Open Source on the Brain: CMS, DMS, OS

Nothing like a strong (or strange) brew of open source software and acronyms. My blog posting for on why lawyers should use open source operating systems Mint and Ubuntu was published this month. I have also worked up an article on open source content management and document management systems that will be published next month. No business software is perfect and open source fits in that category. But law firms and organizations that have avoided open source in the past would do well to consider it in the future.

You can see the blog post at  Open Source Your OS.  I recognize that most lawyers will continue to use Microsoft operating systems – the vast majority do now – but as the practice of law becomes more amenable to an entirely online, or Web browser based experience, the ties that bind lawyers to Windows are weakening.  The Vista debacle has held a lot of lawyers back to Windows XP and they may remain shy of Windows 7, no matter how great an improvement it is.

Open source content management systems like Plone (which runs used to run this site), Drupal, and Joomla are all excellent alternatives for any size law firm to run their Web site or intranet.  The security that comes with buying a commercial application is no longer a deciding factor, as many open source applications are backed by for-profit service companies.  Similarly, open source document management systems – that can manage metadata and provide workflow for document creation – are excellent alternatives to the expensive commercial offerings.  Implementing Alfresco, Nuxeo, or OpenKM can give a law firm a less costly entry into the DMS world, which remains an under-utilized application in law firms.

Whether desktop operating system or large scale, enterprise content or document management system, open source is a more significant alternative than ever.  Where business or technology management may balk at “free” software, the world has changed and the support and development options for open source rival those available for commercial applications.  Lack of internal skills, inability to host the application, and other issues bedevil both open source and commercial technology projects.  The lower cost of acquisition may mean the difference between getting a project completed and letting a competitor get ahead of you.

David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.