Why go paperless?
November 30, 2015 at 8:30 AM
Becoming a 'paperless' law office generally comes down to two things: convenience and efficiency. In a competitive landscape, effective working practices will enhance the productivity of your firm.
To be clear, going 'paperless' can be a simple case of using "less paper". Purchasing less paper, envelopes, postage, and toner will result in significant cost savings. Printing and mailing fewer documents will save time, improving efficiency.
Many firms underestimate the amount of time they spend searching for documents. With even the most sophisticated filling system documents can still become lost, slip off the side of the desk, filled in the wrong place or under the wrong name or matter number. Of course, time spent searching for lost documents must be written off as non-billable.
But even a 'paperless' office needs the ability to store documents. Electronic document storage is becoming more sophisticated, removing the need for complex manual filing systems. Imagine a Google™-style search where documents can be searched for by client name, matter number or document content. Today, staff are able to search for any document or correspondence from the comfort of their own desk with instant access to the information they need. Scanning historical documents and storing them electronically requires less document storage space. Suddenly law offices become tidier with less paper sitting on the corner of desks and fewer filling systems.
Enhanced security of confidential information is a further advantage of electronic document storage. The security measures of individual systems vary so it is worth investigating this further. Confidential documents are securely stored, not left on a desk or, worse, lost completely. Information is backed up and, dependent on the system you use, is often stored in a remote location. This is invaluable in the case of a natural disaster or building damage where documents are destroyed or you are unable to access them.
Regardless of how ‘paperless’ your practice becomes, there will often be times when you will need to print documents. It pays to check your firm’s retention rules and policies on what documents you are required to keep, for how long and in what format. The NZLS advises that records be retained for six years from the date of the last transaction. It is not explicitly stated, however, that this storage must be of the physical document. Retention of computer-generated records can be in the form of electronic storage.
The advantages of reducing a practice’s reliance on physical files are clear. Consider presenting a ‘paperless’ initiative to partners and directors suggesting ways your practice can address their document policies to become “more paperless”.