YourABA July 2011 Masthead
 

Tips on creating a paperless office—it is possible!

“The paperless office is not a myth,” says Margaret (Molly) DiBianca, who practices labor and employment law at Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP, in Wilmington, Del., and writes the Going Paperless Blog. “It is, and has been a reality for many lawyers for many years.”

In her Law Practice Today article, “How to Save Money Now by Going Paperless,” DiBianca writes that many lawyers in her office were fascinated by the idea of going paperless, but skipped on the commitment to remain paperless. That was until they realized the money they could save from a digital system, which could result in additional savings for clients.

Even with studies underscoring the green benefits of a paperless workplace and the push toward the acceptance of a paperless practice, “lawyers still are resistant to change,” writes J. Anthony Vittal in a GP SOLO Magazine article, “In Search of the Paperless Office.”

Citing that the U.S. bankruptcy courts have moved to a completely paperless environment, state and federal agencies have adopted e-filing as the method of choice to file documents, the U.S. courts of appeals have adopted mandatory electronic filing for cases, and some state courts have adopted case management/electronic case filing systems, Vittal is determined to help practices go paperless (or, at least, paper-less).

DiBianca writes that many lawyers in her office were fascinated by the idea of going paperless, but skipped on the commitment to remain paperless. That was until they realized the money they could save from a digital system.

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DiBianca is one lawyer who understands the green benefits of a paperless workplace. She took a small step in 2005 by converting to a digital system that has made a big difference in how she conducts business and she has, “never looked back.”

To help lawyers realize the dream of a paperless office, DiBianca and Vittal share tips in their respective articles on how to take small steps to transform your practice into a paperless office, which can save you money:

Supplies and equipment – The fact that you’re going paperless does not mean you’re not going to use paper, thereby, rid yourself of the cost of paper. “Paperless” lawyers, “still use lots of paper,” DiBianca explains. Buying paper is one of the “least significant” areas of savings.

To do:

  • Get acquainted with Adobe Acrobat Professional (www.adobe.com)
  • Save your case pleadings as PDFs
  • Invest in a scanner that could handle the volume of paper documents received by your office. It should include document management software and have the ability to handle various sizes of documents. It should be able to scan in duplex (scan both sides of the sheet on a single pass).

Storage — Believe it or not, you pay rent to store paper files. DiBianca explains how: you buy filing cabinets; the filing cabinets occupy floor space and multiply that square footage by the amount you pay per month per square foot for your lease. Once a matter has been resolved, you pay for off-site storage to make room for new case files. Vittal suggests shifting from paper-based files to electronic files. “I am running a 1TB drive as my primary data drive in my workstation, and for backup I have a mirrored 1TB network-attached drive.”

To do:

  • Decrease the amount of paper files you create
  • Invest in electronic storage; Terabyte (TB) drives are relatively inexpensive.

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Labor — According to DiBianca, labor-related savings, though less quantifiable, are some of the most immediate benefits of a digital office. “The paper-based system takes several times longer and leaves lots of room for human error,” she writes. “On the other hand, in digital system, the entire process takes just a few minutes and the assistant doesn’t even need to get up from her desk.”

As to the mail, Vittal suggests scanning it. “To the extent you can do so, resist the temptation to print a paper copy of the PDF created on intake. Instead, try using one or more wide-format flat-panel displays for your workstation. I am using an LG Flatron 22-inch wide-format LCD monitor (www.lg.com), which allows me to see two pages side by side (portrait format) at 100 percent of the original view size.”

To do:

  • Switch to an e-mail based fax system (toss the paper)
  • Change to a digital system for outgoing correspondence (Letters could be signed with a graphic of your signature and placed into the letter as an image, before the PDF is created)
  • Scan incoming mail to PDF.

By implementing various digital practices, you’re on the road to transition to a paperless office. This change could yield more space in your practice and immediate savings for you and your clients.

How to Save Money Now By Going Paperless” is part of the Law Practice Today, a product of the Law Practice Management Section. “In Search of the Paperless Office” is an article that appeared in the GP Solo Magazine, a product of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division .

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