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Tips and tricks to help your law firm transition to a paperless filing system
When you’re rifling through fully-packed file cabinets or maneuvering around stacks of documents waiting to find their permanent home in storage, it’s easy to see the allure of running a paperless law practice. Not only is it more convenient but it’s also environmentally-friendly and can safeguard your clients’ information from fire, natural disasters, or a break-in.
The biggest issue always seems to be where and how to start. Figuring out how to transfer existing documents to digital copies, and where to store them so that they are easily accessible but also protected, is a daunting task. Once you climb that paperwork mountain though, it’s all coasting from there – the effort is worth the reward. Take up less space, waste less paper, and access your files easily and from anywhere with a paperless office.
Putting the “less” in “paperless”
The first and most important step of transitioning to a paperless practice is to determine your goals. Remember that there’s no such thing as “paperless” – the actual intention is to rely less on paper and transition to digital storage. Start slowly by identifying how your firm currently uses paper and what categories those uses fall under, and then begin implementing new processes in one area. For instance, you could start scanning old files and uploading them or create a new digital workflow for new clients. Setting out to digitize everything all at once is a surefire way to feel overwhelmed and wonder if you’re complicating a process that already (mostly) works – but isn’t optimal.
Determine digital storage needs
The right storage option is essential to your success; after all, that’s the problem you’re mainly working to solve. Your best bet is to store your data in the cloud. Online cloud storage allows for around-the-clock access to all your files regardless of where you are. There are a few things to consider when choosing a service:
- Go with a reputable vendor – this isn’t the time to experiment.
- Carefully read the terms and conditions and make sure they meet your needs.
- Determine if the terms and conditions are legally enforceable.
- Make sure the interface is user-friendly and conveniently accessible.
Think safety first
Since you have an ethical duty to protect your law practice’s data, and since a lot of the information being stored is sensitive material, security is paramount. Whether you store your files in the cloud or on your firm’s servers, it’s important to take steps to make sure the information is safe. Experts recommend that you back up at least three copies of your law firm’s digital data at two different locations. Add an extra level of protection by encrypting the data in order to protect it from potential security vulnerabilities.
Update your workflow
Once you understand how, where, and why you’ll be storing your files, you need to establish a paperless workflow for your law firm and make sure all essential staff fully understands the process and its importance. Consider the difference in treatment of a handwritten document versus a form created online versus a document that must be scanned and stored, and all the options in between. Clarify whose duty it is to complete each task.
Have a system from the start
Implementing an organizational system for your digital documents is important to the success of the project of going paperless. Again, every employee should be familiar with what has been put in place so that files are stored correctly and easily accessed again. You may even consider asking for feedback from your team so that they’ll feel further invested in the process – and you might luck out and have a natural organizer onboard.
Create a protocol for file names too, so that each will be easily searchable. For instance, creating a digital file folder named for each client might be a good starting point, with all relevant documents stored inside.
There are many advantages to going paperless in your law practice, and although the transition may require some effort, being able to save space, search files more easily, reduce your environmental impact, and make backup copies of your firm’s most important data is well worth the additional work.
At Boss Certified Realtime Reporting, we’ve been providing nationwide court reporting services for trials, depositions, mediations and more since 1995. If you’d like help or more information, you can call us at 954 467 6867 or complete our contact form to let us know how we can assist you.