In the past, having access to necessary information meant that law firms had to devote an enormous amount of space to storing hard copies of files. Everything had to be printed, copied, and physically put in its proper place – something that took an inordinate amount of time and money.
But we’re living in the digital age. Today it is possible for most law firms to go almost completely paperless. There are services and software that let you sign, stamp, and fax documents electronically. Your “filing cabinets” or “records room” can now exist on computer servers. And if you utilize the cloud, those servers don’t even need to be in your office!
Here are the top five reasons your practice should go paperless.
If you are environmentally conscious, going paperless can be a way to make a difference. Less paper means fewer trees cut down and also less waste being produced by your firm.
To stop printing out paper, you will need to use services or software in order to electronically do the things that you used to do manually. You will also need to either purchase servers for the office or pay for a cloud service that houses your files offsite. On the surface, this may seem like a significant investment, but you may be surprised by how much you save by going paperless.
If you stop printing out most documents, you won’t have to purchase printers or toner. If you trade a paper filing system for an electronic one, it won’t take up as much office space – none, if you keep your files on the cloud. That means you can rent a smaller office or use the extra room for something that actually earns money. And, of course, an electronic filing system is faster and more efficient than a paper one, meaning reduced labor costs.
“Efficiency” may seem like a strange goal when you bill by the hour, but that doesn’t account for write-offs. If you misplace a file and have to spend an entire evening tracking it down, most likely you won’t charge your clients for several hours of work when all you did was find a document it should have taken five minutes to locate. Those hours become a write-off. Time (and potential billable hours) lost to a mistake.
Of course, it’s possible to misfile documents when using an electronic system. But even if you do, generally they are a lot easier – and faster – to track down. All you have to do is enter in search terms and what you’re looking for is likely to pop up within a few minutes at most.
Unless you have them under lock and key, anyone can access paper records. And even if they are locked away, all someone needs is the key to take whatever they want. Even with safety and security protocols in place, there’s a relatively large possibility for human error. People can forget to sign things in and out, so it’s far easier to lose track of files.
When all of your files are digital, someone needs to use a computer to access them. That means there will always be a record of who accessed a file and when. On top of this, you can easily restrict access to certain files by password protecting them. And if someone “checks out” a digital file, it can’t be lost or misplaced like a paper document.
Improved Client Interactions
If you can retrieve and organize files faster and more efficiently, you can serve your clients faster and more efficiently. Moreover, some electronic filing systems allow you to provide instant access to your clients, letting them log on and see the files they need on their own time. Offering this kind of top-notch service is likely to help you retain clients and find new ones from positive word-of-mouth.
These are just some of the reasons why going paper-free in your firm is a great decision. If you’re ready to make the change, consider working with a legal technology company that has experience handling the transition. You’ll save time and money finding the right software solutions for your needs and ensure the security of your electronic files.
By: Andres Hernandez
November 2, 2016
Andres Hernandez is the co-founder of Wingman Legal Tech, which is a technology consulting firm that specializes in law firm technology. Their technology solutions are designed for simplicity and efficiency.