Part 1: Enabling more access in your paperless law firm
Welcome to the first article in our series on how technology is rapidly changing the way law firms are doing business. In this article, we discuss how law firms are going about executing strategic initiatives to adopt a paperless law firm business model.
Any changes to a law firm’s standard operating procedures must be focused on controlling costs, maximizing profitability, and increasing the efficiency of employees in the office and in field. Many professionals believe that in order to accomplish these goals, it is necessary to adopt initiatives that will support you in converting to a paperless office.
In an industry where every second is billed to someone, how much time is wasted searching for physical documents? How much time is spent waiting for an office manager to track down a case file that was misfiled? How many times have you found yourself in the field, and needed access to a file you know is sitting on your desk in your office? These are the questions driving law firms to make the transition to a “paperless office” model. The term “paperless” is less about literal absolutes – the very nature of the legal profession still requires physical paper documents to be available in the course of doing business – and more about an effort to maximize access to key information.
1. Planning is the key
Converting to a paperless office requires a detailed roadmap. It is vital at the outset to do the groundwork research and establish a strategy and timeline for the transition. Doing so will increase acceptance of the new procedures with the employees. In the planning stage, it is vital to coordinate with key contributors and firm leadership to establish the foundation of what will become the document naming and organizational protocols of the new paperless law firm.
2. Don’t forget the basic hardware
While converting to a paperless law firm requires more than digitizing hard copies, this is a key step and requires effective equipment. Scanners are the most important piece of hardware. It’s important to purchase a model that can effectively handle the daily average number of pages requiring digitization. For employees working onsite at a client, efficiency can be increased by utilizing digital cameras with Wi-Fi capabilities.
3. Data management in the paperless law firm
Communication with legal clients generates enormous amounts of data on various media platforms that must be tracked, catalogued, tagged, filed, and retained according to legal regulations. The key to “going paperless” is simply utilizing modern technology and software solutions to automate the processes already in place in order to digitize an ever expanding file room down into a single virtually accessible database. Instead of delays related to tracking down case files, employees gain a degree of efficiency because all files become accessible from anywhere at a moment’s notice.
With a majority of legal professionals using mobile devices and working remotely on a regular basis, it is vital that regardless of the solution put into play, data management strategies need to be designed to free lawyers from their desks and from the file room. Whether it’s a junior associate uploading files from the client to the firm’s database via his tablet after acquiring the client’s digital signature, or it’s the senior partner uploading an email from a smartphone for review by his associates before they walk into the courtroom, it’s imperative that a law firm’s approach to digital management focuses on access to information for all.
Building a paperless law firm means a trip to the cloud
In part 2 of this series , we will be discussing the benefits from both an efficiency and profitability point of view of adopting a fully integrated cloud-based law practice management software.