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Using HBase for Managing Legal Documents

Have you ever worked on a document and, after making many changes over time, needed to revert it back to a specific revision? What if you wanted to retrieve only certain kinds of documents which you had created during the past 10 days from thousands of documents?

The ability to track versions is important for legal documents, particularly when multiple parties review and redline the same document. Your time is valuable — the quicker you can locate a set of documents, the better. Keeping track of document versions and providing immediate access to them can be a challenge if they are stored as flat files, as objects in a relational database, or worse, in paper folders.

At Rocket Lawyer, we know that our customers need document versioning and immediate access to documents, so we sought to find the best solution available. Through our research, we found that HBase, an open source, non-relational, distributed, column-oriented database, does a great job of supporting versioning and fast retrieval. HBase also is designed to support large quantities and volumes of data, such as the number of documents we need to store for our customers.

Composable Row Keys

Rows in HBase are accessed by a single row key. Row keys are customizable based on their string representations,  and are sorted lexicographically. By composing an appropriate row key, you can avoid scanning an entire table and then filtering the result, which is an extremely costly operation.


In a relational database management system, a cell is identified by a {row, column} combination, which allows just one version of that data to be stored. A cell in HBase is identified by a {row, column, version} combination, which makes it very easy to access multiple versions of the same object.

Aside from versioning and immediate access, HBase also offers other benefits over using a conventional relational database. HBase runs on top of HDFS (Hadoop Distributed Filesystem), which provides a fault-tolerant way of storing large quantities of data. HBase also provides real-time random  read/write access to data stored in HDFS. Using this open-source technology benefits our customers who can rest assured that their legal documents are reliably tracked, and can be accessed in a timely manner.

Rocket Lawyer Technology

Engineers at Rocket Lawyer love to stay on top of new technologies. We believe that innovation is key to driving our product forward and helping our customers. Ultimately, there are plenty opportunities to innovate in the legal services field. Given the Silicon Valley entrepreneurship which runs deep in our veins, combined with San Francisco’s legal and business savviness, Rocket Lawyer has the best DNA for legal services innovation!


  1. Rashme Kour says:


    Nice info on Document Management. There are so many software’s available in the market for managing documents. We have been using HighQ Collaboration tool for managing my legal documents. The tool provides great features like sharing documents securely, monitoring activities of our employees and project status. Even we need not to worry about data loss, they only provide network security and disaster recovery and back ups. Thanks to HighQ for their support and services. As I said there are so many tools available, you can choose one of them which suites you best.

  2. Luis Mier says:

    Technology has always helped to ease the task of lawyers. As an evidence you can see the ILTA report of year 2013 that clearly shows that maximum funds were spend on consumerization and mobility to reduce the burden of law firms.

  3. Rashme Kour says:

    Nice work @KristianWidjaja. Only document versioning is not enough for legal document management. We should have an open but secure online space to share our documents with clients and colleagues. Along with versioning other features like Virtual Data Room and Team Collaboration will be very useful for legal document management, these features are extensively available with HighQ and Workshare collaboration tools which we use regularly with our clients.