October 07, 2020 Practice Management

Give Your Printer a Rest - Go Paperless!

October 2020 Tech Talk Corner

By Brian M. Karpf and Melissa A. Kucinski

Are you terrified of having a paperless office?  Don’t believe it can happen? Even with courts e-filing (and now having virtual hearings), we consistently find that lawyers are scared of being entirely paperless.  Don’t be!  The benefits abound.  Not only are many of our courts mandating electronic filing of pleadings, but having a paperless office has significant benefits for your organization, peace of mind, remote working, and collaboration among lawyers and staff. You just need a process.

Having a paperless office has significant benefits for your organization, peace of mind, remote working, and collaboration among lawyers and staff.

Having a paperless office has significant benefits for your organization, peace of mind, remote working, and collaboration among lawyers and staff.

Credit: Ketut Subiyanto via Pexels

What do I do with my paper files?

You can spend money having a company scan and organize your old paper files, or you can choose to do this in-house.  Now may be a good time to use any under-utilized staff who are working from home to pick up a few paper files from the office and start scanning and organizing the documents from home. There are compact, high quality scanners (like the Fujitsu Scansnap) that are highly mobile and can temporarily sit on your secretary’s dining table during our COVID-work-from-home time.  The same scanners can sit on their desks back at the office when we return post-pandemic.  Likewise, all-in-one scanner/printer/copy machines are now available, and the cost of a good device is down to the $150.00-$350.00 dollar range.

What should I do when I need to open a new file?

Develop a procedure.  Start by having a rule that all postal mail is scanned and organized immediately.  If you are the type of lawyer who wants to look at all mail each day, have your staff email it to you instead of piling it on your desk.  You can quickly browse through the email, and respond with instructions on what to do - shred, scan, etc.  Make sure that you have a good shared drive with all of your client’s electronic files organized in a way that makes sense.  Consider a cloud-based shared drive, such as NetDocuments, OneDrive, Box or Dropbox for Business (definitely read the platform’s privacy policy).  Additionally, if you use cloud-based case management programs, like Clio or MyCase, you can upload client files directly to those platforms, and each member of your team can log in and view the documents.  These platforms allow you to have clients e-sign retainers and receive their bills electronically, so nothing needs to be printed or mailed any longer.  If you periodically prefer to read something in hard copy, you can print it, but that will end up being the exception, not the norm. 

Have a process of what you do with each document after you scan it.  For some, like originals, you may send the document directly back to the client.  For others, like letters or bills, you may simply scan and shred the document.  It is really inexpensive for each desk at your office to have a basic simple shredder and a compact scanner. 

Disaster Planning

The biggest concerns expressed by lawyers tend to be losing the only copy of a document or compromising a client’s security.  These can be ameliorated, and is one of the main reasons you should go paperless. Have a clear plan for how to backup all of your documents.  If you scan the document, it will naturally sit on the harddrive of the computer to which it was scanned and will always be available.  It will also typically be filed in a cloud-based shared drive.  But, also consider redundancy in your storage and backups.  Purchase an external backup drive for each computer in the office that will sit inconspicuously on each desk and automatically back up the entire contents of that computer each hour.  Still concerned?  Consider cloud-based backup storage, such as Carbonite or CrashPlan.  These are highly secure (probably more secure than your own system), and allow you easy access to your files wherever you can log in.  This circles back to the other concern - ensuring you can protect your client’s data (and your own!).  Most security breaches relate back to user-error, and not a flaw in the platform you are using.  These companies invest millions of dollars in ensuring that they have adequate security measures in place.  So, you need to double and triple check that your own technology is secure - use passwords, secure backups, do not connect to public WiFi, use two factor authentication, have antivirus software and a VPN, etc.  Also, educate your clients about what they can and should send to you by email, and invest in a secure document transfer program like Sharefile. 

Until next month’s Tech Talk Corner, you can find us at www.techtalklaw.com.  Please reach out to us so we can have a dialogue about our changing profession. 

Melissa is a family lawyer in Washington, D.C. and can be found at www.mkfamilylawfirm.com.  Brian is a family lawyer in Southern Florida and can be found at www.ybkglaw.com

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Brian M. Karpf and Melissa A. Kucinski

Brian M. Karpf and Melissa A. Kucinski

Credit: www.techtalklaw.com, Zhia Victoria Photography

Brian M. Karpf

Esq., Fort Lauderdale, FL

Young, Berman, Karpf & Gonzalez, P.A.

Melissa A. Kucinski

Esq., Washington, D.C.

MK Family Law, PLLC

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