There are so many reasons to take your law firm paperless. Here are some reasons you cannot ignore and helpful hints for making your firm paperless.
Going paperless – it is a goal that just about every law firm in Canada is considering, at least those that have not already made the transition. There are just so many advantages to going paperless. Your firm can become more organized, save money, reduce your environmental impact, and more.
It is not just Canadian law firms that are going paperless, as pointed out by Joe Martin from Vancouver Law Firm IT company, Compunet, “Many jurisdictions are looking at or beginning to move toward electronic filing of documents at courthouses. Paperless is the way the industry is moving, so it is a reality that should not be ignored any longer.”
Going paperless is easier than you think. Here are some tips on how to do it right.
How to Take Your Firm Paperless
1. Prioritize which areas of your firm need to go paperless first.
Your firm uses more paper in some areas than in others. The areas that use the most paper are probably the ones you want to transition first since doing so will make the biggest impact. Every firm is unique, which is why you need to conduct an internal audit of paper usage to see where your biggest problem areas lie. You will likely find multiple areas that need to transition, but trying to change all of them at once may be too difficult. It is typically better to pick one area, make major changes, and then move on to the next area.
For example, you may find after some research that your firm uses the most paper – or at least a large percentage of total paper – when handling signed documents. You can incorporate electronic signature technology into your practice to mostly eliminate your paper usage in this area. Current technology allows your clients to sign their paperwork without ever printing anything out. The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) makes such signatures legally binding, so there is every reason to adopt the technology with few if any drawbacks.
2. Partner with the right computer consultant to help facilitate the changes.
You have your hands full of serving your clients. While you may have the technical aptitude and/or the desire to implement the changes you want to be made, you probably do not have sufficient time available to oversee everything. Your time is better spent making your business run smoothly than trying to tackle a totally different area of business, which is why it is more efficient to hire a computer consultant familiar with law firms to help with your transition. A computer consultant offering managed IT services can help you analyze your paper usage and offer proven solutions based on your needs and preferences.
One of the great things about working with a reputable consultant is that you can hand over all the heavy lifting to the professionals – freeing you to devote your energy where you can make the most difference.
3. Convert existing paper documents to electronic versions.
This step is one that tends to intimidate law firms, and for good reason – you may have what seems like mountains of paper documentation from decades of doing business. The idea of trying to sit down and scan all of those documents and organize them is certainly overwhelming. However, modern scanning technology has come a long way from the desktop scanners that you are probably familiar with. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and modern scanners can process documents and turn them into searchable files much, much faster than you might realize. It will still take some time to convert all of your documents, but not as long as it may seem at first glance.
Document conversion is another area where hiring a managed IT service provider brings tangible benefits. You can point the computer consultant team to your files and give them a basic explanation of your filing system, and they can then go to work on the conversion process.
4. Take advantage of a Document Management System (DMS).
A DMS is the center of your new electronic filing system, helping you to manage your documents through tags and indexing. You can rapidly search for properly organized documents with a DMS, making it much more user-friendly and faster than your old paper filing system. You can also institute controls over who has permission to access what, something that was much more difficult with a paper filing system.
5. Backup your files to the cloud.
You can keep copies of your files in your office and on the cloud simultaneously, which gives you backups in case something happens to your data. Your managed IT services provider can handle all the tasks involved with migrating your documents.
Article contributed by Stuart R. Crawford