With climate change becoming a bigger concern by the day, many law practices have been thinking about creating paperless offices. The legal industry is particularly affected by concerns over the impact of using paper, given that law offices generally consume large volumes of paper. An added rationale for adopting a paperless office is that in an era of remote work, law firms have to find ways to work digitally because paper documentation is no longer feasible. An advantage of the paperless office is that digital documentation tends to be more secure, easier to share, and easier to organize, while also having positive benefits for the environment. In this article, we will discuss how to go paperless in your law office.
There are two other advantages to going paperless that I should mention:
Increases efficiency: As important as billing clients is, office work is also important and often takes up a great deal of time. Digital systems are very easy to search through because the database is designed to be searchable through the use of keywords. So office personnel saves a lot of time when searching for documents.
Saves Money: Research suggests that the typical office worker uses over 10,000 sheets of paper a year! That’s an enormous amount of paper. Two cases in fact. The cost of a case of paper is somewhere between $30 and $50. Multiply that by the number of workers and that’s the saving you can make a year. Over a given year this may not seem like much but over time these sums add up. Throw in the cost of having filing systems, as well as labels and other things you need to maintain this infrastructure and that’s quite a bit of expenditure.
Invest in the Right Equipment
Going paperless requires an investment in the equipment that will allow you to do so. Happily, the investment requirement is not prohibitive, despite being essential to the transition.
- A scanner: This is essential because it allows you to create digital copies of all your paper documents. With a scanner, you can scan every paper of documentation that the company has and deposit it into the firm’s online system. A number of firms use an all-purpose copier/printer/scanner, rather than a pure scanner.
- A paper shredder: Having scanned all your paper documents, the next step is to destroy them. The best way to achieve this is by using a paper shredder. A shredder allows you to keep the details of your documents confidential while also allowing you to recycle the paper to minimize the impact on the environment. You don’t need to get anything fancy. You just need a durable shredder.
- Extra computer monitor: Because everyone will be using their computer to read documents, it may help to invest in additional monitors to ease the pressure on the eyes and allow your staff to view two pages at the same time.
- Tablet: For many people, reading documents on a Tablet is as close as you can get to reading the paper version of a document. Additionally, Tablets can be passed around easily, allowing you to show people a document, and have someone sign and/or review a document.
- External Hard Drive: In the event that you are locked out of your online storage system, or the documents are somehow destroyed, you should be able to access a physical backup. An external hard drive fulfills this function. You can back up your files every day on an external hard drive. For added security, invest in remote backup.
Stop Printing and Faxing
In order to transition to a paperless office, you will also have to stop printing documents and accepting faxes. This must be done as a matter of urgency. Delaying this step delays the transition to a paperless office by allowing the paper to continue to be used and accumulate.
Have teams, and clients use email instead of fax and get software that will convert faxes to email. Furthermore, embrace electronic means of taking memos, and use electronic client intake forms. Going paperless means using technology over the paper.
Create Digital Copies of Your Documents
Having invested in a scanner, it’s time to use it. You will have to scan every single legal document that your company has received or produced. Scan the documents and deposit them in your online storage system. A lot of firms have such a volume of paper documents that they hire firms to scan their documents. You can use a cloud storage system such as Box or DropBox. A cloud storage system is much safer than using your own server. It will allow you to share documents with anyone who needs to view a document.
Protect the Firm’s Files
Cloud storage systems are much safer than using your own servers because a cloud company can dedicate much more resources to enhancing the security of its platform. That said, it is still important to secure the firm’s files. There are several ways you can achieve this. You can use two-factor authentication, additional permissions, and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to enhance security.
Establish an Automated Client Intake Process
Using electronic client forms is incredibly empowering for a firm. This is true even for firms who do not go all the way in transitioning to a paperless office. The beauty of electronic client forms is that when a client fills them in, the information can be used throughout your workflows and even your practice management software. You may even implement an eSignature solution so that your clients can sign documents online, deepening our implementation of a paperless strategy.
Implement a Client Relationship Management (CRM) System
A client relationship management system (CRM) can be an important tool in transitioning to a paperless office. A CRM enables you to streamline your client intake process and give your clients a secure portal through which they can communicate with the firm’s lawyers. Furthermore, a CRM allows your firm to quickly share documents and, overall, enhance the client experience.
Transitioning to a paperless office takes investment and effort, but the benefits are enormous. The important thing is to take it step by step rather than getting overwhelmed by the entirety of the process. It’s important to implement an automated client intake process, halt the accumulation of paper, and create digital copies of all your paper documents. At the end of the day, it’s a plus for the environment, the firm, and your clients. You can find additional information on how to improve your business.