The Financial Times in-house legal team has adopted NetDocuments’ cloud-based document management system, it has emerged, having rolled out the new system towards the end of last year. NetDocuments is used across the FT’s four-site legal and company secretarial team but not the rest of the business, in a repeat of arrangements at other NetDocuments’ in-house clients such as Royal Mail and Westfield.
While the FT’s legal team is only 13-strong including company secretarial staff, it is dispersed across offices in London, Belfast, Manilla and New York. Previously the team, in common with the rest of the FT, used a combination of Microsoft shared directories, Google Drive and Google Apps. Lawyers stored documents on Microsoft C: drive and H: drives as well as in their own personal folders, with no form of version control.
Senior legal counsel John Halton, who oversaw the implementation of NetDocuments said: “The FT as a whole still use Microsoft shared directories but there was a feeling that the legal team needed its own arrangements.”
The roll out followed a pitch in 2013 in which the FT looked at three or four vendors including Worksite, initiated by former general counsel Tim Bratton, who left in July 2013 to join Berwin Leighton Paisner’s contract lawyer arm Lawyers on Demand.
NetDocuments DMS is purely cloud-based and Halton said: “That was something we looked at very carefully,” however he added: “On any IT project we as an organisation have IT people conducting due diligence on our suppliers, especially if data is held by them. Our IT people were confident that the security was sufficient to go ahead.”
In terms of whether the project has been a success, Halton says: “People are using it. It’s a good start because there is always a fear that no-one will use it and do their own thing.”
In order to encourage that use the DMS is not structured by matter. Halton says: “We work as a team on an informal basis and receive a lot of small queries. We decided to go with a less formal structure and rely on the search function to find documents and it was the right decision.”
In terms of teething problems, thanks to NetDocuments’ rapid expansion there were a number of issues last year with its UK data centres that affected the responsiveness of the system.
However, the data centres have been going through some major upgrades and Halton says: “Those issues were resolved earlier this year.”
In August, NetDocuments announced that it will fully integrate its services with Microsoft cloud technologies, which will reduce the risk and investment of building out its own infrastructure.
A further issue has been the fact that NetDocuments is not designed to integrate with Gmail. Halton says: “If you want to attach a document in Outlook there is a button you press but in Gmail you have to download it onto the computer and attach it. It’s not a difficult thing to do and you do get used to it, it’s just another thing to think about when people are getting to know a new system.”
NetDocuments has a Gmail plug in that is in beta but it is not expected to replicate the Outlook experience as the demand is far less across law firms and the corporate legal sector.
On the opposite side of the coin, the real benefit felt so far by the FT team is flexibility. Halton says: “While we’re a small team we do work across four different locations and the way a cloud-based solution functions is very well suited to the way we work as a team. Before if I was working from home I had to email the document to myself but this system works seamlessly.”
This story first appeared in our monthly Legal IT Insider magazine, click here to read further in-house, private practice and supplier news