It may sound too good to be true, but running a paperless law office is a reality for some law firms. While the weight of paper documents may feel satisfying in your hand, they are difficult to organize and store. How much time have you wasted looking for a physical document that could have been found in less time if it were saved in a digital folder?
As more and more courts transition to eFiling, it is easier than ever to run a paperless law office. When you make the commitment, you are making a choice to increase the efficiency of your office while also looking out for the environment.
DECIDE HOW TO NAME YOUR FILES
When you’re working quickly, the last thing you want to spend time on is naming your files. By developing a system in advance, you’ll save yourself the hassle of digging through dozens of similar sounding files. If you train everyone to use the same naming conventions you will help create cohesion while reducing confusion. Consistent naming techniques are vital because they help you locate your documents. A folder system is also essential, but proper file naming can help you find what you are looking for, even if you accidentally save it in the wrong location. With that in mind, here are some suggestions:
Use an abbreviation system to quickly indicate what the file contains. For example, you might use SERVPRO for a service of process order. You’ll want to make sure the abbreviations have been set in advance and that none of them are identical.
You may also find it advantageous to keep track of the staff member who worked on the document. By asking your employees to add their initials to file names, you will be able to quickly determine where to direct questions.
Finally, many people preface their file names with dates. This practice is particularly useful because it lets you sort files chronologically.
CREATE A FILING SYSTEM
You can make up for a poor filing system if your naming conventions are consistent, but you can increase your efficiency by investing time in developing a stable system. You will need to ask yourself whether it makes sense to use local storage or cloud storage. Next, consider which sorting system makes the most sense for your business. You can organize your work by case, client, attorney, or even by the type of document. For most firms, it makes sense to organize by client or attorney. Put time into naming and creating subfolders that make sense.
DETERMINE HOW YOU’LL TRANSFER/DIGITIZE DOCUMENTS
Going paperless is a big change. Despite the many benefits, the switch won’t happen overnight, especially if you have mostly used physical documents prior to going paperless. With that in mind, you will need to map out a system for transferring and digitizing your existing documents. You will have to ask yourself questions to figure out what to prioritize. For example, you may want to digitize your closed files so that you have record of them. If you do choose to digitize, you will have to determine whether you want to shred all documents once they have been integrated into the system. When you clearly establish a protocol for dealing with both new and old paper documents, you will ensure that the move to paperless is as seamless and painless as possible.
Has going paperless transformed your firm’s business? Let us know in the comments!