With the rise of e-filing and the concurrent realization by many lawyers of the benefits offered by moving their firms toward paperless offices, paperless law firms are becoming increasingly common. The biggest hurdle in moving to a paperless office is typically lack of information. For many lawyers, the idea of going paperless sounds like a good one, but it’s the implementation that can be daunting. This because there’s a lot of different ways to go paperless, and oftentimes it’s difficult to know which tools will be best for your law firm’s needs.
The good news is that there are experts who can help, including Jim Calloway and Bryan Sims, who presented on this very topic at ABA Techshow in April. During a session titled, “Beyond the Scanner: Paperless Workflows That Work,” they shared tips about moving to a more paperless existence while Stephanie Crowley took visual notes of this session on behalf of MyCase. The visual notes from that session can be found below along with some of our favorite tips and links to sites that provide further information (click to view larger image):
1. Plan ahead. The presenters stressed the importance of planning ahead. When going paperless, create a plan and strategy before starting the process. Make sure to draft clear written policies and procedures for everyone in your firm who will be part of the process. And, make sure to set a hard transition date. Doing so will give you a workable roadmap and deadline, ensuring that everyone is on the same page. To learn more about the process of setting up a paperless law office you can read this ABA GPSolo article.
2. Create an office workflow. Your law firm’s written paperless policy should include your office’s workflow. As part of the workflow, make sure that your law firm has a consistent case naming and filing system that everyone understands and uses. And, make sure to include plans for documents that you will maintain in paper format, keeping in mind that in some cases the original document is often a digital document that you intend to also store in paper format. For more on paperless law office workflows, check out this post.
3. Get your thoughts and ideas into the paperless workflow. It’s important to take steps to digitize all documents relating to your law practice, not just word processed documents. In order to truly reap the benefits of a paperless office, everything related to a case should be digitized. For example, make sure to digitize your handwritten notes. If you prefer to take notes by hand, either use a tablet to record handwritten notes or use a white notepad (since it scans more legibly) and then digitize the notes. Also think about the typical steps you always take in a specific type of case and use software to track your to-dos, whether it’s a productivity app or law practice management software.
4. Backup, backup, backup! When you transition to a paperless law office, you must take steps to ensure that your data is backed up to more than one location. That way you won’t lose access to your data. If you use web-based law practice management software, trustworthy providers will do that for you by backing up your data to servers located in multiple geographic locations. But if you store your data on your law firm’s servers, you’re responsible for taking steps to ensure that your office’s data is backed up elsewhere as well. To learn more about data backup and moving your law firm paperless, make sure to watch the recording of this MyCase webinar: Creating the Paperless Law Office.