Going to a paperless practice was the best thing I have ever done to improve my law practice. It enables me to easily access any document on any case in a matter of usually seconds (although at times it may take a couple of minutes). When compared to how I used to practice, including digging through file folders in expandable files, or boxes of documents, there is just no comparison.
I love the fact that I have all of my files with me, wherever I have my laptop. I also love the fact that I can easily access, make backups, print copies, or search these files. Getting here was not a quick process, however, it also was not a difficult process.
After working with a paperless practice for a few years, I have some tips for anyone thinking about making the switch.
- Start now. Don’t delay. Also, don’t try to go back in time and scan everything in your old files. Time marches forward. If you start today, soon enough, you will scan everything you are currently working on. Once you start the process, you will start identifying those active files that you need to scan the documents you have received.
- Scan Everything. If you receive a letter. Scan it. If you receive a pleading. Scan it. If you receive document production. Scan it. The last thing you want to do is not know whether your document is scanned or not. To solve this problem, scan everything. Also, think about encouraging people to send you documents electronically rather than on paper. This saves you from having to scan it.
- Scan it when it comes in. Don’t let the scanning pile up and try to do it once a week. Scan it when it comes in.
- Get a Scanner that is easy to use. One of the biggest mistakes I see is someone who tries to start the scanning process with an all-in-one machine that has a scanner that is slow and difficult to use. This is a sure recipe for disaster. If you have a networked copier/scanner/fax machine, these usually work well and scan quickly. If you don’t have one of these machines, then I recommend the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500. This is a workhorse of a scanner, it has a large ADF, it scans quickly, and it includes a copy of Adobe Acrobat Standard. All of these are great features, but they are not why I recommend the ScanSnap. I recommend the ScanSnap because it works easily. You put the documents in the ADF and press the go button. Shortly thereafter, the documents appear on your computer. It is that simple.
- Learn how to use Adobe Acrobat. This is the part that most people never attempt. However, I think it is the most important. Acrobat has lots of features that allow you to handle and manipulate electronic files. If you are unsure where to start, I would recommend the blog Acrobat for Legal Professionals along with the training videos from Rick Borstein and Mark Middleton.