Redundancy, redundancy, redundancy. Did I mention backups?
The most important factor to consider when implementing a paperless office is redundancy. Redundancy is important at many steps in the paperless office workflow. For instance, it is important to have multiple backups of your data across at least two locations to ensure against loss in a fire or other catastrophic event. Redundancy is also important with respect to ensuring that electronic documents are correctly entered into your system. Your network administrator will be able to identify a redundancy solution that works for you.
As stated above, a competent network administrator is already necessary to your practice in order to comply with ethical and practical requirements. In connection with implementing a paperless office, your network administrator should perform a security audit to confirm that your systems are secure.
Equipment and workflows
In implementing a paperless office, you will need to identify your current software and hardware configurations and evaluate whether you need to add additional scanning equipment, practice management software, or paper capture software. You will need equipment having enough monthly duty cycles to handle your firm’s paper usage, and the software should be configurable to minimize user interaction beyond scanning, naming, and saving documents in the appropriate file. Your network administrator will be able to assist you with designing a hardware, software, and workflow configuration for implementing your own paperless office according to your specific needs.
The purpose of this series is not to peddle specific gadgets or software, which is why no recommendations about specific products are made in these materials. Rather, this course aims to teach the concepts underlying a framework upon which a less paper-reliant practice may be built. Modern practice management demands something very different than technological snake-oil requiring minimal user input from your practice. For most law firms, effective paper management necessitates a change in philosophy about when paper is truly necessary.
Depending on your current configuration, you will need to consider whether moving to a paperless office makes sense. When one considers the costs of time, maintenance, disposal, and environmental impact of printing thousands of reams of paper each year, it makes sense to minimize the use of paper when possible.
One last thing…
I would recommend that all litigation attorneys who have paperless offices take small laser printers to evidentiary hearings and trials. In our practice, we always prepare our anticipated evidence for hearings and trials, but occasionally we need to submit a document that we don’t already have in paper. Sometimes paper is necessary, and a small printer helps tremendously in such a situation.