Practicing law is hard enough. Having to rely on paper makes it even harder.
For the office managers behind the scenes, making sure that lawyers have the information they need, helping to sort through invoicing, and having to deal with the hundreds of details and tasks that keep the firm operational; the last thing you need are manual processes to deal with.
Paper everywhere. Case files stacked on lawyers desks (and chairs, filing cabinets, floors, everywhere) and, because multiple people on the team need to use the same files, you have to make – and keep up-to-date – all of the documents in that file for each member.
There are better ways to spend your day than making copies of documents that your attorneys could be working on electronically.
So, as you stand at the copier making 5 versions of a document so everyone who needs a copy can have one, here are some arguments for you to use to digitize and automate your law firm.
This is obvious. Over time, printing and copying documents you don’t really need slices away at your law firms margins. The fewer documents you print; the fewer dollars you’ll spend.
Go Home – Or Anywhere Else You Want to Go
Lawyers are notorious for working long hours. When case files and needed information is only available on paper, barring a workout with bankers boxes, lawyers are tied to their desks when working. Digitize those case files and those documents can be available anywhere a laptop (or tablet, and sometimes your phone).
So go home. Or to a coffee shop. Or to a cabin in the woods. Or a beach. When you digitize paperwork and automate processes – like e-filing – your paperwork can travel with you.
Find the Files You Need
You don’t want to search, you want to find. Which would you rather look through:
A - a teetering pyramid of paper on your desk or
B – use a keyboard and a mouse click in a search box on your computer
Option A means lots of looking. Option B means lots of finding – and then working.
One advantage of automation, especially for case files and documents managed by an electronic document management system, is you have a single, centralized official versions of all of your documents. Never worry about editing the wrong version of a brief again. This control also means improved security because it’s easier to keep document secure in a single location than the risk of confidential information escaping your office as partners exchange multiple versions of a document over email. Audit trails also keep track of who accesses documents
Dollars and Cents
Saving time and making life easier are great benefits of automation. Getting a solid ROI from an IT investment is even better.
From a technology perspective, there are three pieces of technology that are important to include in a less paper and document automation initiative:
- Document capture – to turn paper documents into electronic versions of themselves
- Document management – to securely store documents for retrieval and later archival
- Workflow – to move the documents from person to person
Each of these technologies are mature and have a strong record of return on investment when implemented based on an understanding of real business needs (NEVER just throw technology at a business problem – whether that technology is a copier or cutting-edge business intelligence tools).
AIIM research, focused on companies who invested in paper-free projects (using technologies like document capture, document management, and workflow), shows impressive ROI returns:
“84% of users report ROIs from paper-free projects of 18 months or less – 59% within 12 months. The biggest benefits are faster customer response, improved productivity, and better compliance.”
It’s time to consider automation and at least less-paper workflows. Or you could just keep collating paper documents – that’s a great use of your time.