Ernie the Attorney on a Paperless Office

If you have thought about moving toward a paperless workflow but have not yet made the commitment, check out this excellant post from Ernie the Attorney at PDF for Lawyers.

I think his last paragraph hits the point dead on:

If you don’t start purging paper from your desk you’ll never realize the full benefits of scanning.  After a few weeks you’ll start to notice little things about how you used to deal with paper.  Mostly, you’ll learn that people hoard too much paper, keeping it close by in case they need to access information.  Soon you’ll notice that having too much paper around you makes it harder to find information, not easier.  The less paper you have around you the less stress you’ll feel, especially once you learn to trust the paperless system.

I think this is the point most people don’t understand. They think if that if they keep the paper close at hand they can find things more easily. Instead, however, they just end up sorting through more paper to try and find what they want.

Ernie also emphasized another point that I think most people miss, which is that the electronic version of the document, is probably more secure than the paper version. You can lose the paper, or it can be destroyed by fire (or hurricane for that matter). With the electronic version, however, it is easy to have multiple copies of the same document.

For example, on the cases that I am working on, a copy of everything sets on our server. Those copies are regularly backed up as a matter of course. Additionally, for all of my active files, I have a copy of them on my laptop hard drive. The likelihood that all copies of these documents would be destroyed is fairly remote, and certainly much less likely than just the paper version being destroyed.

Check out the rest of Ernie’s post and, if you have not started to make the move to a paperless system, there’s no time like the present to get started.

Essentials: Virtual Faxes

We live in an increasingly mobile world. We receive email via our handhelds, we make telephone calls via cellular phones, and we do our computing at hot spots rather than at our desk. Notwithstanding this, many of us are still tied to the office by our fax machine.

No longer, however, does the fax machine have to be an anchor. Now, you can free yourself from your fax machine. To do so, you simply need to obtain a virtual fax number. There are a variety of providers that offer just such a service. Perhaps the best known is eFax. In addition to third party providers, most business class VOIP providers can provide you with a fax number that allows you to receive faxes via email.

For almost two years, I have used a service called Venali. Venali also does not require you to install any software. Thus, you can use the program regardless of whether your favored platform is Mac or Linux instead of Windows, WordPerfect instead of Word, Lotus Notes instead of Outlook, or Mac instead of Windows. As long as you have access to your email you can use Venali.

Sending a fax with Venali is simple. To address the fax, simply type the fax number and add Thus, a fax address might read You then attach the document that you want to fax. Once you select send, Venali sends your document off to be faxed. A short while later you receive a confirmation report via email.

If you sign on to your account on Venali’s website, you can review your fax log. The fax log will show you all of the faxes that you have sent during the time period you specify. On this same page, you can instruct Venali to resend a fax.

You can also choose to have Venali email you a call data record. The call data record includes information on the date and time the fax was sent, how many pages were sent, the cost of sending the fax, and the subject line included in the email sending the fax. If you use descriptive subject lines to identify a client name or number you can track the faxes sent or received on a particular matter. This information can be used if you charge your clients to send or receive faxes. The call data record is sent in a csv format, thus it can easily be imported into a spreadsheet.

In addition to the fact that the service will work with any email program, Venali also integrates with a variety of other programs including Microsoft Office 2003, Hummingbird, Lotus Notes, and others.

I use Venali with Microsoft Office 2003. Sending a fax from Outlook is easy. You select New > Internet Fax. Doing this brings up an email message. You simply address the message using the fax number of the person you are sending to and attach the document you want faxed. Office 2003 comes with fax cover sheets that you can use, or you can create one of your own. You can also send a document directly from Word simply by choosing File > Send To > Recipient Using Internet Fax Service.

Although sending a fax through Venali is a simple and easy process, receiving a fax through Venali is even easier. Venali allows you to select a local fax number. Once your account is set up, you receive by email any faxes sent to that number. The faxes arrive in PDF format and can easily be printed, saved, or forwarded to someone else, by either fax or email. Because the fax arrives via email, you can review from anywhere in the world that you have email access. Further, for received faxes, Venali has available all of the same reporting functions that it provides for sent faxes.

I have been very happy with Venali and would never go without a virtual fax again.

Essentials: A Laptop

One of the things that I believe is essential for a connected lawyer is a laptop. A laptop allows you to be out of the office, yet still connected to it. With the ubiquity of wi-fi hotspots and the emergence of high speed cellular data networks, you can usually find a connect just about anywhere that you are traveling, even if this means you have to stop at a Buffalo Wild Wings or a Starbucks.

Additionally, if you regularly scan your case documents or otherwise have electronic copies of them, you can easily carry all of your case information with you simply by taking your laptop with you. This is especially useful if you have to travel out of town to take a deposition. You can have your entire file with you, without carrying a single sheet of paper.

All in all, if you want to be away from the office and yet be able to work, a laptop is an essential item for you to have.