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Banish the Paper Blizzard, Part 4: Who Needs to be Involved at My Office?

You already need an expert network administrator.

In most law practices, computers are already used to a great extent for word processing, calendaring, correspondence, and other tasks. Have you insulated your practice from delays due to a server crashing in your office?  How would you operate your practice if your computer systems were to suddenly crash?  Who would you call?  Having an answer in place to these questions is already imperative because so much of the modern practice of law relies upon computers.

The vast majority of attorneys should hire network administrators (third party or in-house, depending on the firm’s size) to handle configuration and troubleshooting of security and computer issues.  Your network administrator will be the first (and perhaps last) person you need to contact to establish a paperless office.  The participation of a network administrator is vital, as moving to a paperless office will require changes to your current setup.

Your network administrator will need a clear set of goals (like searchability of documents) and a budget for doing so.  Take a list of reasons why you want to implement a paperless office and a list of consequences you wish to avoid to your network administrator.  Your network administrator will make recommendations on hardware, software, and workflows needed to ensure a smoothly-running paperless office.

Your staff must undergo a learning curve.

Implementing a paperless office will require your staffers to change their day-to-day routines.  For instance, your assistant responsible for filing will need to learn a new workflow in order to properly categorize documents within your electronic filing system.  One of your assistants will need to be responsible for ensuring that all documents received by the firm electronically (such as documents filed electronically in federal court) are stored in the appropriate location.

As part of keeping the learning curve short for your employees, your network administrator will need to ensure that the process is easy enough for your employees to learn quickly and operate efficiently.

The attorneys must be committed to overseeing the process.

The attorneys in your firm need to be patient and committed to making the paperless office work.  There will be growing pains, such as mis-categorized and mis-filed documents.  Attorneys need to be capable of recognizing and correcting these errors and instructing the staff on corrective measures.  Attorneys should recognize that the purpose of a paperless office is to reduce overall costs, improve efficiency, and increase productivity, which in turn makes the attorney’s job easier.