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    July 14th, 2008

    ♫ The bad outweighs the good sometimes
    That doesn’t mean we’re ‘spose to give it up
    My problems are yours, and yours are mine
    …We gotta make it work…♫

    Words and music by Ne-Yo.

    How quickly a year goes by!  This blog is now into its second year and I can only thank all the readers who have come together and either posted comments or emailed me about the blog and shared with me their ideas, feedback and energy – and in the process, made all the time and effort worthwhile!

    I have been reflecting on my original goals in launching this blog.  One of the objectives that I would like to emphasize this year is to increase the collaborative aspect of the blog medium – by encouraging a dialogue between all the readers. Accordingly, I am launching the Make it Work! blog category.  The idea here is to start with a problem that lawyers or law firms are facing..and see how many ideas we can assemble thru the readers’ comments that help solve the problem.   By coming up with the questions and working collaboratively on all the different ways we can find to solve them we can build an online storehouse of tips,  techniques and ways to solve our common problems.

    So I thought we could start with the whole idea of moving to the paperless office.  I have seen firms adopting many different solutions. The central problem is to create an electronic version of the paper file and the filing cabinet.  Without a centralized storage location, the ‘file’ is scattered over different storage devices, computers, email accounts, Blackberries and the like. This makes documenting the file and the instructions from the client, difficult if not impossible.   Furthermore, as the number of files grow, so does the size of the problem.  Some firms create a standard folder structure under Exchange and back that up with office policies that require the emails, files etc to be saved to the appropriate folder.  But this can ..and does…fall apart if everyone does not follow the policy.

    One of the more elegant solutions that I have seen work for a smaller firm was the integration of Amicus Attorney with Worldox and MS Outlook. I have seen larger firms move to DOCS open, Interwoven and others.  However, the challenges still remain..and I know that many lawyers are very skeptical about giving up the paper.

    What do you use?  What are the strengths and drawbacks of your system?  I am hopeful that by sharing, we all can gain further insights and make it work!

    This entry was posted on Monday, July 14th, 2008 at 10:35 pm and is filed under Change Management, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Make it Work!, Technology, Trends. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

    6 Responses to “Make it Work! The Paperless Office”
    1. Robert Bruce Says:

      Hi, Saw the part re going paperless. As somebody who has set up many “paperless” systems I have seen what works and what doesnt. Basically what doesnt work is trying to do it yourself. Going paperless is actually not hard and it does work well cutting cost and keeping files in an organized manner. What happens is office staff are given the task of finding and implemting a system. Unfortunately they are guaranteed to lose! They are not experts and cant distinguish between a software solution that will work for them and one that cant. Most office are basically the same yet different enough to need specialized software. A very critical component is the user interface. If staff doesnt like it they wont use it and they go right back to “save to desktop” then its worse than before.

      What works is to bring in a consultant that is NOT tied to any software solution. Get their input and follow it. It will take some re training of the minds. Also be sure to back up OFF SITE!!! Its a wonder I have any hair left at all due to the number of firms I’ve worked with that say “well…..we back up to the server room down the hall” Not very smart I tell ya!

      Security needs to be able to be set down to the document level. Meaning that each doc/file should be able to have its own permissions set for opening, modifying, printing, emailing etc.

      Another component you need is the ability to retrieve files when out of the office. Wouldnt it be nice to carry one lap top instead of 80lbs of paper every where you go…?

      Staying a paper driven office opens you up to many risks. Fire, theft, flood and just plain losing stuff. I actually worked with a County gov’t in WA state who siad we know we need to do it but lets just wait a bit. Two weeks later a storm took the roof off the courthouse and their file room was deluged with water on top of that they backed up onsite and the servers were ruined due to water damage. Dont say it cant happen to you.

      Companies/firms are hesitant to go paperless mainly due to the fear factor. If you arent holding the file it your hands it must not exist ytpe of thing.

      Just putting my two cents in.

    2. Laurie Says:

      Well it’s a lot easier to go paperless as a one-person office I guess than it is for a larger firm. My current system is a simple scanner plus laptop with Sugar Sync (http://www.sugarsync.com/) as my offsite backup system. I use a portable usb drive too, but that’s just for my convenience, the offsite full backup is key to my system.

    3. Ron Usher Says:

      Dave:

      Our “much less paper” firm was started in February of 2006. We now (as of this morning) have 219,890 electronic documents, organized in “files” (folders on the server) that are indexed using “ISYS”. Most files are in PDF format, either created by us, scanned in though one of our 4 scanners, or incoming faxes that come in though our server systems. Paper is only printed as needed for client meetings and reporting to financial institutions – we estimate we print less than 1/3 the pages of paper other firms do for comparable work. The biggest advantage is having all of our work product essentially instantly available – in the manner of the Bill Gates vision of “information at your fingertips.” We’re moving offices this week – and it is very nice to be not having to move boxes of client files.

      Ron Usher
      Bell Alliance Lawyers and Notaries Public, Vancouver BC
      ( http://www.bellalliance.ca )

    4. admin Says:

      Ron:

      Thanks for the post. I am seeing an increasing use of ISYS in law offices for heavy-duty searching, beyond what the common desktop search tools can provide.

      One question – do you use a Document Management System or a common file/folder structure under Windows Explorer? If you use a folder structure, how do you “encourage” everyone to file documents in the proper file/folder?

      Many thanks!

      Dave

    5. Ron Usher Says:

      Dave: For file opening and for Word documents we use a simple document management system developed by Doug Arnond ( http://www.daconsulting.bc.ca/ ) Doug is a lawyer and technology consultant based in Vancouver B.C. Once the file is opened staff use the resulting folder structure as the place to save all files. In an way it is no different than the expectation in a paper file office that everthing will be in the file. We did have the advantage that the system was in place from the day we opened the office, and that staff were hired with the clear expectation of using the system.

    6. Alexander Atkinson Says:

      What are the rules for what original documents need to be preserved on closing a file? On a real estate deal is it just the mortgage and land title documents or more than that need to be originals to be stored for 10 years. What about just giving the whole file back to the client in a cd. Perhaps, just save the acknowledgment that the client has received the entire file?

      Is it acceptable to have a scan of the original for record keeping for the required 10 year period of file storage?

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