The Dream of a “Paper-LESS” Office is a Reality
Thank you Barron Henley of Affinity Consulting (full contact information below) for allowing me to post the e-mail you wrote in reply to my “Full Colleague” mailing list newsletter. You let me share with them, and now with my blog readers.
If you, my reader, have ever considered moving to less paper, a “paper-LESS” office, then you should read the post below. Barron covers hardware, software, and (this is important) goals and attitude. Take it a step at a time, and you will get here, but START, my writing coach says, “bird by bird”.
I am pleased to be able to share this with you.
I am pleased to be able to share this with you.
Burt and everyone:
I have some responses and recommendations for you.
1. Ingredients for a Paper-Reduced Office: For 99% of law firms, paperless is impossible to achieve (completely). On the other hand, LESS paper is easily achieved and offers huge benefits. In order to do it, you need the following:
a. Redundant backup systems and digital/cyber security: This all needs to be in place before you even think about this process.
b. Acquire Desktop Scanners: If you rely solely on a copier, in our experience, you’ll never get there. Scanning needs to be easy and convenient and that means small desktop scanners like this. If you need more speed, then consider thisor this.
c. Acquire Scanner Software That Creates Searchable PDFs: If you want to be able to find all of those documents you’re scanning by the words contained in side them (using a search utility which is described later), then the PDFs you’re creating need to be “searchable” PDFs which means that they contain a layer of searchable text within them. Copiers never create searchable PDFs but many desktop scanners do (such as the aforementioned ScanSnap). You can also use Adobe Acrobat to convert non-searchable PDFs into searchable PDFs. If you get one of the Fujitsu scanners mentioned above, you’ll get Adobe Acrobat XI with the scanner. If you need to buy something, we think the best option is Foxit PhantomPDF Business.
d. Acquire A Search Program: You need to be able to find any file you’ve ever created or scanned by the words contained inside them. Therefore, you need a search utility. If you’re a Windows user, we’d recommend this; and if you’re a Mac user, we’d recommend this.
e. Consolidate Folder Structure and Establish File Naming Conventions: You need to manage your electronic files exactly the same way you manage your paper ones. In other words, you need a single folder for ALL documents related to a particular matter. Each user in your firm cannot be allowed to create their own filing systems. Further, you need to agree upon a uniform file naming convention that everyone adheres to. For example, we favor the following example. The date portion of the file name is the date it left your firm (if it’s something you created) or the date you received it (if it is a scanned incoming document). By putting the year first, the files will sort in chronological order.
2013-11-22 – Revocable Trust for John Doe.docx
f. Digitize Incoming Documents: Everything that comes into your office from the outside needs to be scanned and filed appropriately.
g. Store Email Outside of Your Email Program: Printing email only makes your paper files fatter, harder to manage and more difficult to search. Instead, keep your email in the same folders (by client/matter) where your word processor files and scanned documents are stored. You have two options here. If you’re using an email program like Outlook, you can open an email and click File > Save As and save the email as an MSG file. MSG files have the benefit of also retaining any attachments to the email. Regardless of whether you use Outlook, you could always make PDFs out of any email you open using Adobe Acrobat or any of a slew of free PDF creation programs like this or this.
h. Provide Training for all Lawyers and Staff: If you’re not going to invest in training for the hardware and software, then I’d recommend you abandon this whole idea. You get everyone on the same page, establish uniform protocols, break down any resistance and offer proof of concept with training.
i. Write Down Your Scanning Protocols: After you figure out what works for you, WRITE IT DOWN. It should be part of your employee manual.
2. Multifunction Machines: Brother makes some good options like this. You should NOT be using the fax functionality of these machines. Internet faxing is infinitely cheaper and better. For example, consider (Editor’s Note: the company that Baron mentioned here just sent me a threatening note asking me to remove the favorable comment Baron made about it. Go Figure?) Dell also makes some really good multifunctions like thisand this.
3. Hosted Servers: Hosted servers give you 24×7 support, 99.995% uptime and access to all of your programs and data from any computer, tablet or phone connected to the internet. It’s how we run our business and it’s a beautiful thing. Unfortunately the multi-million dollar capital investment required to offer and appropriately expand this service is beyond what are interested in doing. Therefore, we began a search to find a hosting company that understood our Rule 1.6 obligation of confidentiality and had lots of law firm experience. That search ended with www.ProCirrus.com. We talked to a guy there named Ronny Loew (ronny.loew@PROCIRRUS.COM) and he explained how everything worked. We tried it and would nevergo back to an in-house server. Several of our clients have started using them since, all to glowing reviews. There are other choices like http://www.mindshift.com/ and http://www.rackspace.com/ but ProCirrus “gets” legal and their tech support is incredible. Those factors were the most important to us.
4. Affinity Consulting: I’m STILL with Affinity Consulting (fka HMU Consulting) and never left. J We now have 60+ employees in 6 offices and are unquestionably the largest independent legal tech consulting firm in the US. However, our focus remains, as always, on solos and small firms. New faces over the years, no question; but the dedication to making lawyer’s lives better via the efficient use of technology is a constant. All you have to do is call!
Barron K. Henley, Esq., Partner
Affinity Consulting Group
1550 Old Henderson Rd., Suite S-150
Columbus, OH 43220
This post was written by Burton Hunter