Box is an online file collaboration system where you can create, edit, and store documents, and it wants lawyers as users. Since 2013, it has courted the legal industry in response to Dropbox’s predominance. Here is what you need to know to use Box effectively.
Install Box Sync for Windows or Mac and select which folders you would like to upload. It is that easy.
While Box is well known for its enterprise storage solutions, it does offer a free plan for personal usage. The personal plan will give you 10 GB of storage and have a file size upload limit of 250 MB. Box’s most popular plan, Business, is much more robust:. For $15 per user, with a three user minimum, Box will give you unlimited storage and a 5 GB file size limit. The business plan also offers additional security options, one directory integration, and user statistics. The pricing and features are similar to a Dropbox Business account.
Create, Store, and Edit Documents
There are a number of options to save and modify your files that you store with Box.
In addition to uploading files, Box Sync allow you to edit and save files in your cloud using the applications installed on your computer.
Box offers a real-time collaborative document creator called Box Notes that is similar in appearance to Google Docs. It is meant to capture ideas rather than collaboratively editing a complex document. It is expected Box Notes will be capable of more in the future.
Box for Office 365
With Box for Office 365, users can create, edit, save, and share any Office file without having to leave the Office application. Only open up Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, create a document, and click “Save as.” The Box for Office 365 app will give you the option to save to Box’s cloud folders just like any other local folder.
Naturally, you can open any document saved in your box account from an Office app just like any other document saved on your local drive. You can also email a shared link with the click of a button inside of Word.
If you are without access to Microsoft Office, you can quickly and easily open your documents within Box using Google Docs. The integration also allows you to view and join Google Doc collaborators.
Sometimes you have a file or a folder that you want to be in multiple places at once, such as a standard document on gathering disclosure to share with all of your clients.
Bookmarks allow you to add a shared link to as many folders as you wish. Bookmarks of shared links will all point back to one “master” document. When you update the master document, all of your clients who have a copy of the bookmark in their files will see the updated version.
Box provides two primary methods for sharing documents: Shared Links and Collaborator sharing.
Think of Shared Links as a replacement for email attachments. By clicking “Share,” you generate a hyperlink that you can then share with anyone.
Unlike email, there is no restriction on the size of the document you are sharing with a link. When your recipient clicks on the link, they can access the document without setting up a Box account. Box will also create a record and report when your client or colleagues click the link.
At any time, you can remove the ability to download the document or set an expiration date.
Box allows you to create portals for collaborators to share documents. For example, you can create a portal for your client to share pleadings and communications. Additionally, Box gives you the option to invite collaborators to specific folders and set pre-defined permission roles.
Box gives your collaborator “waterfall permissions.” This type of permission gives your collaborators access to all subfolders of the folder you invited them to. You should keep in mind how far up the folder hierarchy your collaborators need to be.
If you like the client portal idea, Box will let you create a custom login page on your site for your clients. James Hart, an attorney in North Carolina, has been using this for his clients for years. When his client clicks on the login portal on his website, they are brought to a custom login screen.
Box also lets you add an embeddable upload widget allowing clients and other third-parties to upload documents at their convenience. To speed up workflow, you could allow clients to upload intake forms using the widget prior to an initial meeting.
Perhaps the most useful function for lawyers is the ability to assign and create tasks on individual files. For many lawyers, tasks likely focus on reviewing, editing, or delivering documents to a third-party.
Box also lets you notify a collaborator of new comments and tasks using email.
Additionally, you can respond and add a comment from your email without going to the Box portal.
Aside from manually going through folders, there are two main ways to find the file you are looking for.
Box features a powerful search function. You can filter searches by folder, owner, type, date, and size. Box’s search is made more useful by its ability to index the full-text of your documents. (There is actually an index limit of 10,000 characters, or approximately three pages of content) A full list of file formats that Box will index for search is available here.
If you like to create a separate folder for each matter, you will appreciate that Box shows folders before files when conducting a search.
Tags in Box let you mark and sort related files that may not be in the same folder structure. You should use Tags as a compliment to your folder structure to find documents quickly.
For example, you can set up tags for each attorney in your firm. By doing so, you can tag and sort each matter by the lead attorney.
Adding a tag is simple and can be done off of any file or folder in Box.
If you want to learn more about setting up a proper file structure, Box does provide substantial training material.
Must Have Apps
Box has a number of vetted apps and integrations to improve your user experience. Here are a couple of apps that you should install if you choose to go with Box for your cloud storage needs.
EchoSign is an app from Adobe that allows you to digitally sign contracts and other documents. Once you have enabled EchoSign for your Box account, you only need to select “E-sign with EchoSign” under the Actions menu. You can also send files that need to be signed directly from Box.
PDFExpert is an app that allows users to annotate, comment, and sign PDFs within Box. These edits are all viewable by Apple Preview and Acrobat Reader.
Who Should Use Box
Box integrates well with the products lawyers are comfortable using day-to-day. Additionally, Box is a HIPAA-compliant cloud storage solution, a perk Dropbox does not currently offer. That said, Box offers an array of features that may be overkill for a solo lawyer’s cloud storage needs, so it might be a better fit for firms with two or more people. You will also need to weigh the security risks that come with storing you and your client’s data in the cloud. Box and its ilk are not impenetrable to security errors.
But if you are a solo or small-firm lawyer who collaborates on documents often, has a number of files, and relies on Microsoft Office, Box could be the solution.