If your law firm wants to remain relevant, it’s time to understand paperless. I could speak all day about scanning, practice management, and document management, but so could everyone else. Also, you might be thinking, “I already have these tools, and I’m not paperless.”
To go paperless, you must first understand what paperless means. Then, you need to look inward. After all paperless is not something you can buy, it’s something you must do.
What does paperless mean?
I would love it if paperless meant paperless. But I don’t think that will be possible for a while. Heck, even I have been known to use a legal pad from time to time. But we can get close. Paperless means, using paper less. A LOT less. Less printing, less legal pad note taking, less sticky notes.
So, just because paperless means using paper less, you do not get a free pass. The benefits gained by moving in the paperless direction are many. Let’s focus on a few of the critical points.
Assuming you have a good backup solution, like Barracuda, being paperless will make your data more secure. A good backup provider will encrypt your data and keep it in a secure locked facility that will protect it from theft or an act of nature.
If your data is in the cloud, it will be easier to access remotely. However, for your data to be in the cloud, it must be in a paperless format.
Millennials, love ‘em or hate em’ you need them to expand or replace those who are retiring. They are in the workforce practically demanding remote access, flexible schedules, and they know technology better than they know almost any real human (Sadly, I’m a millennial). If you want to keep and attract new talent, this is the way.
So, what do you do to go paperless?
First, you need a good back solution. With a good backup solution, your data will have better protection from theft or an act of nature. God forbid your office is wiped out in a tornado, superstorm, fire, hurricane, earthquake, or some other natural disaster. If this happens, you can trust that it’s backed up in a remote secure geographically redundant facility. One of our firms had a fire and lost physical and digital because they did not have a good backup solution.
Remote Access Policy
Second, every firm needs a good remote access solution. To gain the most significant benefits from being paperless, and do so while maintaining security, you need a remote access solution. Whether or not you have a clear remote access policy, you have remote access. It just means individual employees created their own policies. This practice is unsafe, causes problems, and should scare you.
Leverage existing software
Most firms have O365, document management, or practice management, but few take full advantage of the software. For example, I often hear people describe technology or anything they need to justify buying, as an investment. A true investment, like your 401k, requires continued frequent contributions to reap the benefits. When applied to software, this means quarterly, semiannual, or at the bare minimum, annual training. But you’re not the bare minimum type.
Training does not have to be limited to your practice management or document management software every 3-6 months. Training for things like Outlook, Word, Adobe, Teams, Windows OS, or your remote access policies should also take place. (Security is a good thing for training too, but I need to say on the paperless topic). Few people know how to tile windows, setup quick steps, quickly create a table of contents, redact, collaborate or access the firm’s documents remotely.
Now, this is where the rubber (paper) meets the road
Have you been looking for a business case to buy that new Surface Go, or Apple Pencil for your iPad? Now is the time! I love writing, not typing but writing. I also love paperless. So how do I do it? Well, I use a Surface Pro 4 with the Surface Pen. I take notes in OneNote by handwriting them on my tablet. Sometimes nothing is better than a quick sketch. The best part is that with OneNote (Evernote or any other cloud-based note app) those notes are synced to the cloud. Now I can’t forget my notebook at the office. I can even get my hand-written notes on my smartphone.
I’ve posed these questions in previous blogs, but I’ll ask it again. Do you hand-write documents? Do you print documents to proofread in red pen? Does someone print the email and set it on your desk for your review?
What do I mean by process? Look at your workflows, take them one at a time. See where the paper is created and think of ways you can reduce it. Yes, you can hire someone to do this. Or you can appoint someone in the firm to lead the initiative. Start with the low hanging fruit, the questions I asked at the start of this paragraph. Then if you decide you need more help, hire a consultant.
Please allow me to go on a short tangent. Don’t be afraid to take typing classes. The number of people I encounter who can’t type is staggering. I mean no offense nor am I passing judgment. But if I had to hunt and peck on a keyboard, I would hand write everything on paper too!
This can be a slow process. Start by doing one process at a time or concentrate on a specific practice area. As you begin to eliminate paper in one place, move to the next. Just make sure you keep moving forward. After all, you want this to be an investment, right?
In short here are my practical tips for going paperless;
- Good backup solution
- Remote access policy
- Leverage existing software through ongoing training (invest in technology)
- Start using tables and their pens
- Review your process and attack the low hanging fruit
- Take your time
Let me know your thoughts on these practical paperless tips. Or if you have a better advice, please share. I’d love to hear it.