The Paperless Continuum (Paperless, Part 2)
Most law firms are neither paper-full, nor completely and truly paperless. They are somewhere on the continuum of less paper or more paper. Are you one of these types?
The benefits of a paperless office are straightforward:
- The Curator. At the furthest end of the spectrum, there are folks who are still using typewriters, the Dewey decimal system, 3×5 index cards conflicts check systems, and paper everything in their office. The Curator is burdened by the sluggish workflow, the immobility of paper, and the constant calls for change from the outside world.
- The Keeper. There are those who have a paper file with everything, plus an electronic file that has some materials (incomplete and all redundant to the paper file).
- The Chaser. Next on the continuum and moving up the bell curve are those with both types of files and possibly a destruction policy that takes out, or culls, some of the paper file at closing.
- The Summiteer. At the top of the curve are those with a complementary set of both file types; neither is perfectly complete without the other, but the electronic file may be slightly more predominant, because it is the one that is worked in most often.
- The Cleaner. Traveling down the other side of the curve, there are those who scan everything so the electronic file is clearly the most complete and dominant. They destroy paper when not currently using it — except they have all their old, pre-paperlessness paper files stashed in some storage facility or back room.
- The Refiner. The next set has everything electronically stored; paper is only used when it is absolutely necessary for communication or documentation and readily destroyed afterward. The Refiner shreds all incoming paper after scanning and works predominantly from the electronic version. This set has scanned all those old files and stored them electronically, shredding the paper copies.
- The Seeker. At the bottom of the curve is the quintessential paperless office user. She has disabled her print button and only prints to PDF. The office protocol is to scan and destroy everything and there are no old paper files in cabinets, storage, or anywhere. She is a champion of the paperless cause with her vendors, colleagues, and others. She is free from the burden of paper and saving money and time.
For purposes of this segment, I am going to define paperless as somewhere between numbers 6 and 7.
But with all the change and all the machinations along the paperless continuum, some things are fairly universal in the going-paperless endeavor:
- Most law offices are currently somewhere in the middle of the continuum — in the bell of the curve.
- Few to none are moving from less paper to more paper intentionally.
- Many are seeing the benefits of less paper and wanting to take advantage, such as savings on storage and more office space available for employees, greater efficiency, and mobility.
If you want to go paperless (or less-paper), you are in good company. And the benefits are broad and measurable [Part 1 blog link]. The WSBA LOMAP presented a CLE segment on how to make the change in the Seattle LOMAP Roadshow on Sept. 22, 2014, and will address the subject again in the Legal Lunchbox on Tuesday, Nov., 25. If you are seeking assistance or resources to that end, call or email LOMAP today.
And some Super-Important Disclaimers: 1) Going paperless involves technology, even though there are no specific technologies mentioned or recommended in this blog. You have your own duty to investigate, to read contracts and service agreements carefully and determine whether or not it will be secure enough and work well with your system. I like many products which I do not discuss here, but even if I did, I could not vouch for them in every regard and they do not have the WSBA’s stamp of approval or any kind of endorsement. 2) The views expressed here are my personal views and my views alone. And I am human, which means I make mistakes. So please remember that the land of technology should not be visited alone without a proper technology guide (i.e., wizard or IT specialist). If you need a referral, the Law Office Management Assistance Program can help (at least as to IT specialists, not so much for wizards). Contact us at 206-733-5914 or firstname.lastname@example.org.