We recently started an open-ended series that takes a look at the whys and hows of going paperless in specific types of businesses. No two businesses are the same, so the reasons why and ways in which a paperless office should be put in place can vary drastically from one organization to the next. Today, we’re here to talk about law firms.
So you’re interested in going paperless in a law firm. Maybe you’re not interested in going paperless, but you have been told you should so many times that you had to figure out what all the fuss is about. Either way, you have come to the right place.
First, it’s important to keep in mind that when we say going paperless, we do not mean shredding every page and banning it from ever entering the building again. To go paperless is to eliminate your firm’s reliance on paper, so that it can go on functioning in its day-to-day operations even if a paper document were to be damaged or misfiled. We expect to see entirely paperless offices as a possibility in the near future, but unfortunately, it’s just not practical at the present time.
So why should a law firm go paperless, anyway? We have two major answers to that question.
1. Time savings
It’s widely reported that the average worker can waste up to two hours every day searching for documents they need. Multiply that by the number of employees who work in your firm. With a paperless system, this time currently being wasted is not just reduced, it’s virtually eliminated.
2. Return on investment
No matter what kind of organization, cost savings is always the biggest draw for implementing a paperless document management solution. Without a doubt, the time your employees will save is worth making the change many times over, but it applies on minute levels as well. Think of the envelopes, the exhibit tabs, the letter head. Think of the postage and storage costs!
OK, so where do I start?
First of all, we cannot stress enough how important it is to hire professional consultants to assess your firm’s unique document management needs up-front, since every firm is different. If you would like to set something up with eBizDocs, just scroll to the bottom of this article, where you will find a short information request form.
In most cases, however, there are three major areas to cover for an efficient document management process—hardware, software, and conversion services. In that order.
It’s a common misconception that in order to start managing your documents electronically you need to first undergo conversion services; a misconception that usually dissuades firms from even entertaining the idea of making the change. We get it—paper to digital file conversion can be tedious and often pricey. That’s why we recommend that law firms save that part for last, and first—as we like to put it—stop the bleeding.
First, set yourself up with scanning equipment. Ta-da! Day-forward, from the moment you implement, you’re no longer adding to your existing paper records. Now, you can scan, digitally store, shred, and recycle anything new that you need to keep on file.
These days, even basic desktop scanners can scan licences, photos, business cards—you name it. This, for example, completely eliminates a law clerk’s need to make and store paper copies. You’ll also probably want at least one more robust piece of equipment, for those PIP files and medical records, and other bigger-than-desktop jobs. Exactly what kind of scanner(s) you need is highly dependent on your firm and its needs, so it’s a main factor that will be addressed in your consultation.
In conjunction with your hardware, you’ll need to get set up with a paperless document management software. Think of this first and foremost as the digital version of the file room or storage site you use now, but supercharged.In it, you’ll still be able to organize general repositories and cabinets and have specific folders for things like correspondence, discovery, orders, pleadings, retainer agreements, billing, etc.
This is not only how you’ll be able to store and locate files with a few clicks and keystrokes, however. This is also how you will manage most (if not all) of your paperwork from now on. Since law firms are super document-heavy as far as general business is concerned, you’ll want to make sure that the software you invest in has features like digital forms creation, rights management, and retention monitoring. Again, this will all be explored in your consultation.
Once you’re comfortable with the day-to-day processes in your paperless law firm, then you can start thinking about digitizing your archives. You can do this in batches as-needed, or all at once. It’s completely dependent upon the wants and needs of your firm.
If you want to learn more about how and why your law firm can and should go paperless, fill out the short form below and one of our experts will get back to you ASAP.