Using a ScanSnap to Go Paperless

Anyone familiar with my blog knows that I am a big proponent of storing every document in every file electronically. When I talk about this, one question that many people ask is what kind of scanner to get. One of the most popular scanners is the Fujitsu ScanSnap. This scanner is reasonably priced, works well, and is easy to operate. Three qualities that I am sure have helped its popularity.

Knowing the right hardware to use, however, is only part of the battle. You also have to know how to integrate that hardware into your workflow. Recently Rick Borstein posted a tutotial on how to best integrate a ScanSnap with Adobe Acrobat.

As with many of Rick’s posts, he takes you step-by-step (including handy pictures) through how to best set the scanner up to use it with Adobe Acrobat. If you are considering adding a ScanSnap to your desktop, you definately want to check out Rick’s post.

ScanSnap Tips & Tricks

For many years, most people I know in the legal technology field have been suggesting the Fujitsu ScanSnap as a great scanner at a reasonable price. I too do not hesitate to recommend the ScanSnap to anyone who is looking for a scanner.

If you are someone who uses a ScanSnap, you should check out the ScanSnap Tips & Tricks forum. The site has several tips to help you use your ScanSnap more efficiently.

Hat tip to Ernie at PDF for Lawyers for pointing this site out.

The Cost of Not Going Digital

The Greatest American Lawyer posted today on the Cost Savings in Going Digital. If you have not yet made the move to keeping all of your documents digitally, I recommend that you check out this post. The post explains:

I’m often asked how much money it will cost in staff and time to scan in all of the documents which are generated from outside our own office onto our file server.  Essentially, people want to know whether or not a paperless law office will save, or cost, them money.

There’s no doubt that it takes people and time to scan in documents.

He goes on to observe

Scanning documents is a multi-step project.  Obviously, someone has to stand at the scanner and scan them in.  That person then has to pull the document from a common scanning file and place it on the file server under the correct client/matter.  Quality control requires that the person confirm that all pages have in fact been scanned.  This does take time.

However, this time is more than made up on the back end. The post continues:

Once the documents are scanned, however, there is lots of time saved on the back-end.  I never have to ask my staff to find me a hard copy of any document, pull a file or engage in host of related administrative activities.  My overall sense is that the amount of time it takes to scan the documents is far less than the amount of time spent in a paper-based office retrieving and organizing physical files.

I cannot agree with these observations more. My ability to retrieve any document, from any case, at any time, is absolutely invaluable. I cannot calculate the amount of time that I save on a daily basis simply by being able to immediately retrieve any document that I need.

In my experience, the only way to make this transition is to start scanning everything today. Scan every document that comes in to your office. As you work, you will identify that prior documents that you should add to your digital collection as well.

I will not tell you that the transition to a digital world will be painless. However, I can assure that it will be worth every bit of pain that you may endure. In fact, the majority of the “pain” that I endured in the transition period was the fact that I got too used to having the digital documents and I became frustrated when I had to pull a physical file to retrieve an older document that had not yet been scanned.

I have yet to meet anyone who has transferred to a digital practice that regrets it at all.

The Perfect Filing Cabinet is a Trash Can

Ernest Svenson (a/k/a Ernie the Attorney) has a great post at PDF For Lawyers about the necessity of keeping paper documents after they have been scanned.

Ernie explains:

Once people realize the benefits of scanning and decide to do it they usually have one last question: how long should I keep the paper after I scan it? My advice is always to get rid of the paper as soon as possible. A friend of mine who long ago found Nirvana in being completely paperless says he thinks it should be illegal to sell scanners without a paper-shredder attached.

Still, people wonder about getting rid of paper and believe there are special rules that require them to keep certain papers. Which ones? They’re not sure so they tend to keep most of them—just to be sure they comply with that mysterious bureaucratic edict.

He then notes that he recently read a post that advised that all tax related documents must be kept in paper form. Ernie objected to that strenuously:

Oh brother! Here we go again. The comments to this post were festooned with supporting opinions on how vital it is to keep paper receipts.

Instinctively, I knew this was ludicrous. Both from a practical standpoint, as well as a legal one.

* * *

But what about the IRS? Isn’t the Unclutterer article right about the IRS requiring you to keep paper copies of receipts and supporting documentation related to your tax returns? No, the IRS doesn’t require paper copies. And if you don’t believe me then read IRS Rev Proc. 97-22, which specifically allows electronic storage systems if they meet basic requirements of reliability.

You need to check out the entire post. Also, make sure that you read the comments as well for a great discussion of the practical applications of Ernie’s suggestions.

I admit that I have not quite gotten to the point where I toss the paper when it is scanned. However, I have managed to rid myself of a bunch of paper. Further, I am finding it more and more frequent that my physical file on a matter is nonexistent simply because all communications and work on the file have happened entirely electronically.