How Optical Character Recognition Technology Is Significant for the Legal Industry

by | Published on Oct 16, 2018 | Document Conversion / Scanning Services

Legal firms are paper-intensive and have to tackle thousands of documents on a regular basis. In an age where everybody wants a paperless office, law firms are no exception. The reasons that have led legal firms to choose a paperless environment includes the need to free up offline space to increase work efficiency. This can be done by scanning legal documents. With the help of high-speed scanners, an experienced document scanning company can scan paper documents, digitize them and store them in the required format. This helps get rid of bulky files. Electronic documents can be stored safely in storage devices or cloud systems. Digital storage of documents offers several benefits. However, due to the lack of proper understanding of these scanning tools, most people avoid incorporating them. They think that scanned data remains as a static image and it is difficult to identify it from the bunch of other documents. In fact, with optical character recognition (OCR), an innovative technique, these files can be made more dynamic and usable. It ensures accessibility, optimization and searchable functionality of legal documents and offers easy storage.


Using OCR software, document conversion companies convert digitally scanned images into required formats including Word files, CSV, PDF, Excel spreadsheets and XML so that these documents can be easily located and searched. OCR enables users to find the files by typing the words in the document. Therefore, even if you don’t know the actual file name, you can locate them in your databases. Law firms often require online directories to store their information. In these circumstances, OCR can be extremely helpful. Another significant advantage of OCR is that it supports non-English languages like Portuguese, French, German, Urdu, Spanish, Russian, Arabic and many others.

OCR technology can be used to scan legal forms and many law firms are already making use of this technology. This software can be applied in any type of digital document. However, according to the input, the quality of the scanned image may vary. So if a document is torn and worn out, the scanned document may lack accuracy and characters may be missing in certain places. Legal firms generally use normal quality documents, so this may not be a big issue.

Some of the Benefits of Using OCR Software

  • Helps to Easily Retrieve the Required File or Case Information
    In case of legal notes, case histories and other relevant aspects about a case have to be handwritten. To reduce the paper load, these documents are scanned into images. If a lawyer wants to search for a particular file or case information, he or she will have to manually browse through all the scanned images. This is a tedious and time-consuming task. However, law firm OCR software can make this task easier.
  • Ability to convert barcodes and handwritten text into searchable, optimized text
    One of the advantages of the new-age law firm OCR software is that it can convert both barcodes and handwritten text into searchable, optimized text. This opens up a world of possibilities for law firms. Many legal notes and information related to a case are written down on paper. Scanning this information cannot render the file searchable. Such files can be made searchable with law firm OCR software.
  • Searchable Functionality
    The most important advantage about applying OCR to legal documents is the searchable functionality it provides. For instance, if a lawyer wants to search for particular phrases or the name of a person within a legal document of about 500 pages, law firm OCR software can make the job much easier. With this tool, the person can search for the particular phrase and receive results instantly, thereby avoiding the need to search through every page manually.
  • Better Accuracy
    Manual technique of browsing scanned documents can result in human errors. This may lead to missing a crucial page in a legal text or document, which in turn may alter the very nature of the case. Law firm OCR software can help ensure better accuracy and more precise information.

3 Legal Document Management Tools

There are several OCR software programs available which assist professionals in scanning, editing and storing legal documents safely. Some of them are:

  • Primafact – It is a powerful document management tool for litigation practice. It can create vast amounts of text data that are searchable and readily accessible. Documents that are scanned into Primafact are stored as image files, .tif or .pdf files. You can read the image displayed on the screen, but for computers it is just a series of black and white dots. It does not recognize any words on the image. OCR software goes through each line of the image and tries to determine if the black and white dots represent a particular letter or number. When the dots are translated, Primafact’s OCR program stores the result as plain text within the associated TEXT tab for that page. All the documents stored in Primafact are searchable and you can copy and paste text from Primafact into other documents. It is not possible for ordinary OCR software to read handwriting as everyone’s handwriting is unique. For instance, a Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) report form filled in by a police officer will have both printed text and handwriting where the officer has filled in the details. The OCR program will translate only the printed text not the handwritten information. Primafact addresses this issue by allowing you to annotate the page with manually typed text referencing the handwritten portion of the page.
  • Worldox – It is a popular document management system for law firms. It is server-based, and you will have to own and maintain an on-premise server to run it. This software tool has been around and used by law firms for over a decade. It is powerful and capable, and integrates with Tabs3.
  • LegalWorks – This tool helps law firms of all sizes to manage their documents in the cloud. It works with the software law firms use every day, including integrations with Microsoft Word and Outlook. Automatic OCR ensures all documents are searchable. Its features include scan and fax integration, document versioning, local and offline file sync, matter-centric document & email management, advanced permissions and alerts, flexible search, and tagging.

Things to Consider When Scanning a Document with OCR Technology

The following things should be taken into consideration if you are scanning documents with optical character recognition (OCR) technology:

  • Scan the documents at 300 or 600 DPI; 600 is recommended
  • Scan documents with 10-point text size or larger
  • Use gray-scale instead of black and white
  • Check whether the lines of text are parallel with the bottom of the page
  • Documents should be on clean paper, without lines or ink blotches
  • Screen captures (images generated by pressing the Print Screen button on your keyboard) do not scan well with OCR.

If the OCR technology is unable to read the document, it may be due to:

  • The document was scanned at a low resolution and the words are blurry. Scan documents at a higher resolution, e.g. as a gray-scale TIFF file with 600 DPI
  • The document was scanned upside down or sideways
  • The document has lines that cross out or stains that cover the scanned words
  • The font spacing in the scanned document is tight and the letters run together

Law firms can utilize document scanning services provided by reliable document scanning companies to ensure successful digital transformation and improved efficiency.

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