Document management systems (DMS) are an essential part of the infrastructure in most large law firms. A few do not use DMS or have created their own systems, but most use commercial products such as Hummingbird DM (formerly PC Docs) or iManage. Last August, Interwoven and iManage agreed to merge (see the press release). Last week, storage vendor EMC agreed to acquire DMS vendor Documentum (see Documentum press release and the article EMC Acquires Documentum in Portals Magazine).

The business dynamics of the DMS space may be changing and law firm technology managers – both operational and strategic – should keep an eye on the market. With luck, these changes will work to benefit law firms. I remember, however, an earlier chapter in the history of DMS. About 10 years ago a company called SoftSolutions was one of the first to market with a legal market DMS product. It was acquired by WordPefect, which in turn was acquired by Novell. Novell then “upgraded” SoftSolutions, though in the opinion of most law firms, that upgrade made the product virtually unusable because some key features were eliminated (e.g., client-matter lookups).

It’s also important to keep in mind what Microsoft might do in this space. Between MS Sharepoint and discussions of a new file system based on SQL-Server in the next version of the Windows operating system (see, for example, Microsoft Details Longhorn Storage, it may be that a free-standing DMS will not be necessary in the future.

Law firms need not take any immediate action, but between what Microsoft may release and changes prompted by vendor consolidation, they may face some interesting choices in the next couple of years.