January 31, 2014

How to Start and Run a Paperless Office

Nerino J. Petro Jr.

Paper, paper, and more paper! Lawyers often seem to be drowning in a sea of paper. Storing all this paper is not the only issue. How do you keep all of it properly filed? How do you locate it later when you need it? How do you easily provide a copy to a client or other party? For those just starting out in practice, these may seem like minor issues; however, for those who have been in practice for some time and are dealing with overflowing file cabinets and bankers boxes of closed files, this is a very real issue. The answer is not as simple as scanning everything and converting the paper into electronic files. You need to have the proper equipment, software, and processes in place before you get started so that you are as efficient and effective as possible. Otherwise, you can waste huge amounts of time and resources and not markedly improve the problem.

The Paperless Office

Paper was great for our grandfathers and even our fathers, but we live in a digital world. The days of mechanical typewriters and carbon paper are long past. Our clients and other professionals exchange information by electronic means such as e-mail, text messages, and digital files. The reality is that electronic documents are now part of a lawyer’s everyday life. If they are not part of yours, you need to ask yourself why they are not.

So what is the paperless office? According to Wikipedia:

A paperless office is a work environment in which the use of paper is eliminated or greatly reduced. This is done by converting documents and other papers into digital form. Proponents claim that “going paperless” can save money, boost productivity, save space, make documentation and information sharing easier, keep personal information more secure, and help the environment. The concept can also be extended to communications outside the office. (tinyurl.com/584qel)

Many pundits believe that “going paperless” means the total elimination of all paper from your practice. This is a laudable but unrealistic goal, and if it ever arrives, it will be many years in the future. My good friend Ross Kodner, who passed away in July 2013, coined the term The Paper LESS Office. The Paper LESS Office established the realistic goal of reducing the amount of paper necessary and reducing how often paper is handled.

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