Handling and Digitizing Original Documents

On May 19, 2016, I will be presenting at a seminar hosted by NBI. The seminar is titled Handling and Digitizing Original Documents. I am speaking on (i) What to Do with the Backstock of Paper; (ii) Tackling Paper as it Enters the Office; and (iii) Investing in Digitization Equipment and Processes. The last session I am presenting with my good friend Aaron Brooks, who is also presenting other sessions. Joining us to speak about ethics is Dean Dietrich.

NBIIf you are considering moving your office to the digital world, I recommend that you sign up for this presentation.

You can register for the presentation at this link.

What You Need to Know: Cloud Storage, Document Assembly, and Ethics

Anyone who knows me, know that I am a huge proponent of a paperless office and the use of cloud storage. As such, I am thrilled to be participating in a presentation called: What You Need to Know: Cloud Storage, Document Assembly, and Ethics. This seminar is being presented by the Standing Committee on Legal Technology from Illinois State Bar Association.

The program is on September 24, 2015, from 1 to 5:15 CT, and you can attend live at the Chicago Regional Office, or attend via a live webcast. You need not be an ISBA member to attend (although the registration fee is higher for non-members). My sessions is described as:

3:15 – 4:15 p.m.  Your Paperless Office*
Paper…files filled with paper…cabinets filled with files….all of these things takes up space around the office and makes it difficult to find what you need when you need it. This informative presentation explains what “going paperless” means and shows you how to get started – from choosing the proper electronic file format to knowing which type of equipment and software you need.

There will also be sessions on Cloud Storage for Lawyers, Document Assembly, and The Ethics of Cloud Technology and Electronic Files.

Just about everyone can benefit from this program and I urge you to attend. Click here to register.


Join Me at ABA Techshow

Next week I am speaking at ABA Techshow. I have the immense pleasure of speaking with Jim Calloway on the subject of Beyond the Scanner: Paperless Workflows that Work. It is real honor to speak with Jim, who is one of the real leaders in this country on issues of law practice management.

TS15_logo_bwAdditionally, we are speaking on a subject that is near and dear to my heart. Our session kicks off  on Thursday morning at 8:30 and we would be thrilled to see you there.

Even if you do not make it to our session, I cannot urge you strongly enough to attend. ABA Techshow is filled with a number of great sessions that touch on just about any topic applicable to the intersection of technology and the practice of law. I have attended several shows and have always found them immensely valuable and educational.

If you are attending, I also urge you to attend a Taste of Techshow dinner. This is your opportunity to have dinner with attorneys from all over the country, as well as one or more Techshow presenters. The deadline to sign up via the internet to a Taste of Techshow dinner is Monday, April 13, 2015. There are still several dinners with available spots, including my dinner that I am co-hosting with Nerino Petro, an amazing and brilliant legal technologist.

Our dinner is Thursday evening at South Water Kitchen.

Even if you don’t attend my dinner, please consider picking another dinner to attend, but you really should attend both Techshow and Taste of Techshow.

I Love Living in the Future

Right now I am in California (getting ready to visit the Googleplex–feel free to be jealous). Yesterday, for the first time, I flew on a flight that had in-flight Wi-Fi. The cost was reasonable ($5) and the flight was longer than I liked, so I decided to try the Wi-Fi.

The Wi-Fi worked fine and I had no problems using it. I love the fact that I was able to keep up with my email on the flight, so that when I landed, I didn’t have to spend the first hour after arrival playing email catch up.

While working through my email, I was able to experience the benefits first hand of going paperless and using a virtual fax service rather than an actual fax machine.

While somewhere over the great plains, I received an email from a client that I had represented two years ago. She told me that she needed me to fax something to someone related to what I had assisted her with two years ago.

Fortunately, I ran a paperless office that integrates with the cloud. This means that, from the airplane, I was able to retrive the document from Spider Oak. If I had my laptop, I would have been able to retrive it directly from my hard drive. However, I am traveling only with my iPad, therefore, I had to retrive the document from the cloud.

Finding the document was easy. Once I had the document, I had to fax it to the recipient. Because I use a virtual fax service, send this email was no different from sending an email.

Despite the fact that I was 38,000 feet in the air, in about a total of 10 minutes time, I had received the email, retrieved the requested document from a case that had been closed for two years, and had faxed it to the person my client wanted to have it.

Without technology, obviously none of this would have been possible. Because of the technology, however, I was able to handle this task quickly and efficiently, regardless of my location.

Reducing Paper in Your Office

I know I have mentioned this before, but I wanted to make sure that I mentioned it again.

On Tuesday, March 20, 2012, at Noon, I will be presenting, with Catherine Sanders Reach, on the topic of Strategies to Reduce Paper in the Office.

Chicago Bar AssociationIf you have thought about learning to reduce the paper in your office, then this presentation is designed for you.

I have seen Catherine present several times and she always does a great job. I am thrilled to be able to present with her on this topic.

This is a topic that is close to my heart. It is my firm belief going paperless is the one single thing that you can do to most improve the efficiency in your office.

Speaking and the Paperless Office

Recently I have spoken on the topic of moving to a paperless office. This is a subject that I believe strongly in. Thus, I was quite happy to speak on this issue, with Todd Flaming, at the ISBA’s Solo and Small Firm Conference. Shortly after that, I received an invitation to speak on this topic for the Lake County Bar Association (Lake County Indiana).  I had a great time at both presentations and really enjoyed sharing my thoughts on practicing paperlessly.
As I pointed out during my presentations. This does not mean that I have no paper in my office. However, it does mean that I try to minimize it as much as possible. Additionally, it means that I have electronic copies of all of my documents on all of my files. This ensures that I can practice law from wherever I choose to do so.
I am sure that I will write more on this topic later. However, if this is a topic that interests your organization, please contact me and see of we can work out details for me to speak to you about moving to a paperless office.

This is Why I Have a Paperless Practice

Ocean Shores Washington

Pacific Ocean at Ocean Shores WA

This is what I am looking at right now as I am writing this post. It is the Pacific Ocean at Ocean Shores, Washington. I am here with my wife who has is attending multi-day business conference.

Because I have a paperless practice, I can work while she is attending the conference. This means that, while here, I have, among other things, prepared motions, worked on discovery, worked out issues relating to a protective order, and issued citations to discover assets.

If I did not have access to all of my documents, I would not have been able to much of what I have been able to accomplish. This is especially true when it comes to the protective order issue. Because I have access to all of the documents in all of my cases, however, this means that I was able to do anything here that I could have done in my office (except print mailing labels for the documents that I had to mail out).

In fact, the citations to discover assets were one of the cooler things that I have done. I was on Google Reader and saw in my RSS feed that a company I had a judgment against was participating in a social networking deal. I recognized this as a potential source to collect my judgment. I was able to log into the clerk’s site to obtain the forms I needed. I prepared the forms and filed them electronically. Once the citations were issued, I then emailed them to my process server for service.

Because of efiling (thank you DuPage County), I was able to take care of all of this, despite the distance between myself and the courthouse.

I know that there are attorneys who look at disdain at my use of a laptop and smartphone to stay connected when I am out of the office. I have been asked before whether these make me feel tied down and like I can’t get away. I explain that they do just the opposite. If I sat at my office desk for 60 hours a week, then I would not want to be connected when I am out of the office.

However, I much prefer to not be chained to my desk. With my laptop and smartphone, I can practice from anywhere, whether my office or a beach in Washington. This means that, instead of staying at home and forgoing a trip with my wife, I can accompany my wife and still get work done while I am gone. The way I look at it, my devices and connectivity free me to practice law the way that I want.

This does not mean, however, that I am always connected. I don’t think that this is healthy either. If I am on vacation, I minimize my work in order to enjoy my vacation. However, when I am with my wife on a business trip, I need to find something to do while she is doing her work. From my perspective, I think it’s best that I do some work and make some money.

I think I am going to go take a walk on the beach before I do some more work.

Becoming Paperless: The Process

I have said before that becoming paperless is a mindset. It is not about the technology, though you will need technology to accomplish it. Further, it is not about getting rid of paper in your life. If you are an attorney, there will still be paper in your life. Instead, it is about deciding that you no longer want to be a slave to the paper. It is about deciding that you will handle your documents electronically, rather than as paper.

As I look back on my career, I now see the first baby step that I took toward becoming paperless. I had been practicing for a few years and, like most other attorneys that I knew, I took a copy of the court file with me to each court appearance. Further, unless the case file was exceptionally large, I took a copy of the entire file. One day, while my back was hurting from lugging case files around, I asked myself why I was carrying the entire file. I quickly realized that I had no good reason.

From that day forth, when I went to court, I took with me only the documents that I thought might be necessary for that court appearance. Often, that is only a copy of the last order entered in the case. In doing this, I quickly learned the joy of freedom over my paper. I also realized that I have never once ended up in court wishing that I had my entire case file rather than the documents that I selected to bring with me.

That realization is similar to the same sense of freedom that I had once I decided to create a paperless office. I realized that I could control the paper, not the other way around.

Becoming paperless does take some time, however, it is not rocket science. Anyone who can manage law school and the bar exam can handle converting their office to a paperless office.

Recently, Ernie the Attorney posted a great primer on The 3 Phases of Becoming Paperless. In his post, Ernie takes you through the three phases of becoming paperless: (1) Optimize your digital skills in general; (2) Keep digital information in digital form; and (3) Learn to digitize information.

I cannot argue with anything Ernie says in this post. Instead, what I will say is that the new year is often the time that people make resolutions. This is my suggestion to you: If you do not currently run a paperless office, go read Ernie’s post, find out where you are in his three phases, and commit to taking the next step. Change takes some time. However, don’t be afraid of taking that first step. Except for firing a toxic employee, I can’t think of a single thing that you can do to improve the efficiency of your office more than converting your office to a paperless office.

I believe this and I live this. If you are thinking about going paperless and you still aren’t sure where to start or what to do, shoot me an email or give me a call. I will be happy to answer your questions.

Going Paperless: Another View

Moving my practice to a paperless practice was one of the best things I have ever done. The efficiency has paid off for me many times over. Not only does it allow me to practice from wherever I happen to be, it also allows me to practice without large amounts of overhead in staff salaries.

A recent post at Lawyerist.com highlights 5 reasons that the author is glad that he went paperless. In reviewing his post, I have to agree with what he says. The reasons he gives are:

  • I hate filing
  • I don’t like carrying around a lot of stuff
  • I save time searching
  • I like to share
  • I have castrophe paranoia.

Read his post for an explanation of each. However, if I were to pick just one of his five that I agree with the most, it would be number 2. I too hate carrying a bunch of things, however, I like having access to all of my information. Being paperless allows me to achieve both goals. As the author explains:

Most lawyers regularly go home with a stack of files. That’s a lot of lifting and carrying for a desk job. If you handle even moderately-complex matters, bringing the file home may require a hand cart or a couple of junior associates.

Not me. I don’t even carry a briefcase most days. My files are digital, and I sync them up in the cloud so I can access them from any computer—my laptop at home, or even my smartphone.

This goes for court, depositions, and other meetings, too. All I need to bring is a laptop, phone, or iPad, and I can get to my entire firm filing cabinet.

I can’t remember the last time that I carried more than just a few pages to court with me. Most of the time, I don’t even have that. I just take my computer.

What Going Paperless Means to Me

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.

Fortunately for me, I have found the answer I have been looking for. I recently checked out the About Page on the Going Paperless blog by Molly DiBianca. In that About Page, she explains:

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.