Making the Switch to a Paperless Law Office

Lawyers create and manage thousands of documents throughout their careers. The key to effective document management in the modern era is to go paperless.

While most attorneys understand the value in moving towards a paperless office, some are hesitant to change. The chief advantage of a paperless law firm is the increased efficiency in being able to instantly search through your database rather than flipping through hundreds of paper files loaded with sticky notes.

If scanning all your old documents into an electronic system seems too difficult, then focus on your new paperless system while keeping your older paper files. After some time has passed and you’re comfortable using an electronic system, you may scan or transcribe any remaining old files into the system.

Most of your practice is already paperless as a result of Outlook and Microsoft Word. Anything you receive as a paper document, like letters and faxes, can be scanned and converted to a PDF. Some practice management software allows you to scan documents directly into the system. If your clients or partners still prefer faxes, consider using an e-fax provider to send and receive faxes via email attachment. PDF conversion and editing software offers features like encryption, password protection, fillable form creation, and building document packages.

It is essential that e-documents are quickly and easily accessible when you need them. Those who operate in a hybrid paper/paperless environment store their electronic documents directly to their computer, on a physical server, or through a cloud-based solution. Some law firms may store electronic documents in multiple locations and don’t have a single searchable database for all client and firm documents. Storing electronic documents in various places like your laptop, your tablet, Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox makes document management more difficult.

Choose one place to store your electronic documents and sync it across all your devices. Using a cloud-based case management system is the simplest way to achieve this goal. Attorneys should also implement file naming conventions so anyone in the firm may quickly find the right documents and records. It is useful to create a law firm style guide, which includes your file naming conventions.

The secret of managing a paperless law office is that it’s dependent on your mindset. You have to commit to doing the work and maintaining it in order to set an example for your staff. It’s also important that you convince your staff of the value of the project. Like most adjustments in business, going paperless is more about managing people than it is about anything else. Master that, and your office is going to run a lot more efficiently.

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