Going Paperless – The Many Benefits (And Some Pitfalls to Be Aware Of)
Lawyers typically lose fifteen minutes or more per day looking for things they can’t find. That’s over 50 hours of lost billable time each year! In a paper-based office, 10% of cases have at least one piece of information that can’t be found when needed. There are many benefits to going paperless which I will lay out below.
Going paperless can help improve your efficiency. You can find electronic documents faster with electronic search, retrieval and viewing software. Sending these documents becomes quick and easy, done directly from your desktop.
o Reduce space and equipment required to store documents
o Reduce time costs of filing and retrieving paper documents
o Reduce mailing costs of sending documents that can be emailed
Improve Client Service
o Respond faster to client inquiries
o Give clients electronic copies of their documents
o Reduce lost or misplaced documents
o Save paper, toner, folders and storage cabinets and help the environment
o Save energy used for printer and copiers and help the environment
“Paperless Office” Check List:
o Use practice management software for calendaring and case management: Eliminate paper case files, paper calendars, paper to-do lists and paper reminders by managing all your important data in one integrated, single entry program.
o Scan and save your paper documents: Scan all your incoming and outgoing paper documents and link them as PDF attachments to your case management software.
o Link your emails: Save emails and attachments directly to your case management software.
o Link your electronic documents: Link electronic documents to your case management software.
o Create PDF court forms: Generate PDF court forms directly from your case management software.
o Enter your billable time electronically: Automatically capture your billable time as you work. Tracking and entering billable hours electronically means no more paper time sheets.
o Save your bills in PDF format: Save all your invoices in PDF format to your case management software.
o Use instant messaging: Instantaneously send and receive text messages with people in the office and take messages for those that are out of the office.
o Use call manager With a call manager feature you keep notes on your phone calls while reviewing other data, and when you’re done, just click to bill.
“Paperless Office” Pitfalls:
o Not committing fully to going paperless: The only thing less efficient than a “paper” office is an office that is caught in the middle: half “paperless” and half “paper”. This forces people to search in both paper files and on the network for the documents they need.
o Not investing in a complete solution: if you are serious about the financial benefits of going paperless, then don’t buy less than what you need.
o Not creating and following procedures: When working with scanned files, emails, documents and forms, adhering to office wide procedures is critical. A single employee not linking saved documents to the name and matter can sabotage your paperless system.
o Falling back on bad habits: Change is hard and it’s easy to give up on a new project before the fruits of your labor are realized. Make sure new activities and procedures are monitored and reinforced.
o Not getting buy-in from everyone involved: It will only take a couple hold-outs to derail your plans. Sell everyone on the benefits and build consensus before you start making changes.