Making a Paperless Workflow Work
Lawyers generate tons of paper. Receiving, reviewing, producing, sharing, filing, and retrieving paper documents has a huge cost to a practice, whether it is a solo or small firm, a large firm, a corporate legal department, or a government or public interest office. Fortunately, lawyers can save time and money by transitioning to a paperless office. In fact, during the pandemic, lawyers quickly realized that if their offices were not digitized – that is, every document scanned and available for viewing online – they were not able to function. This course will take users through the basics of becoming paperless and highlight the benefits of a digitized workflow. You’ve put it off for years. It’s time to learn how reducing the amount of paper in your practice will increase your productivity.
Dan Siegel: Hello, and welcome to today's program, Making Your Paperless Workflow Work. I'm Dan Siegel, and I will be taking you on an overview and a tour of paperless offices, or as I like to call them, less paper offices. A little bit of background about me, and then we'll dive right into the materials.
I'm a practicing attorney, outside of Philadelphia, who operates a law firm and a consulting firm in which I advise clients about workflow. Our office is completely paperless and has been since I opened on my own in 2005. We use paper, but we don't rely on paper. And as a result, we're more efficient. We provide better service to our clients, and are able to find information literally at the drop of a hat. And with a quick question and answer, we can find almost anything. And I'm proud to say that typically it takes me 30 seconds or less to find any document on any topic in our system.
So, what I'd like to do now is take you on a tour of a paperless office from the basics of what you need to know and why you need to be thinking about a paperless office, to all of the issues that confront any business, including law firms that go paperless.
I'm going to start with the pandemic, because when the pandemic began and we all were suddenly quarantined, I heard from lots of my colleagues, they were upset. They were concerned. They had no idea how they were going to practice. And it brought to mind the old cartoon, Henny-Penny and the Sky is Falling. Well, to them the sky was falling. They either were not able to go to their offices or were limited in how they were going to go to their offices. And these are people who loved paper. They loved, they said having all of that paper around them, on their desks and everywhere else. Well, suddenly the doors to their offices weren't open and they couldn't drive into the city to get their information. And they had to work remotely.
Well, how do you work remotely, if you don't have any of the materials? And if you have not digitized your office, then you can't see anything with a remote connection. And that's what happened. And as a result, they discovered that they needed to be able to access information quickly. And to do that, the information had to be digitized.
And a paperless office is really a digital office. It is an office, where all of the materials in the office, whether it's your emails, whether it's your faxes, whether it's documents, whether it's electronic filings, whether it's your financial records, are all scanned or saved electronically, and then accessible to users. So, you might not allow everyone to see financial records, but if you need them, they're there, and you don't have to go into a drawer and try to find the bank statements.
And while the pandemic is the largest example and probably we'll never see a greater one than the pandemic, the reality is that lots of events cause people to stay away from their offices. Right now in my office, lots of people in my area are recovering from Hurricane Ida, which has closed offices, roads, et cetera. But weather disasters happen all the time. In 2008, there were numerous examples of weather disasters that caused billions of dollars in damage. And not only did they cause the dollars in damage, but they also caused an enormous loss of productivity that impacts any business that has to close because of a weather disaster, because of some other event that occurs. And these events do occur.
So, think about it. If you had to close your office, you'd had to pay your staff. You would've paid them all for one day's work. And when you add that up, that's not an insignificant amount of money. And even if you didn't pay them, you still lost the productivity that they would have produced, had you, in fact, been open. And obviously, these types of situations are the extreme. And none of us was responsible for COVID 19 or the weather, or anything else. And we need to be aware of and prepared for them. And a paperless office or a digitized office is really the first step to getting yourselves there.
According to different studies, three quarters of all small businesses, including law firms, don't have a disaster contingency plan in place in the event of an emergency or natural disaster, yet they should. And the first step in this and where we're going today is to talk about, are you prepared and how are you dealing with digitizing your office? Because none of us was really ready for COVID 19. No one expected that when we were sent home, we would be home for a year. For some of us, it could be two years or more. And working remotely, you're not bringing home file cabinets. And if you did, and you have a support person or an associate, or someone else who's working with you, you can't duplicate all of those file cabinets. So, you can't just keep your eyes closed and bury your head in the sand.
Plus, we have an obligation ethically to our clients to assure that we continue to handle their matters competently. And you can't do that if you don't have access to the information. And I had colleagues and friends talk to me about the fact that, "Well, yeah, I had access to the office with remote access, but I couldn't see anything because we hadn't scanned all of the information." And that's a big problem.
So, while a paperless office isn't automatically for just a remote office, it is important to know that you need to be able to practice remotely. Remotely means digitally. And that in those circumstances, paper is useless.
But I'm going to now go back and tell you about my office. Since I opened in October of 2005, my own law firm and the consulting firm, we have been entirely paperless. Now, that doesn't mean there's no paper in the office. It means that we scan with procedures every document that comes in, or we capture it electronically if it comes in via email, et cetera. As a result, we have access through our server to any of the items in the event, we need them. And because we have systems in place that I will talk about for handling the files, for naming the files, and we use what's called case or matter management software to assist us, we are able to maximize our ability to see the documents, to use them, and then to prepare documents for clients.
So, it is the rare occasion when we're filing, for example, an appellate brief that that document ever is printed, until we have to submit one or more printed copies to the court. Everything' is done online.
And what we're doing by using digitized office is saving money and being more productive for clients. And I'm going to translate this into money now. And if you think about it, you need to get a file, whether it's the client on the phone or you're working on their matter. And how long does it take you to get up from your desk and to retrieve that file? You go up. You might have to go across the hall, down the hall up, to another floor. It's easily two minutes. And then how long does it take you to find what you need in that file? Well, that's another minute or more. And if the item has been misfiled, it could take longer or it may not even be there.
So, just getting up to locate a file takes you three minutes. How many times a day do you do that? Let's say you do it 10 times a day. Well, suddenly that's 30 minutes a day, 150 minutes a week, 7,500 minutes a year, or 125 hours a year when you are doing nothing more than getting up and getting a file. Think about that. That means that you are spending almost 16 days a year, doing nothing more than getting your files, when you could be sitting at your desk and opening those documents in a matter of seconds. Think about that. That's easily $20,000 in billable time, if you're charging even about $150, or $175 an hour. That's a lot of time, and time is money.
I want to talk to you about another way of looking at a paperless office. And I'm going to give you some numbers. That my office was calculating the number of ream of paper that we use on a regular basis. And we're two attorneys and a paralegal in a practice that is heavily involved in litigation and appeals. And we discovered that over the time period of approximately three or four years that we tracked our paper use and purchasing, we discovered that we averaged using under four reams of paper per month in our office. And if you assume that our case of paper costs $30 a case, then our annual paper budget was under $135 a year. That's nothing, but that's important. So, we were able to use on average, under five cases of paper per year.
So, why do you want to go paperless, besides the clear financial benefits of paperless offices and the fact that you don't have to store documents, physically, et cetera? Having a paperless or less paper office gives you an edge. You spend less time searching for files. And if you're a true paperless office, as we are, your staff may not even know where you store, whatever documents you have to maintain, because we have to maintain original fee agreements. We have to maintain documents like that, medical authorizations, signed originals, et cetera, but they are a small percentage of the documents in a file. Everything else, you either can scan or save electronically and dispose of at the end of a case. Or if you're more like us, we only maintain documents that we might need during a case, but it's usually only a handful.
When you're not searching for clients files, you have more billable time. You can spend your time focused on client service. Plus, you don't have to buy folders, filing cabinets, pay for storage space, pay for all of that time and cost that occurs when you call the file storage company, and they have to then retrieve a file, and they charge you to retrieve a file, to deliver the file, to search for the file, to do everything at all, involving that file. And then you give it to them back, and they charge you to take it back, and to put it back in a box.
You could store your files on CDs, which is how we used to do backups in the old days, when we didn't have the cloud or something like the cloud to store our documents electronically. Because a DVD itself held 90,000 to a hundred thousand pages of material, or the equivalent of 37 storage boxes. So, those were less expensive and you don't have to have the file clerks to have to obtain and store, and save the information. But now we have the cloud. And we store backup, all of our client files on the cloud. We also advise our clients that we do that so that they understand the issues involved with file storage.
And I can tell you that our entire system, every document, every record, every email, every attachment that we have is stored online, along with other information. And our monthly online storage cost for what is about 250 gigabytes of data or a quarter of a terabyte, and a terabyte hard drive is about $80 now at the Amazon or your local office supply store, but we're spending under $200 a month for online backup. That's nothing. That's pennies on the dollar. But it helps us become far more efficient.
So, we know that paperless offices are more cost efficient. When you have the proper hardware that I'll talk about in a little bit, you know that they are more efficient, electronically to work with, et cetera. But there's another benefit. When you have your files electronically, and typically, that can go hand in hand with more sophisticated diarying systems, whether it's a separate one or it's part of a case management system, or even if you use something that you improvise through Outlook, you're reducing your risk of malpractice. You're reducing the risk that documents go lost or misfiled, and that you have the ability to track information far more easily.
In addition, one of the areas where lawyers are always complaining. And we all have the overwhelming issue with it is email and electronic messaging. And if you're the type, you can also potentially save text messaging. But email is electronic mail. And you can store all of your email. Our case management software that we use every time we send an email, automatically prompts us and asks, "Do you want to save this into a client matter?" And normally our policy is, yes, anything client or business related is automatically and required to be saved, so that we can later find it. So, if you sent me an email a year ago, I can find that email, call it up, click a button. It will reopen in Microsoft Outlook, and then I can respond to you. It makes you look really efficient when you are able to find an email from a long time ago and respond to it because something has happened that made that email subject timely. It is a very impressive thing for clients, but it also means you can find it.
And if you use software such as Adobe Acrobat, it has the ability to save all of your email electronically, and you can do it by client or matter, or subject, whatever you want. And then all of those emails, along with all of the attachments that came with them in their native format are all saved and searchable as part of Adobe Acrobat.
So email, which I don't have the solution to how you reduce the volume of email, but I can tell you that being able to save it and get it out of your inbox, where you could risk having Outlook crash, if your inbox is too large, is an enormous benefit to a paperless office. Of course, we've talked about that it's a great benefit in the event of a natural disaster or a fire. Because if you, in fact, are storing your documents electronically, you don't have to worry about the fact that your office could burn down or something like that.
So, my office is in an old house with a hundred amp electric service. It could burn down, God forbid. Well, if it did, because everything is backed up, both onsite and offsite. And I'll talk about some systems a little bit further into the program. I have the confidence that I could simply get a new server, get some new PCs from my staff, and we're back up and running, as opposed to, "Oh my God, all my data was lost."
And as we learned through the pandemic, when you go paperless, you can work anywhere, pretty much on any device, anytime. So that if in fact that important client calls you and you take the call on a Saturday, and they need to know something, you're able to find that information electronically, and not have to lose the whole day, driving an hour or two back and forth from your office, because the information is already there electronically.
This also means that you and your staff will feel better because there's less stress. There's less frustration. There's less need because documents are searchable, to have to go through the process of sending a memo to everyone. Has anyone ever answered a motion in limine, or dealt with a motion in limine, relating to topic X? Well, you don't have to worry about that, because when you have your documents electronically, they can be searchable. They could be searchable, if you use document management software. They can be searchable, if you use a good case or matter management product. Or if you use Windows, you could actually search that way for information. It's slower. But if you use Adobe Acrobat, which is far more than a PDF Maker, Acrobat has the ability to create indices of one or more files. And you could find any document related to pretty much any topic in literally a split second.
So, you really want to be able to save all of that data electronically. When we were looking for... And I was doing a program a couple of years ago, and we learned that our office had 162 gigabytes of data covering every document ever created at that time on our server. It was a decade of data. If you were trying to store that information, physically, you would have rooms of paper. We didn't have that because we had them electronically. We could store all of that information at the time on a flash drive that was $65 from Amazon. So, imagine now what you can store. For $200 a month, we are backing up and storing every document, every piece of information on everyone's computer in our office. And we're talking about a total of about 250 gig or one quarter of a terabyte. That's nothing.
So. Let's talk about now moving into the paperless office. Do you want to be paperless or use less paper? They go hand in hand. To some, paperless means that you have to have no pay paper anywhere. That's not realistic. It's not practical. To the contrary, it doesn't make a lot of sense when you think about it, that you have no paper anywhere. There's times, you're going to need paper. You may need it in the way you prepare for something. You may need it, so that if you get a hospital record. And what we do is, I could get a hospital record and I really want to see the operative report. Well, I might print that page or two, but I don't need to print the other 800 pages of nurses' notes and tests, and all of that information. So, I can have it that way. There's also what I will call the less paper office, which can at times mean that you don't digitize everything.
My advice from doing this for so long, and I haven't really had a paper file since the year 2001 when I began working at a firm that we were paperless there, is to really digitize everything. And then, selectively determine which documents you want to maintain, either indefinitely till the matter is over or for some other period. Because sometimes it's just easier or more convenient to use parts of paper files, but all of them need to be digitized.
The next step then is to create the paperless policy, which means that you are really deciding what you want to do in terms of how you're going to work. So, your paperless policy is determining what items are going to be digitized, determining when and how they're going to be digitized, and then determining who is going to digitize the items. And let me go through that for you.
So, we all get mail. What is your office's policy with regard to mail? We're a small office. So, our policy is very straightforward. Any client or business related items that come in through the mail are scanned by my paralegal, who is essentially the screener. She scans every document, then either routes them to me electronically. Or at times may say, "Here, do you want to look at this document?" Because it's on paper. And sometimes it works out that that makes more sense. So, that when I represent an attorney in a disciplinary matter, often disciplinary counsel will send us a list of items that they want to know about or get responses. I will often save that original of the document and use it as a checklist of what I have to produce. Some firms where they are larger, will separate that duty, so that the roadmap is each attorney's paralegal or the paralegal, or whomever is responsible for X group of attorneys will first digitize, scan the documents, and then route them to the appropriate individuals. Meanwhile, if they're financial documents, they could go to the controller or whomever deals with that.
But you need to know what's going to be digitized. Once you know that, the question is, when and how they're digitized. In almost every case, the best practice is to digitize them immediately, so that you can't have the problem that, "That letter that came in, well, we put it on Mr. Smith's desk, but then we never got around the scanning it." And of course, that's the important letter that no one can find, because whatever you need is going to be the one item that wasn't digitized.
When we went on the pandemic and could not come to our offices all the time, I had to work on a brief. And I had written out notes of exactly what had to be in this brief, because it required some financial calculations. Of course, since I hadn't had the opportunity yet to scan that document, that of course was the item that needed to be handled very quickly. I had to come into the office. Fortunately, I was able to do so, scan it, and then I could work from home. And then, who digitizes each type of item? These are the questions that begin your roadmap to paperless office.
The next step then is to figure out what you need in terms of your process. So, the first item in that is human resources. Who are the people who are going to do the conversions or the digitizing? Are they the paralegals? Are they the file clerk? If you're a larger office, do you have a dedicated records room? But you need to have those people and they need to be trained in their particular role in the process.
The second step within that is what I would call the document to digital process, which is how it's done. In almost every case, you're going to use some form of scanning device. We'll talk about scanners more, but what we are generally talking about is a dedicated scanner, not a multifunction printer, scanner, et cetera. Because in most cases, the dedicated scanner is far more efficient and less costly, and more reliable than the combination printer, scanners, fax machine, and bottle opener. You then have your timeline and the document types to include.
So, most businesses and firms will scan anything business related. So, I don't see the mail until my paralegal has gone through it, thrown out the junk and scanned it. And even if I happen to be the person who brings in the mail, and I look at something and go, "This is really important." I will not take it until it is either scanned by my paralegal or until I scan it, which is why it's important that anyone who is in that position be trained how to scan. And there's nothing much easier than learning how to scan, because in most cases, it's push a button or two, and then knowing how and where to save it, and how to name it, which is really the next set of issues to talk about.
Naming conventions are essential. It is not acceptable to simply list every document as Smith One, Smith Two, Smith Three, because you won't be able to find them. I have heard many people say, "Well, you could just have them on your system, your server, or your computer. And people would know by the date stamp, the file electronic date stamp, when it came in. Those stamps, and those time records are notoriously fickle and take time for you to be looking through them.
So, what we recommend and what our office does is we have very specific naming conventions. And they are naming conventions that everyone must follow. There are no exceptions. I don't get in a free ride, nor does anyone else in the office. And if we come across something that doesn't fit into our naming conventions, we talk about it.
So, for example, if I'm sending a letter, the name of the document will be letter in our case, LTR, is how we do it, TL and it could be attorney. And we agree on the abbreviations, ATTY Smith. But then we also include for those types of documents, the creation date. So, if it was October 1st, 2021, we would list the date as 2021-10-01, not the other around, 10-01-2021 with dashes in it. Why? Because when computers sort documents by name, when they see the date in the form of four digit year, dash two digit month, dash two digit day, the computers will automatically put them in alphabetical order. And that means date order, as well.
Suppose, I get a hearing notice or a notice of a deposition, or a notice of a real estate closing, we would then save it as notice of closing, and then put the on there of the event. So, events get class, get named based on the event date. Why is this important? Suppose I'm looking for a hearing notice. And my practice is to take a hearing notice that I get, which is scanned or stored electronically, if we get it electronically, and to print that out, and to write my notes on the back of the notice.
Well, if I know that my hearing is on October 1st, 2021, I can simply do a quick search for 2021-10-01, and I will find that, or whatever documents have that date on it. And in a second or two, have that document ready and printed. Then when I take my notes on the back of that document, I don't have to write down when the hearing was because the front of the document is my reminder. And even if for some reason, I don't remember things, the fact that it's on the back of the notice, we all know what the notes are related to. So, it serves multiple purposes.
So, you want every document to be named in a consistent order. So, it could be medical records of John Smith MD and a date. Or it could be interrogatories to plaintiff and a date. We also do things like motion for summary judgment dash answer, depending on how you want to organize it. Every firm needs to do this a little differently because one, there are practices that they have. And two, it's essential that everyone use the same format. Failing to do so, and having multiple formats means that you will not have an office, where it is easy to find information and documents. Then you have to determine how you're going to store that information.
You have options that as I've mentioned, case and matter management software. You could have a folder structure. And if you're going to use that type of folder structure, our recommendations are generally that you try to mimic the folder structure that you would've had in a physical file.
So, when I was a young attorney and I was doing basically some personal injury cases, I had a folder for pleadings, correspondence, for memos, for discovery, for investigation. And those would also be the names of the electronic folders that I would create in my system when I started to go paperless. Why? Because I'm trying to as best as possible replicate my physical file in an electronic format. It's much more user friendly that way. But those conventions should be the same for every matter of a similar type in your office. Because what you don't want is to have one attorney with a very specific structure, and another with no structure at all. Because if staff has to switch between the attorneys or something happens, and others have to access the files, they're not going to be able to find anything.
And I worked in an office where one attorney, handling asbestos cases, stored all of the documents in one folder. Asbestos cases take forever. The folder took forever to scroll through. It was a disaster looking for that type of information.
Then you need to determine how you're going to be able to search for documents, because it's nice that your documents are digitized and stored. It's even more important that you have procedures in place, so that you can find them. Since almost every document that is digitized is done as a PDF, a portable document file, which is a universal convention of in file storage, that's designed so that any file will look the same when it's opened, whether it's done on a computer, a tablet, a mobile device, et cetera. Well, documents that are scanned by themselves are nothing more than pictures. A computer can't search the content or the words in a picture. So, your database searching procedure would include converting that document image into a searchable document. That is called OCRing, optical character recognition. And all OCR means is that you take the picture on the page using software, such as Adobe Acrobat. There are many other products that also do it. And convert what you see into searchable text. It will look the same. But the difference is that, although it looks the same, it is now searchable.
And then Adobe Acrobat, as I mentioned before, has the ability to create an index of one or more files. Files are searchable even without an index when they're OCRed, but the index makes the ability to search them far, far, far more quickly and efficiently.
So, you could take all of the files in the Jones matter, and you could tell Adobe Acrobat that you want to OCR all of those files. It could be a thousand files. Well, you said it, and you go home. Because OCRing takes time and you can't use Acrobat when it's doing OCRing. But then the next day, you can come back or come back after a coffee break and create an index, which is a searchable index of all of those files. And creating that index takes a few minutes, but that allows you or anyone else who needs to, to be able to search all of those documents at once. And the results are literally instantaneous. So, having those procedures is essential.
The next item on your list of processes is how you going to safe keep your data. And what I mean by that is, do any of your documents need passwords? If so, you need to create the naming conventions or the password conventions for that. If you are storing them externally on the cloud or somewhere else, you need to have processes to assure that the methods that you do the storage are in fact safe and protect any confidential or sensitive client information. If you are using online storage entities and backup software, you need to make certain that the transmission method is encrypted, which means secured, so that someone who tries to hack in would see gibberish, not the actual content of the documents. Fortunately, most entities that do offsite backup, we'll tell you about whatever form of encryption they are using. But that helps safeguard the data.
When we do our backups in our office, we have specific backup software. And there's lots of these different products. And when we use that software, it encrypts the data in our office, so that everything that is sent, if you tried to open that file and have access to it, you would see gibberish. Think of it this way, have you ever tried to open a computer file that has a password? And when you do, it looks like chicken scratch. That's an encrypted file. But then if you know the password, it looks like a nice normal document with text, et cetera. That's the way to safe keep data at a very basic level.
The next thing to think about with your documents storage or your file storage is how long are you going to keep the data? Our practice is to keep all client business data forever, because storage is cheap. Storage is inexpensive. Just walk into your local Costco, and you'll see that a four terabyte storage drive, external hard drive might cost a hundred dollars or something. So, storage space is inexpensive. Some firms will archive that data and put it in another location. Some do purge or delete the data. Our policy is just to keep all of the data all together because it really doesn't matter.
And the storage ability is enormously important, because what happens is client X calls you, and I've had this happen, and it's been 10 or 12 years since you dealt with them. Well, because we have their documents, I can find, "Oh, here's the will that you drafted." And be able to talk to them about it. You can also use case or manner management software as well, which will link to the documents. And then you might even remember the note that you wrote and say, "Oh yeah, I remember, back then your wife was very ill. How is she doing?" Or this or that, whatever the case may be. So, it makes it easier to provide client service. And clients are really impressed when you are able to ask them about things that happened long time ago. And in doing so, seems like you remembered them from yesterday, when in reality, you don't remember who this person is at all. So, you are impressing them.
The other part of it though, is that when you're deciding what to store, if everything is digitized and if it is digitized, and if you have disclosed to your clients as part of their engagement letter or fee agreement that you're going to dispose of any paper data, you can then dispose of that data without having to put them in boxes and send and pay for file storage services.
So, best practices is to disclose in your fear engagement letters that you store data electronically, that in the process of storing data electronically, you will not be saving any of the paper files. We tell our clients, if you want any of the paper data, we are happy to provide it to you. Depending on your state's ethics rules and guidelines, you might have to, if a client ask to provide a file in paper format, for example. Where I practice, for example, you can specify, "We will be happy to provide you with electronic files." Because you can put them on a CD or a thumb drive at virtually no cost. But if you want paper copies of the files, we're going to charge you 25 cents a page or some other reasonable amount for the copying, but we've disclosed it. We've disclosed that we store the data externally. And we've advised the clients of this information, so that later there is no need to have a discussion, and there's no need to send all those paper files away. Because the last thing you want to be doing is storing paper in a paperless office.
Now, we need to talk about some of the hardware that your office needs. And when we talk about hardware, paperless offices are not expensive to operate in terms of hardware. You can store the files pretty much anywhere. You could store them on a thumb or flash drive, et cetera. Most of the time, it's simply going to be stored on either a server or some hard drive that's used as a central repository. So, you need as best you can, devices that are fast, and then have as much storage capacity as you can afford. So, you want to buy terabytes and terabytes of storage on a hard drive. Or if you're getting a server, you might buy a four terabyte hard drive with the ability to expand and add additional hard drives, should your needs change. But you don't need fancy storage hardware.
On the other hand, one of the things that really becomes essential in a paperless or less paper office is how you and your staff are going to view those documents. What I mean by that is, computers can be a real challenge, if the documents and information are really small. Think about trying to read a document on your smartphone. The phone may be smart, but it can't have a large screen. The best investment you're going to make for your office and your staff is having the physical equipment, particularly the monitors, the display space that allows them to be able to see documents easily without hassle.
So, in most cases, that means that if they're going to have a single monitor, it should be at least 27 inch monitor. Why? Because with a 27 inch monitor, you can use what's called Snap, which is the feature that allows you to see two documents side by side. You could be working on a ocean and an answer, and be able to see them easily, largely, and without any eye strain. If you're working on an old 15, 17, or even a 19 or 21 inch monitor, putting two documents side by side, makes them both really hard to read. And switching back and forth between documents, which you could do, isn't time efficient as when having them on the screen, next side by side is.
My personal office computer is a 32 inch monitor that I bought for about $200 at a warehouse club. So, you want large monitors. If you have vision issues, you can also buy special computer, distanced eyeglasses that will work with your prescription that are designed for the distance, from where you sit to the computer screen, often with blue light protection, so that you reduce eye strain.
So hardware, yes, you want a nice hard drive and computer, but the essential pieces of hardware might be your eyeglasses, and definitely the monitors. If you like dual monitors, that's another option. I'm not a fan of them. My son is. So, he has dual monitors where he works. I have one large monitor. It doesn't matter, as long as both you and your staff are comfortable with the solution. But using an old 19 or 21 inch monitor is a recipe for squinting and very unhappy people.
Software. Paperless offices don't really require much in the way of software, because you're saving information and then viewing it almost always in a PDF format. So, for most offices, a PDF product like Adobe Acrobat is preferable. You don't really want the free or very inexpensive readers. You need software that will be able to transform digital images, pictures of documents into searchable documents, because that is where the bump up is. Having the motion that's 56 pages on your screen does you very little good, unless you can search the document to see where they cite a particular case or raise a particular point. Otherwise, you're just looking at a nice picture. But the bump up inefficiency really occurs in your workflow when you are able to search that document.
Scanning the documents is an absolute necessity, because you need to get them into your computer. And the best way to do that is with a dedicated sheet feed scanner. If you remember, I mentioned how long it takes to get up and go and get a file. Well, that's how long it also takes, if you have to go to a central giant copier and printer, and fax machine type setup and scan documents, and then save them into wherever. And often those setups require you to save it into one folder, go back to your desk, save it into another. And every time you have to do one of those steps is an opportunity to forget or not to complete the process, particularly if the phone rings, your boss asks you to do something.
Dedicated sheet feed scanners typically kept at each or groups of individual desks are the most common and popular way of scanning data in any type of paperless or less paper office. The most commonly used scanners like this are made by Fujitsu, and they're called ScanSnaps. And ScanSnaps are relatively inexpensive $400 or $500. And they will be able to scan single or double sided, black and white or color. They'll recognize the size of the paper. They will skip blank pages, very easily. Fujitsu is the market leader. If you get on a list serve, you're going to hear everyone seems to use them. But Xerox makes them. And so, do a lot of other companies. So, you need to do your research.
But the nice part is a ScanSnap or similar machine can be programmed to save the data in a central location, or in many cases, as in my office, for example, we have the ability to save the information directly into our case management software, because the software that accompanies the scanner, actually you to program it and send it to the software. And it's easy to do.
So, you want to be able to do that, to be able to scan and save all in one process. Because every time you split the process, your workflow slows down and you're not going to be nearly as efficient.
You also need in a pay paperless office to have a shredder, because a shredder is what you need to do with all of those confidential documents, medical records, et cetera, that you are not storing anymore. You can't just throw them out. You can't throw out all the information that includes the client's medical records, Social Security number, et cetera.
So, you want to purchase a scanner, often commercial grade scanners. There are lots of them out there, but you don't want the inexpensive ones that you buy at the office supply companies for 49.99. Those tend to be slow. They tend to stop all the time. They're just not set up for offices.
Now, one of the options in terms of software that I have mentioned is case management, matter management or document management software. These products really take you to the next level. I've practiced with case management software since 1991. And wouldn't be without it. Because case management software not only manages your document or should manage your documents, if it doesn't, you may not want the product, but it also keeps track of who everyone is, when the deadlines are, what the information is, everything about your files. All of the who, what, where, why, when is stored as part of case management software. So, when I come into my office, I'll see if someone routed me a document, they prepared. I'll see my telephone messages. I'll see my calendar for today. I might see what's due in a week. All of those types of items, all in one system.
On the other hand, there's document management software, which manages documents and email as good case management will do, but it is focused purely on the document component. And those are also searchable. And there are some really good products out there in both realms. Some offices just feel that the document management is all they need. Others feel that case management with good document management is the better alternative. You're going to have to make that decision yourselves based on analysis.
And one of the important things to know is that simply because your friend uses a particular product, whether it's the software or any of the other items I've talked about, it doesn't mean it's the best one for you. You should do some investigating or talk to a consultant, so that you figure out what is the best product for you. Most of the case management and document management products that you can obtain, if you get them off the shelf, they all stink. They all have to be customized. You have to invest in training for your staff as well.
You also need to be prepared to deal with backing up your data. Best practices for attorneys is now considered to store your data both onsite and backup offsite on the cloud. So, you need a good onsite backup system and you need backup software to do that. Backup software needs to also be able to restore. So, you need to be able to include with your backup, how easy it is to restore. And you need to test that, because I've seen some products where restore is very difficult. Others make it easy.
And then you need a cloud system to be able to back up too. And when you're looking at these systems, you need to look at the price, the support, et cetera. For example, one cloud system, my office used wasn't compatible with Microsoft latest server software, which meant it really couldn't back up our server. That became a deal breaker for us. So, you need to do your homework.
There's lots of products out there. You need to make certain that when you're backing up, that the connection to the data is encrypted. That the vendor where you're storing it agrees that the data is yours or your clients', not theirs, and that there are proper security measures in place.
We've talked a lot about the what and the how of having a paperless office, but you also have to deal with your people. And I saved this for last for a few reasons. One is you need to train your staff. If you don't train them in how you're going to be paperless, don't bother doing it, because you will get no compliance. You also have to have management on board. If the powers that be, aren't going to say, "You have to do this." Then it's never going to work.
And there are really three groups of people in your office who you must deal with. You're going to have enthusiasts. You're going to have the backbones. And you're going to have the naysayers or the resistors. And as a practical matter, you got to have all three. And you're never going to have an office likely without all three groups.
The enthusiasts, see why you want to do this. They want to help. They're the cheerleaders. And you want to use those people to your advantages.
Most of your staff is going to be the backbone. The people who will go along with what the office says. They'll do their jobs. They'll support what you do. And you can rely on them. They are the backbone of most offices. And you need to be able to cultivate the backbones, and at times convert them into the enthusiasts, because the more enthusiasts, the better, because the more you have, the easier the transition.
On the other hand, you're going to have the naysayers, the resistors. These may be people who feel like once you do this, they're not as valuable, and therefore they're not going to help. Or they're just opposed because they don't like change or they're afraid of change. And some of the resistors can be very powerful people. And you have to work to convince them about the benefits of going paperless. And in doing so with them and everyone, you have to get feedback from them and ask them for their feedback from you, because every office is going to be different. And you need to maintain communications about what's working, some things don't work, whether you need weekly meetings, or some other method of getting feedback. It's important. Because even my office where we've been using paperless processes forever, we still make changes to them as things occur, as certain litigation occur. And you got to have everyone involved, et cetera.
And compliance has to be mandatory. You can't say, "Okay, Mary is exempt." Or this person is, doesn't have to do the training. And leadership is critical. Like any other area, leadership has to address and say, "This is required. Everyone has to be involved." That's going to involve peer pressure. It's going to involve meetings. It's going to involve HR. And it may, unfortunately at times result in making some tough decisions. But overall, most people will eventually go along and discover that there's a reason no one ever wants to go back and have more paper.
I'm Attorney Dan Siegel. And I am thanking you here for attending today's program, Making Your Paperless Workflow Work. Thank you again. And I hope you've enjoyed the program.