If you are like me, you are plain sick of reading about the wonders of the paperless law office. If you listen to the apologists about going paperless, you will have a faster, more efficient law office with access to all documents anytime, anywhere, finding any document in seconds and reducing postage costs. They go on and on about the wonders of the scanner, searchable documents, cloud computing etc. etc.
Well, I have to admit after being a paperless office for 3 months now it is true. All of it. Every single word. Going from the traditional papered office with copies upon copies in a file folder organized (hopefully) with tabs to walking into court with an iPad and having every document, indexed, searchable within seconds and being able to annotate them has been a game changer. I am here to give you a quick overview on how we did it and how you can to.
The first thing you need is a scanner on each desk. Trust me on this, there needs to be a scanner on every desk, not a central one. Make it easy to use and it will be used, that’s the cardinal rule. Go and buy a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500. It costs about $400 and is absolutely the easiest to use. Don’t do what I did the first time and buy an off brand scanner to save a few bucks; you can’t get support for it and it won’t be as easy to use as the Fujitsu.
Next, pick a day and say that is the day we are paperless. We went ahead and on a Monday we said everything is scanned as the mail is opened. It is scanned, saved and then emailed to the lawyer and client. We do something shocking next, we shred it. Yes, we put it in the shred bin if it is not irreplaceable (or more accurately hard to replace). If you don’t shred it, it is too easy to go back to paper and it is self-defeating.
We use iPads at our office. We love them, but they are not necessary. I’ll give you a quick example of how we use them and why the tablet computing works so well with a paperless office. Our office does Criminal Defense, Family Law and Work Comp. (I’ll leave the work comp. stuff alone for now and just deal on the Criminal Defense) If I have a pre-trial hearing and go to court, instead of grabbing the file I will grab my Ipad, go to Dropbox and make sure the police reports are in Dropbox. Then I take the iPad (and only the Ipad) and go to court. I can search the police report for keywords since it’s a searchable PDF. I can also annotate (using a very simple app called GoodReader) and then talk to the prosecutor or identify the issue for a contested hearing. No more lugging the file around and wondering on what page I saw something. To say it streamlines the process is a huge understatement.
The final step is probably the most technologically difficult, that is to say a 6th grader can do it. You need to get the document in the cloud (or your server if you never leave the office). Dropbox.com is what we use. The first 2 Gigs of storage are free (but you can always upgrade to 50 Gigs for $120/year or 100 Gig for $240 year). This might very well be enough for you if you are solo. We are a 3 lawyer firm and are only using 6 gigs.
There you go, another post talking about the wonders of the paperless office. It may or may not work for your firm, but without a doubt, you will see more iPads in court, you’ll get more documents via email and clients will expect faster turnaround. You can either wait until your competitors have it or do it now and take the lead.