Should Your Law Firm Go Paperless? What You Need To Know To Decide
Save money, get more organized, and help the environment by going digital
When someone thinks of a law firm, they might often imagine a large, bustling office filled with tables stacked to the brim with paperwork– and until recently, they’d probably be right. However, in the last few years, more and more law firms have crossed the digital divide– mostly or completely sharing and creating all work documents electronically.
Getting rid of paper at the office seems to have a multitude of benefits for law firms both large and small. If you make the leap, it’s important to take a few precautions to ensure the safety and privacy of your documents during your transition to a new digital workplace.
How going paperless can save time– and money
Going paperless, more than anything else, has the potential to increase your law firm’s efficiency by a staggering amount. In fact, some studies have reported that making the switch can increase a firm’s efficiency by up to 50%. Attorneys often have to write off valuable billable hours when time is wasted looking for missing, damaged, or misplaced documents– something which happens far less often in a paperless firm. Client communication is also streamlined, allowing the quick transfer of important legal documents at a moment’s notice. Additionally, transitioning to a digital workspace can help lawyers save money on paper, printer ink and other traditional paper-based office supplies. While this might not seem significant at first, eliminating these expenses can potentially save a firm thousands of dollars per year– money that can be well spent increasing salaries, bonuses, or purchasing other valuable resources to increase the firm’s efficiency.
The environmental benefits of going paperless
While helping the earth might not be first on a stressed-out lawyer’s to-do list, it’s another great benefit of going paperless. Without using paper and the associated supplies, a firm reduces its contribution to global deforestation and global warming while simultaneously decreasing the amount of waste it’s producing– all boons to the environment. While these environmental benefits may not lead to a direct increase in profits for a firm, it could be good news for the firm’s PR and marketing efforts– especially if some of the firm’s potential or existing clients have a personal or corporate focus on supporting the environment.
Paperless law firms and security
Whether a law firm is filled with paper files or completely paperless, ensuring client privacy by securing sensitive documents is always a priority. Law firms that have not yet gone paperless run the risk of valuable or private documents being stolen or misplaced. Paperless law firms could also face risks like hacking if they don’t take the right steps to ensure that their digital information is secure. It is essential for firms to make sure that whatever online digital work system or project management software they use is highly protected. It’s also important to secure company email accounts, which are often linked to the firm’s online project management software.
Additionally, firms should create specific, concrete cyber-security policies for their employees to avoid risky behaviors that could compromise client data. These might include logging on to their work email or digital workspace on an unsecured or public wifi network, using unapproved drives to transfer files to or from a computer with sensitive legal data, doing work on personal computers that have not been properly secured with anti-viruses and other protective software, or accessing dangerous websites on a company computer.
Before going completely paperless, don’t forget to…
Your firm should have a game plan and a checklist before going paperless. Select and thoroughly test a document management, project management, or digital workspace software that fits well with your firm’s needs. Before removing or destroying any paper client files, your firm should offer them to the client. It’s also essential to make sure that your document management workspace is completely up and running so employees will have full access to important files. Finally, it’s a good practice to keep client files archived securely (digitally or hard copy) for 10 years after the date of last representation.
No matter how much paper is stacked on your law firm’s desks, it’s never too late to attempt a paperless office. Going paperless has the potential to improve communication both internally and with clients, save a firm money, allow lawyers and staff members to work faster, and to help the firm avoid losing sensitive client files — a potentially embarrassing and expensive setback.
To learn more about how going paperless may be able to benefit your law firm (and how to do it) contact Boss Reporting today for a free consultation.