iManage Review for Law Firms – What You Need to Know Before You Buy

iManage Review – What Law Firms Need to Know

Many law firms rely on a Document Management System (DMS) to securely organize their documents, files, email and other data. There are a lot of DMS options out there that professional services can use. One long-running document management platform is iManage Work. One of our most important jobs here at LegalX is providing professional services with enough information about potential solutions that can make the professional life more productive and even a little bit easier. We do this by writing reviews about software options professional services often use, such as this iManage Review.

This review is the culmination of an overall analysis as well as gathering feedback from many professional services that use iManage (as well as firms that use other document management platforms).

Overview of iManage

Alright, let’s dive into the real meat of our iManage review: the software, its features, benefits and drawbacks… and whether we think it is really a good fit for professional services as a DMS. iManage Work is the main component of the DMS software. As we mentioned very early in our introduction, it provides both document and email management. It is not, however, designed exclusively for the legal industry. It is used in other industries, including healthcare and finance.

iManage’s organizational structure involves sorting documents (including emails) in projects. Inside of each project, users can either dump all of their data, documents, and emails or they can make sub-folders to better organize their material. iManage’s main, top-level container is called a project. For a law firm that uses iManage, they would effectively create a project for every client or case.

Users within your law firm can then refine organization by creating folders based on hearings, documents, evidence, trial notebooks, or in whatever way makes sense for the way the firm functions.

If you’ve used Windows Explorer (and who hasn’t?), you’ll find that navigating through iManage is relatively similar in the 1990s style. On the left side of the window, you’ll see a list of every project created. You can open, search, edit, or move around in a project from that point.

Features of iManage

Next up in our iMangage review: features. iManage has several features that are useful for professional services. iManage does a lot, and we can’t cover everything, but we will talk through some of the key functionality that’s most notable as a law practice.

  • Document version management. With iManage, you can see when a document was last updated and who made changes to the document.
  • The ability to have documents checked-in and out. Law firms also have the ability to enable document check-in and check-out. With this feature, documents that are checked-out because someone is actively working with the document are locked. No surprise changes can be made. Other users who want or need to access the document can still open a read-only copy.
  • Integrates with most document scanners. Your law firm can use its document scanners to scan physical documents directly into iManage instead of into a folder of scans and then moving it into the right project within iManage.
  • Integrates with Microsoft Office. Users can create, open, and edit documents (and spreadsheets) with Microsoft Office and save it directly into the appropriate project or sub-folder within a project.
  • Documents can be indexed and searched. You can add descriptions, document number, version, author name, client number, matter number, document type, name the application used to create the document, email recipients or authors (and even people who were CCd), and the date the email may have been sent or received to help you find what you need. While OCR is offered, it is only offered as an additional purchase. OCR can be extremely helpful for law firms, especially for scanned documents.

Related: NetDocuments vs. iManage – A Document Management System Comparison

  • Create security settings or permissions for every user or by a group framework. It’s useful that iManage allows security settings or permissions to be set for each individual user. By utilizing this feature, you can help ensure that data and documents are better protected since they’ll only be available or even seen by someone with the credentials to access it. If you have a bigger law firm that includes at least one group of individuals who may not need access to certain data, you can create security settings by a group framework, too.
  • Document change alerts. When you enable document change alerts, you (or a specified person) will be notified if a document is changed in some way. You’ll know when it was changed and who made those changes.
  • Email management. Since iManage integrates with Outlook, users can save any email to a project in iManage.

When iManage is a Good Fit (and When It’s Not)

When evaluating legal document management software, there generally isn’t such a thing as an application being simply “good” or “bad.” Rather, as with most software, it comes down to: When (what kinds of law firms) iManage is a good fit, and when it isn’t.

We work with many law firms; some of them use iManage. In general, iManage can work well for larger firms. That is, firms of no less than 30 total users (staff). iManage is robust and does a lot… though it’s often “too much,” or simply an overkill for law firms under 30 users. That applies to both the functionality, and the price tag.

iManage also necessitates a hefty server infrastructure to run well. It requires multiple servers to handle storage, indexing and other functions of the iManage software. Lightweight and low-maintenance does not work for iManage. This translates to a significant investment in either onsite server resources or a private cloud.

Because of iManage’s inherent complexity (both application and IT complexity), you’ll need a qualified iManage consultant to plan, implement and train your firm on using iManage. iManage has a network of certified consultants that you can hire separately to implement iManage for your firm.

iManage Isn’t REALLY Cloud-based

In today’s day and age, many law firms are looking for cloud-based options for their software. At first glance, it appears that iManage offers a “cloud version” of their software. What you’ll find as you peel back the layers is that what iManage is really offering is a hosting option to host the same on-premise software that you’d otherwise run on-premise. Meaning: iManage’s cloud offering isn’t browser-based… but rather the same iManage software, hosted by iManage. This could be a positive or a negative, depending on your firm’s expectations.

If the rest of your firm’s technology (software, documents, email) are already in the cloud, and you only need a cloud option for iManage, going with iManage’s own hosting option could be a good fit.

On the other hand, if you use other applications (like legal practice management or billing software), or have on-premise servers facilitating other functions (email, etc.), you may find that using iManage’s own hosted option leaves your firm’s technology either on-premise, or in a disjointed collection of clouds.

The Verdict

iManage is a big, robust and powerful DMS. That makes it a potentially good fit for law firms with very sophisticated needs and a large budget. It also makes it a poor fit for small or mid-sized law firms, or any law firm looking for a true-cloud-based document management platform.

The bottom line is that we think iManage is a solid traditional DMS. It’s powerful. It’s been around a long time. Yet, because of the price and the difficulty you may have with installing it on your own, it really isn’t a good choice for most law firms. If you have a law firm with a lot of financial resources at your disposal, then it may be something you should consider. Just keep in mind that if you plan to put it on a physical server, you could be doing yourself a huge disservice if the program crashes or your server crashes and you have to get someone qualified and knowledgeable enough to fix it.

Looking for Document Management? Take a Look at LegalX.

If you’re looking for a document management solution for your firm, take a look at LegalX. LegalX was born in the cloud and built for professional services. It’s a workflow-centric DMS that delivers robust document and project management functions, among others, with the simplicity of a web browser: No servers required, no software to install. Accessible in China.