Going Paperless

by Affinity Consulting Group on May 1, 2018

By Steve J. Best, Esq.

When the staff of a law firm is asked about their biggest frustrations as it relates to productivity and job efficiency, managing volumes of paper is often at the top.  Paper files have become problematic in today’s technologically driven law firms.  People often spend hours of unproductive time filing away and then, later, looking for paper.  Paper files can only be in one place at a time; there is no sharing or collaborating on a paper file; you cannot search a paper file, you can only flip paper, one page at a time as you search.  Filing is also one of the most dreaded tasks in a law firm – and it often gets put off.  So, even if you have found the file, there is a good chance the paper you need isn’t there.  And then finally…what do we do with all those files once we are done with them?  Space is not cheap – at your own office or at a storage facility.

Going Paperless takes planning, time, energy and, yes, some money.  But the benefit surely outweighs the burden.

While the concept of an office with zero paper is not a reality for most firms, having much less paper, manipulating documents in PDF format (see above), and relying on the digital document is worth your effort.  Below are ten practical steps you can take to get your firm moving in the direction of the paperless office.

  1. EVALUATE YOUR SYSTEM and invest in your platform. Update your servers and workstations and plan to keep them up to date.
  2. SCANNERS – GOTTA HAVE THEM AT YOUR DESK. Big central scanners have their place for large scans, but are not the answer for all scanning.  Invest and give every legal assistant and paralegal his/her own desktop scanner to make scanning easy.
  3. EVALUATE YOUR DOCUMENT STORAGE PROTOCOLS – Review how documents are stored, the folders you use, how they’re organized and make a system and naming protocol that is useful for everyone.
  4. DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE (DMS): Consider document management software to manage digital content.  Document management forces everyone in your firm to comply with document saving protocols ensuring that documents are easy to search, find, “versionize”, secure and preserve.
  5. INVOLVE EVERYONE – going paperless will affect everyone in your office. Be sure and get input from your entire staff. Adopt innovative ideas and address naysayers (most likely they’re afraid of change).
  6. DEALING WITH THE MAIL – Figure out WHO will scan in the “snail-mail” and make sure he/she has the tools he/she needs to ensure fast, accurate and properly named scanned mail.
  7. PICK A START DATE AND GO – Start slowly. Forget about closed files in the beginning.  Deal only with active files to start.
  8. TRAINNG – Find a reliable trainer who can easily teach your team what they need to know about managing a less paper practice. And – have him/her come and reinforce concepts as much as your budget will permit.
  9. SWIM – THE WATER’S FINE: Once properly planned, it’s time to jump in…the “water” is fine!
  10. SHAMPOO LATHER RINSE REPEAT: As you work in a less paper environment, refine your policies and procedures as needed for YOUR practice. Going paperless should make your lives easier, not harder.  As a result, if something isn’t working, review it and change it as needed.  Recognize that it’s a process and continue to work on what works best for you and your staff.

 

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