Reducing the amount of paper managed by your law firm will result in less time, money and space occupied by paper. It will also give your lawyers and staff more flexibility in accessing and securing firm information. The following is a list of the top 10 reasons to consider going paper-light.
- Reduce the cost of storing paper files. Less paper means less paper supplies: filing cabinets, paper, printer ink, file folders, labels, paper clips and box supplies. Less paper means less office space dedicated to storing or sorting paper. Less paper means less boxes sent to offsite storage companies. Less paper means less money spent on mailing paper copies of documents.
- Reduce the time used to prepare paper documents. Documents written on a computer can easily be printed to PDF. The PDF can be emailed as an attachment or uploaded to court websites that expect electronic filings.
- Increase efficient access to client matter files. Electronic documents stored in a central client matter file can be more quickly retrieved versus a paper document that could be stored in a records file room or at an offsite storage facility. A lawyer speaking on the phone with a client would much rather pull up the document in question quickly versus scheduling a follow up call.
- Reduce the amount of paper files brought with lawyers to trial. The entire client matter file can be brought easily on a computer or accessed remotely from a document management system while at court. Less boxes required to bring to trial and in some cases eliminates the need altogether.
- Increase security around the client matter files and administrative firm files. A document management system can secure electronic documents to ensure only those with approved access can see them. A document management system can especially help manage access for those firms who have ethical wall considerations.
- Increase the ability to audit electronic documents. Document management systems track documents through their lifecycle, collecting details about who created the document and when, who modified a document and when, who refiled the document and when, who emailed or printed a document and when and so on. This audit trail is much richer than what is available on a normal network file share. With an audit trail you can trace who deleted a document and when.
- Access electronic documents from anywhere with an internet connection. Document management systems can allow lawyers to access client matter files from home, remote office or on the road. This flexibility can allow lawyers to work in the best environment of their choosing. It can also be a selling point to attract the newer generation of lawyers who are very familiar with accessing information on the go.
- Increase efficiency by utilizing workflow software for repetitive firm processes. Paper documents allow for one person to work on them at a time. With electronic documents and workflow, many bottlenecks can be averted, because several people can view an electronic document at the same time. For example, if a contract needs to be reviewed by a paralegal, case manager and responsible attorney, the reviews can be done simultaneously, instead of waiting for each review to be completed before the next can start.
- Increase the office space used for personnel versus paper storage. Space previously used to store paper documents and their filing cabinets can be repurposed as office space for firm personnel.
- Dispose of electronic documents in a systematic manner utilizing less personnel. Many document management systems have electronic recordkeeping capabilities or add-ons to manage the life cycle of electronic client files. Instead of doing a quarterly shred day for paper client files that can be destroyed, a records manager can manage the process electronically in a fully audited fashion.
Note: Paper-light is meant to acknowledge that there will be certain documents and/or items that will still need to be managed in its original analog state (wills and trusts for example, or product samples for intellectual property law). Do not let some paper restrictions hold the firm back from implementing procedures that will save time, space and money.
Nitza Medina-Garcia, Certified Records Manager, Records and Information Management Consultant
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InfoCompass Business Solutions