Your client visits the office, and you have to find a bit of information. Trouble is, you've got a heap of papers from at least a dozen cases in your office alone, so it takes several minutes to hunt down the paper you need.
All the while, your client sits there trying not to be awkward while they wait for you to finish rifling through your papers. Not the best image.
Now imagine how that interaction would go if you could find that information with just a few clicks. It's one of the many benefits of greening your law firm. The trick is knowing where to begin. That's where we can help. Here are a few steps to switch your law firm over to paperless processes.
The first step is simple: Get organized by setting a measurable goal.
We're not talking about a vague agreement to use less paper. We're talking about a hard deadline with set milestones and clear metrics of success.
The best method is to set a 12-month plan with soft goals along the way. For example, you may set a goal to acquire the systems and tools required to go paperless by X date and set another goal to digitize all of your archived paper records by Y date.
Part of this process involves acknowledging that "paperless" really means "less paper." Your clients expect a paperless experience, but many law firms and other players in the legal system still go through reams of paper each day. Reducing paper in your office is an ongoing process.
Remember, it doesn't do any good to exchange a paper mess for a digital mess. A mess is a mess, no matter where it lives.
For many law firms, this means storing data in the cloud. This allows you 24/7, convenient access to all of your files, with plenty of storage that will grow alongside your firm.
Keep in mind, however, that cloud security is a paramount concern. After all, you're storing a great deal of confidential information about your clients, from their personal information to legal documentation of their cases. You need to make sure you have a system and best practices that will protect that data.
Another approach is to invest in a document management system, which acts as a digital hub for your law firm. It's a warehouse to store documents and an engine to simplify the process of finding documents when you need them.
A system like this is particularly useful because it actively indexes all documents as they come in. That way, you don't have to worry about making sure that the whole office is using the same filing method. Instead, you can find any document you need, when you need it.
Look for a system that integrates email management, index and search, and optical character recognition (OCR) functionality. That way, you can categorize any document that comes through your office, no matter where it comes from or the file format used.
While you're setting up your storage system, try to establish your processes and document workflows. These workflows will guide how all employees handle documents coming into your firm.
You need to determine how you handle two situations:
Discipline is key. The best way to approach this is to develop a checklist for your whole team to follow and train the team on how to handle documents.
Time to invest in some hardware! Specifically, you're going to need document scanners and shredders.
Remember earlier when we said that "paperless" often means "less paper"? This is part of that recognition. You're going to have physical documents come into your office despite your best efforts. You can't prevent that.
However, you can prevent those documents from mucking up your organization system.
Scanners will allow you to make the initial switch to paperless, and also to digitize any future physical documents when they come into your firm.
Be intentional when choosing a scanner for your law firm — not all scanners are created equal. The best scanner for a law office depends largely on the size of the firm: Whereas the best scanner for a small law office might be the Kodak i2900 Scanner, which scans up to 10,000 pages per day and 60 pages per minute, the best scanner for a large law office could be the Kodak i3450 Scanner (scans up to 30,000 pages per day and 90 pages per minute). Both of these options can have an A4 flatbed scanner built-in, allowing you to scan a wide range of document types and sizes.
Shredders, on the other hand, will allow you to dispose of physical copies when you no longer need them (assuming that you don't need to retain physical copies for some reason). If you do need to retain physical copies, you should have a system in place to keep your archives organized and accessible.
Finally, don't forget to train your employees! After all, they're the ones responsible for implementing your paperless system.
For example, your employees should be well-versed in your naming and filing conventions before you roll out the system. Otherwise, documents will end up in entirely the wrong place.
It helps to bring employees in on the process early. Work with them to establish your naming conventions and filing system. After all, they're the ones who have to work with the system — they're best equipped to tell you what works.
Your employees should have a clear idea of what your document intake process looks like, how to back-file documents, and how to find documents within your management system.
If you're figuring out how to go paperless, the most important thing to remember is that it's a process. You have to set goals and reassess your progress over time.
Fortunately, we can help make that process easier. One law firm used our solutions to transform over 7,000 boxes of legal documents into digital files. Ready to see how we can transform your firm? Take a look at our available services to find out more, or contact us to discuss the best scanners for law offices.