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A Dozen Steps to Help Your Firm Go Paperless

A Dozen Steps to Help Your Firm Go Paperless

By Gabriel McIntosh

Law firms are often slow to move toward paperless or just less paper-ridden offices, according to a recent blog posting on Law Technology Today, a publication of the American Bar Association’s Legal Technology Resource Center. Firms hesitate because they aren’t sure where to start. To help them, Law Technology Today offered a sample plan from Adriana Linares, a legal technology trainer and consultant with LawTech Partners. Linares is also the chair of the Research and Technology Subcommittee of the Law Practice Management Section of the ABA.

Make a paperless plan, but don’t call it that. Using the word “paperless” makes lawyers break out into hives, according to Linares. Call it a “paper reduction project” or “cost savings experiment.” Your plan should look a lot like a document retention/destruction policy. Make sure you have accurate information about what you are required to keep, for how long and in what format. For example, can you convert a paper file into a digital file and still comply with retention rules related to your practice? What do you keep in paper format? What can you scan and destroy? What do you destroy? What do you send to the client for safekeeping?

Focus on a shift in firm culture. Technology training has to be key. Lawyers need to be experts in Word, Acrobat and other software. The problem with not understanding the full potential of these tools leads to a lack of creative thinking and problem solving.

Stop printing, but buy a new printer. Buy an expensive printer with costly toner; it will make you think twice about every line of ink you use. Institute a simple rule: If it came in digital, it stays in digital.

Get a desktop scanner. You can have large scanners in your office, but professional personnel should have a desktop scanner to make the process convenient and easy. Provide training and a proper place to file the scanned documents.

Put the plan into action. Start shredding, sending and scanning.

Convert paper to digital. Change subscriptions, newsletters and reports to the digital option. Deliver prebills as PDF files, and teach lawyers how to mark them up on their iPads or computers with Acrobat. Put your letterhead in digital format.

Get rid of the traditional fax machine. Convert to a desktop scanning solution (check out faxcompare.com).

Get Adobe Acrobat Standard; upgrade to Acrobat Pro if you need Bates stamping, redacting and form creation tools. Make sure you and your staff are well trained in the program.

Have a proper document management system that helps you easily save, store, search for and retrieve documents. (Check out NetDocuments for an example of a DMS designed for law firms.) Make sure everyone is trained on how the system works.

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