One of the problems that I have when describing my paperless practice to others is the fact that my practice is not really paperless. I use plenty of paper. In fact, a couple of days ago, I mailed out close to 100 pages of paper in court filings and courtesy copies. Because of this, I have, at times, had trouble explaining exactly what I am talking about.
Although there seems to be a whole lot of chatter about what exactly a “paperless office” is, exactly, I’d suggest it’s not so complicated. Certainly, I still use paper. And plenty of it, truth be told. The “paperless” part is not that paper is not used–it’s that paper is irrelevant. In a paperless office (at least as I’ve defined it), there is no reliance on a paper file. Everything (and I mean everything) is filed electronically using a document-management system.
This system didn’t come together overnight. It took practice and tweaking. It also took dedication to build the trust in the system that is necessary before abandoning paper files altogether. But it does work and, honestly, it’s really easy to use.
I think this encapsulates the idea of a paperless office perfectly. Yes, I have and go through plenty of paper in my office. However, that is because the systems of third parties make me do so. For me, however, the paper is irrelevant.
The more I think about the concept of a paperless office, the more I am starting to believe that it is a state of mind much more than a process. Sure, you have to implement proper processes to make sure that it is working properly. However, a paperless office must first start in your mind.
You must convince yourself that you do not need the paper version of a document to work with it. Once you start down this path, I believe that you will quickly discover that it is, in fact, more efficient to work with an electronic copy of a document than with a paper copy. However, you will never reach that discovery if you do not first shift your state of mind to an understanding that you need not rely on the paper files.