does a better job at tracking who wants to add what. It has the potential to extend advanced Google-Docs style editing and track changes into a law firm DMS environment, with an extra layer of legal-style control and security.  I attended a demo today at the International Legal Technology Association and what follows is my notes on that demo.

Norm Thomas introduced the product.

Collaboration in their view is working on a document at the same time while keeping track of who contributed what.  Drafting documents through exchanging copies of documents through email doesn't work (I agree).
Document drafting through an extranet is limiting because everyone downloads a copy, and then loads it back up.   Editing a document in Litera IDS creates a database of changes, it doesn't actually change the document directly.  The edits are being collected.  People can be made aware of changes by others.  People can also hide other's revisions or limit editing on particular sections of documents.
You can attach workflow to editing, including deadlines. 

It allows everyone to work on the same document without modifying until the document owner goes through and accepts/reject in one fell swoop, creating a new version.  You can view all of the changes in a given paragraph, showing who made changes and when.  You can also view all the changes by a particular person.  The approach reduces revision clutter by "several orders of magnitude."

Donovan Alexander then did a demo of the product. 

The document owner can control who can review documents, and whether reviewers can further delegate editing. Red dots show locations of editing; when that section is opened, side-panels show who edited what when and the changes. Owners can review multiple people's proposed changes and accept or reject each.   It allows major and minor versions (1.0 , 2.0 or 1.1., 1.2.)

Outside counsel or client receives an email that requires local installation of IDS (I wonder if some law department systems are locked down to not allow application download).  Litera can host it, but most law firms will likely prefer to have their own servers. 

You'll be able to bring a document from a DMS into Litera.  When you're finished you can save it into a DMS either as a .ids file with full history or as a .docx file. 

Typically people invited to a particular document don't check it out, but finish their work and then check it back in. 

IDS provides a "Word-like editor" that is fully .rtf-compatible.  Some numbering styles may not work. Lawyers have found that the time savings are worth the reformatting sometimes required. 
Freshfields is doing a beta test. They see it as a potential competitive advantage. They are drafting an IT Strategy and the IT managers are using it to work on the strategy. They have not opened it up to attorneys.

[Ed.--lawyers work in very particular ways with documents, document formatting, and versioning, they should be exposed to it to see how it may benefit their work and what the pitfalls might be.]

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