We know what you are thinking: it is impossible to go totally paperless in a law office. While it is true that many formal processes still require hard-copy documents, there are many instances where the amount of paper in your office can be cut down. Invoicing, internal documents, archival documents, and anything your state allows to be e-filed can all be handled without wasting paper, and thus wasting time and money.
To help get your law office to go paperless (or, more accurately, reduce paper consumption), we have a few paperless tips and options.
Digital Documents Stay Digital
We know that documents need to be signed, but how often do you print out a digital document just to scan it and e-mail it to a client? When was the last time you printed out a document just to have it signed then re-scanned? The fact of the matter is that there are easy ways to pass around secure, uneditable electronic documents without printing/scanning, most courts now have e-filing options, and there are ways to sign documents digitally. Speaking of which …
Use an Electronic Signing Service
There are many services out there that offer electronic signatures and electronic signing. Services such as HelloSign are excellent for this, and allow you to save time and money on printing out documents for client or attorney signatures just to re-scan and re-file them.
Get Rid of the Fax Machine
Do we need to say it? The fax machine is older than the Internet. And decades later, it’s just as slow as always, and the resolution remains just this side of illegible. In fact, law firms and doctor’s offices are pretty much the last pillars holding this ancient technology up; and not because it does a superb job, but because law firms and doctor’s offices are notoriously technophobic. A desktop scanner and email will accomplish the same task faster, more clearly, with password options to make sure only the right eyes see the document, and with proof that the document was sent. And for the extremely rare case where you have to send a fax, email-to-fax services are readily available and easy to use. That is, unless you have a nostalgic love for the chirp of your 56k modem and the soothing screech of the machines connecting, in which case, keep your machine and send out a fax once in awhile for old time’s sake. But don’t use it for daily operations.
You have probably already invested in a scanner as part of an early attempt at reducing paper consumption. But it was likely a flatbed scanner that would sloooooowly drag a bulb across each individual page. Since that purchase, the scanner has collected piles of dust while every desk and corner of your office continued collecting piles of paper. Hell, your file cabinets alone probably hold enough metal to armor a small medieval army by this point.
If that’s true, it’s time to take a second look at scanners. Desktop models are compact, feed whole stacks of paper automatically, and whip pages through at close to a page a second. In fact, you’ll find yourself scanning for the sheer pleasure of watching the paper stacks fly onto your computer. So get a good-quality scanner, go after those mountains fo paper, then adopt a rule to scan everything that comes into the office. Mail, legal documents, invoices, everything that does not have a digital version needs to be scanned, immediately dealt with, or tossed.
Find High-Quality Paperless Software
All of the above is nice, but if you do not have paperless software to support it, you’ll find your law firm is as much of a disorganized mess as when you began your paperless endeavors. This is where software like FileCenter comes in.
Just because the legal profession is paper intensive, that does not mean you have to have mountains of paperwork. Many law firms have already taken the time to go paperless, cutting down immensely on their operating costs and improving the efficiency of their operations. While it is understandable those in the legal field might think it is impossible, as with most things it all comes down to putting together a plan and putting that plan into action.