There was a time when going paperless seemed like a lofty goal. However, in this digital era, most lawyers recognize the benefits of moving toward a paperless environment. Digitizing processes not only accommodates remote working arrangements, but can also help keep documents organized, streamline client communications, and lead to major cost savings for your law firm.
Although the process of digitization isn’t always a one-size-fits-all approach, there are paperless processes that can be applied to all firm types. In this overview, we’ll cover practical steps toward building a paperless law firm, offer software tool recommendations, and dispel common myths.
Can a Law Firm Be Paperless?
It’s not a matter of “can.” Your law firm should become paperless as soon as possible to keep up with the competition. According to the MyCase 2021 Industry Report, 88% of law firms use cloud-based software after the initial COVID-19 pandemic.
So, what is a paperless office? This environment is built around cloud-based tools that boost productivity, improve cash flow, and enhance client communication (while ensuring compliance and security). However, it’s important to select the right online tools to maximize these benefits.
Steps to Creating a Paperless Law Office
Since many firms still depend on physical documents to complete day-to-day tasks, migrating your work can seem like a daunting task.
Start by ensuring that your current law firm operations are organized with clear roles for each team member. This smooths out the migration process. Then, use our tips below to securely store your digital work in the cloud, properly set up cybersecurity measures, and adopt a practical intake system to manage digital documents and maximize productivity.
1. Decide Where to Store the Data
Decide how and where your firm will store digital data by utilizing a paperless filing system. Online storage provides 24/7, convenient, secure access to all your law firm’s documents. For example, Dropbox is a user-friendly, cloud-based platform that can allow your team to securely store and share documents. Alternatively, MyCase Drive is another tool that seamlessly integrates with your mobile device, laptop, or desktop. Any items you store automatically and safely transfer into the cloud and can migrate to your MyCase dashboard. It’s also compatible with other popular cloud-based storage systems—including Dropbox. For more in-depth insight on digital storage, check out this article covering a detailed plan for organizing digital files.
2. Protect Your Firm’s Files
For paperless offices, it is your ethical duty to protect your clients’ sensitive information. Take the necessary steps to keep that information secure—whether you store it in the cloud or on your law firm’s servers.
We recommended that you back up at least three copies of your law firm’s digital data at two different locations. You should also ensure that your law firm securely encrypts data to protect it from prying eyes.
For more cybersecurity tips, read Cybersecurity Tips for Lawyers Working Remotely.
3. Put an Organizational System in Place
Lastly, create paperless offices by adopting legal case management software (like MyCase) for managing digital documents and workflows.
MyCase benefits include:
- Automating redundant non-billable administrative tasks like client invoice follow-ups
- Easily capturing more billable hours with time-tracking tools
- Building custom workflows to assign cases and efficiently manage deadlines
- Organized and secure online document management
- Automating client intake to increase leads and new case conversions
For more details about the benefits of a legal practice management system, refer to our free guide: Legal Case Management 101.
Paperless Law Firms: Dispelling the Myths
Despite a number of technological advances in the legal industry, many lawyers are still hesitant to transition to digital documents. Oftentimes, the reluctance stems from outdated information about paperless law firms. We debunk some of the most common myths below, so your firm doesn’t miss out on the benefits of a paperless environment.
Myth #1: A Paperless Law Firm Means No Paper At All
Many lawyers operate under the mistaken belief that a “paperless” law firm means the complete absence of paper. That’s not necessarily the case, and for many lawyers, could be impractical.
Some documents issued, for example, within a court proceeding may need to be retained in hard copy. But, embracing a paper-free environment allows you to easily organize your law firm’s files, all while having 24/7 mobile access to pertinent documents whenever you need them.
Myth #2: Going Paperless Simply Means Digitizing Documents With a Scanner
Another popular myth is that going paperless means you need to scan all of your law firm’s documents. Of course, scanning documents is sometimes necessary, but not used as often as you may think.
Most work is created, stored, and shared in a digital format. Then, managed through (preferably) online software workflows. As part of that workflow, you should confirm that your law firm has a consistent case-naming and filing system that everyone uses. Creating this workflow (and sticking to it) is essential since it assures that your law firm’s documents are organized and easily accessible.
Myth #3: Paperless Law Offices Are Less Secure
Some lawyers are unwilling to transition to a paperless environment because they believe a paperless filing system is less secure. However, trusted and established online systems are built for keeping data secure. The key here is to ensure your provider securely encrypts data and that it’s backed up at servers located in multiple geographic regions.
Off-site storage of digital documents provides a safe, accessible form of backup for your law firm’s files. And because all of your law firm’s data is housed in a secure cloud environment, it is protected from onsite physical damage such as a fire, flood, or other calamities.
Paperless Law Firm: Tools for Scanning Physical Documents
There may be times when you’ll need to digitize physical documents shared in court or with clients. Below are recommendations for a few reliable, affordable scanners that will help migrate hard files—so your firm maintains a paperless environment.
Law Office Scanners
For firms in need of a low-volume scanner, consider the WorkForce ES-400 II Duplex Desktop Document Scanner, which includes a 50-sheet Auto Document Feeder. This allows you to breeze through stacks of documents of varying sizes.
For firms in need of a higher-volume scanner, consider the WorkForce ES-865 Color Duplex Document Scanner, which scans 130 color pages per minute.
If you travel often for court, client meetings, or otherwise, you’ll likely also need access to a mobile scanner when you’re on the road. After all, you never know when you might need to share physical documents you’ve just received from the court or opposing counsel with a client or your office. These are two popular options to consider:
- The Brother ADS-1250W portable scanner is small enough to fit in a briefcase or laptop bag and can scan up to 25 color or black-and-white pages per minute.
- The Fujitsu ScanSnap SV600 is a compact scanner that can scan up to 10 documents at a time.
Alternatively, another option is to use your smartphone or tablet to scan documents, upload them, and convert them to PDFs. There are many document scanner apps available either for free or at very reasonable prices (less than $10).
These apps make it easy to scan a document using your device’s camera function and convert it to a PDF. Once you’ve scanned the document, you can share it via fax, email, or text.
Many also give you the option to store the document by uploading it to a cloud-based document storage website such as Dropbox, Evernote, or Google Docs. Popular scanner apps include:
- Scanner Pro
- Genius Scan
Just be sure to read the app’s terms of service before using. Pay particular attention to any fine print about data security, storage, ownership, and confidentiality. You don’t want sensitive information falling into the wrong hands.
Begin Your Paperless Law Office
Start building a paperless law firm with MyCase. We have the tools you need to easily:
- Migrate your current documents into digital formats
- Securely store digital documents on the cloud
- Build custom, streamlined workflows
- Automate non-billable, administrative tasks
Try MyCase today risk-free with a 10-day free trial. We offer affordable monthly and yearly subscriptions. Plus, no commitment or credit card is required, and you can cancel anytime.
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