The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism
“Going paperless is a simple matter of buying a scanner and using it. Being paperless means adopting practices and procedures that maximize efficiency and minimize cost.” ~ The Paperless (Law) Office (Lawyerist Media, LLC, 2009)
My boss (he hates to be called that) asked me to write a memo explaining the benefits of going paperless in our law firm, or at least the benefits of reducing the paper we deal with now. As much as I’ve always hated paper, this is a very desirable assignment for me. But some of my colleagues have really embraced their inner paper hoarder over the years, and could be much harder sells than, say, me. (I even hate yellow legal pads).
I thought I’d list the benefits from my preliminary research, and then ask my readers if I missed any compelling arguments for scanning every piece of paper that comes into our office and saving it electronically – and eliminating many of our hard files. (But I still haven’t figured out how to get people to stop sending us paper, or how to get rid of those pesky paper exhibits for most trials.)
Here are my points of persuasion for the paper lovers so far:
Find any document quickly simply by accessing your computer – from anywhere. No more lost time (and frustration) hunting for hard copies through overflowing (or the wrong) files, towering (and mysterious) piles of paper on top of desks, scattered willy-nilly all over conference rooms, buried deep in storage facilities, hiding in any one of multiple briefcases, and in worst case scenarios, stuffed under the seats of someone’s car. It takes less time to scan and save a digital file than it does to look for a hard copy, and you can search for documents with a few keystrokes. (Also, no more paper cuts.)
Save money. No more long hours filing and re-filing; organizing physical client files; buying expensive binders and accordion files, reams of copy paper, toner, letterhead, envelopes and exhibit tabs in bulk; paying exorbitant postage to mail voluminous paper productions; and purchasing storage boxes and space. Kiss those annoying file storage retrieval fees good-bye. No more losing hours of valuable support time while your staffers stand at a copier or file (and re-file) for hours (or spend days looking for that file that you forgot you left at your mother-in-law’s house two months ago).
Be (any size) disaster-prepared. In the event of fire, theft or computer crashes, critical documents are safely stored and backed up, locally and remotely. Also, small disasters like spilling coffee on documents (or, not to beat a dead horse, losing them) are eliminated if you’re looking at them on your monitor. (Spilling the coffee on your keyboard is a separate category of disasters.)
Better maintain confidentiality. Eliminate paper casually lying around and exposed in your office. Digital documents can be encrypted, further limiting people that have access to privileged information. You can also add passwords to documents to ensure that only the intended e-mail recipient can open and see them.
Make better use of your office space. Get rid of the clutter, including unattractive shelves and bulky filing cabinets, and eliminate casual access to accordion files and notebooks by unauthorized individuals and people passing through. Facilitate document review, and eliminate hundreds of pages of documents sitting in stacks on your desk (or on your floor). Since I convinced you to go dual monitor, you can review documents faster and more efficiently on that extra monitor – and save all of our eyes. And key documents are not stashed in multiple places (subject to human whim), physical and/or digital. They are in one place: the electronic file.
Be ready for the day that all courts are paperless and require e-filing.
Save our planet. Go green. Reduce paper and save trees.
Great publications for paperless strategies:
The Paperless (Law) Office (Lawyerist Media, LLC, 2009)
The 2010 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide (American Bar Association, 2010)
Great online articles about going paperless: