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Reduce Your Law Firm’s Overhead By Going Paperless

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Document Management: Going Paperless

Document management is at the heart of what law firms do. Whether we litigate or have a transactional practice, we need to be able to find and file our documents easily and reliably. Given the economic pressures lawyers face, you can also add cheaply to that list – by going paperless.

In a traditional small law firm, you’ll often see a hybrid system for document management; meaning, both paper and electronic files. These systems often fail on all three criteria. Documents can be scattered and hard to find, and it’s easy for things to get lost. A hybrid system is also expensive: count up the labor cost of paper filing, to say nothing of duplicate paper and electronic files, and you will be shocked. It can easily add tens of thousands of dollars a year in overhead for each attorney in your firm.

Now don’t get me wrong, paper is OK to use, as long as it’s only for necessary documents, like those that need a wet signature, e.g., a will. Another exception might be a working document, when you go to court.

Otherwise, if you want to be lean, everything should be electronic. Efiles should be your real files, your basic files. You can’t afford the space, the time for hassle and people to file your paper. You don’t need to backup your efiles with paper, again, unless it requires a wet signature — but that’s the exception. You need to trust your document management system to keep your documents safe and accessible. If you don’t feel like your system is reliable or easy enough to use, you’ve got the wrong system.

Traditionally, firms have used on-premise document management systems. The least sophisticated method of storing is on your hard drive. Next is on a server with clunky remote access. A step up is a document management tool like Time Matters, that provides organization and cataloging. All of these methods are superseded by cloud management document tools.

Small law firms will have a better experience moving documentation management into a cloud-based tool. Workflows will improve because now, you will have a lens to locate all of your matters — all without having to pay for a server. Servers are unreliable, not mobile, and inefficient. For small firms, check out tools like Box.com and Net Documents, both recommended by the ABA.

The lean method of document management goes back to understanding what a traditional workflow costs you. Most lawyers will see a dramatic decrease in the amount of paper that they want to create once they go into the cloud. I do understand that there is fear about information in the cloud being there when you need it — and the secure feeling of something tangible when you hold paper file. But there are limitations to paper as well, like when you forgot to bring it. (Which is why having it in the cloud is so valuable.)

Getting Started

If all of this sounds great but you need help moving forward, give me a call or shoot me an email. LeanLaw believes that every lawyer should have a lean practice.

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Gary Allen, Founder and Practicing Attorney