The paperless law office: what’s the big deal?

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I like the idea of going paperless. I think most people do. Millions of people have opted for paperless billing and banking, reducing the paper and clutter in their lives and saving on postage and fees. Millions more are investing in scanners to eliminate paper that resides in their closets and file cabinets.

Lawyers in particular, who have more than their fair share of paper, are coming to understand the benefits of a paperless law practice:

  • Saving money. A paperless practice saves the not inconsiderable costs of paper, copy machines, toner, file cabinets, office space, and storage space, not to mention the wages of staff members responsible for creating, storing, and retrieving all that paper
  • Increasing productivity. Digital information can be retrieved, and therefore, utilized, much more readily than paper files. And having information in the cloud means it is available to you anywhere–from home, office, the courtroom, in a meeting.

Converting a law practice to paperless, or even “paper-lite,” is not a simple task for most lawyers. First, there is the process of converting thousands of closed files to their digital equivalents. Then there is the issue of working with current files and open cases using a laptop or iPad instead of a manila folder. How do you get the information in, and how do you get it out? All of this has to be thought through before the first page is scanned. Finally, lawyers must consider the security of client data, both on their hard drive and in “the cloud”.

The larger your practice, the more complicated these issues become. A big practice will probably hire a consulting firm to advise them on the process of going paperless and selecting the tools for doing so. A smaller practice must address the same issues as the big firm but they have more options, many of which are free or low cost.

I wrote about “going paperless” and “data security” in my new eBook, Evernote for Lawyers: A Guide for Getting Organized & Increasing Productivity. If you want to eliminate or reduce the use of paper in your law practice, Evernote is a great tool for doing so. If you are a small firm, it could be all you need.

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  1. [...] of my goals is to become paperless this year. We've already converted most of our billing accounts to online. We no longer carry [...]