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Workshare Professional 5

by Kim Plonsky

January/February 2008 Table of Contents


Every so often, a new software application comes along when you least expect it, but precisely when you need it. When this occurs concurrently with the realization that the problem you need to resolve has reached critical mass, the end result can be a beautiful thing. Such is the case with Workshare Professional 5, which is needed for no one, perhaps, more than the legal professional.

As we all are assuredly aware of by now, documents in digital format that are shared electronically contain hidden data or metadata, such as track changes, creation and revision dates, comments, footnotes, authors’ names, and server names. Indeed, many of us (hopefully) already have implemented at least some measures, tedious and randomly executed though they might be, to combat unintended disclosure or malicious appropriation of sensitive information hidden in the background of most electronic documents.

Workshare Professional 5 offers a full suite of protections, extending and refining the capabilities offered by Microsoft Office, particularly Office 2007 for which it was specifically designed, although it does support Office XP and 2003. On the surface, the program is clutter free and easy to maneuver, requiring minimal use of help sources. Behind the scenes, Workshare is intricately customizable for those with the energy or inclination to do so, which can be critical to the success of any company-wide policy, which by nature are prone to exceptions. Workshare is grouped into three modules: “Review and Audit,” “Compare” and “Secure.”

Review and Audit. As one who routinely collaborates with others in drafting legal documents and correspondence, I know firsthand that the exchange of revisions is confusing and error prone. With “Workshare Review,” entirely from within Word, documents are e-mailed for review with options to attach additional documents, or compare a document and send all versions at once — the original, the revisions and the comparison. Since any returned revisions to the document automatically are synchronized with the original, documents that you author stay in your control, and it’s not even necessary for reviewers to have the software. This process dovetails with the “Audit” feature, which tracks in detail the entire history of a document’s review cycle, including to whom each document was sent and by whom it was edited or revised, and it easily can be generated and printed as a report.

Compare. A key component of “Compare” is its ability to compare
up to five revisions of a single Word document or PDF, incorporating the changes into the original document automatically and leaving an audit trail that easily can be tracked by running the Report Wizard and generating an Audit Report. By using the “Manage Changes” feature, reviewers’ edits can be viewed and accepted, rejected or flagged for later follow-up. While most components of Workshare Professional work behind the scenes, Compare has its own interface, separate but fully integrated with Office. Otherwise, features of Workshare Professional conveniently are automatic or accessible via the Office 2007 ribbon or the toolbar in earlier versions of Workshare.

Secure. One of my favorite features of Workshare Professional 5 is “Workshare Protect,” a feature found in the “Secure” module. This feature filters
e-mail and document content, and a whole lot more, based on policies that can be configured according to a user’s personal preferences. Administrators can use the included “Workshare Policy Designer” for enforcing company policies upon all users. Any time an attempt is made to send e-mail or confidential or restricted files or information, the user is alerted and given the option to remove the information or ignore the warning and proceed — that is, unless the policy has been set by the administrator to be transparent and definitive.

With Workshare Protect enabled, Microsoft Office files can be attached to e-mail in their native formats, since they are first automatically converted to PDF after being scanned and analyzed for risky content based on security policies in effect. In some instances, users are alerted to a potential security policy breach and given the opportunity to fix it; in others, the security policy might block the outgoing e-mail altogether. Security policies can be configured, either administratively or by individual user, to restrict content based on different criteria, such as preventing any outgoing e-mail attachments that include hidden data or sensitive financial information.

What is more, Workshare Protect offers real-time alerts that pop up any time a user is working on a file that contains confidential, privileged or restricted matter, based on prevailing policies. This is very helpful for litigation paralegals who must be cautious not to disclose personal information in pleadings and documents filed with the courts. The reports generated by Workshare are detailed and professional looking. Audit (information about a document’s review cycle), History (detailed document history) and Risk Reports (information about potential risky content) are produced in seconds with only a single mouse click. If my company used this software, I would make it a policy to place a Risk Report on top of every pleading as a final step before sending, especially with discovery responses. The reviewing attorney then would be alerted to information that might need to be redacted so that inadvertent disclosures could be avoided. 

Document classification is another great feature that can be implemented to further restrict and control dissemination of documents, and offers the option of password protection. The classifications include For Internal Use/External Restriction (document is restricted and can only be distributed internally within your company), Confidential (document contains information of a confidential or privileged nature), and Highly Confidential/Full Restriction (document is restricted and can’t be distributed via e-mail). This kind of protection makes me just want to stop everything and classify all of my documents as a failsafe.

In my view, Workshare Professional 5 is a much-needed tool and an essential device for paralegals and other legal professionals to secure, protect and restrict e-mail, document content and dissemination, and you might be hardpressed to justify not adding it to your software repertoire, especially since it’s priced easily within reach of small firms and sole proprietorships.



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