As I enter the training area set up at this small, but prestigious law firm, the trepidation in the air is palpable as the attendees know what I’m about to suggest. Give up paper? How can it be? Not use “PRINT” as the known and comfortable stamp of document completion? Say it isn’t so!
But yes, this is what I’m about to suggest and everyone in the small training room knows it. I enter the room. The room gets quiet except for a small giggle of nervousness coming from the lead legal assistant. Although the room is carpeted, you can still hear my shoes make a solid clicking noise as I boldly walk into the room, ready to throw caution to the wind and utter those two words that I know will bring out fear among the staff in the room.
I arrive at the make-shift lectern and begin my introduction, advising the room that I, too, at one time in my life, worked in a law firm and cherished the printed document. I open my lips, take in one bold breath of air and then say the words that everyone in the room was dreading….”less paper will make you more productive and save this firm money”. There, it’s been said and the staff realizes that, hearing those words wasn’t so bad. Now to the bigger quest…getting them to BELIEVE it.
I use respected resources to prove my hypothesis such as this from the American Bar Association: “…paper brings with it a number of disadvantages: the expense of paper, ink and file storage; delays associated with finding and filing documents; and various problems with misfiling, versioning, and poor organization.” (SEE: http://www.americanbar.org/groups/departments_offices/legal_technology_resources/resources/paperless.html)
I remind them that less paper includes better management of documents. Storing the electronic document is one thing, finding the content later requires software that can search content and search it quickly and accurately. And such software is much more reliable and less expensive than two paralegals and a legal assistant stopping what they’re doing to start the hunt for a key document or exhibit that was misplaced or mis-filed.
Then I turn and speak to firm leadership and point out key facts in the quest for less paper:
Reduction of costs including printing supplies, copier supplies, paper, postage, and more ;
Inexpensive and easily searchable document storage
Improved client communication and service
Paper can be torn, burn or be destroyed by water; PDF’s cannot;
The cost of the paper footprint in the office (i.e. how much office space is taken up by the storage of paper) is almost ridiculous compared to the cost of storing digital content.
I remind my group that many questioned the viability of e-mail a mere 15 years ago and I challenged them to find two lawyers in a one mile radius in any city who, today, do not gain great benefit from communication by email. In fact, I would surmise that in 2015, lawyers rely more on e-mail communication than by letter writing/snail-mail communication.
Embracing the benefit of printing to PDF, mastering the art of PDF manipulation and putting a plethora of knowledge available at your fingertips is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg in the paperless quest. And after only 2 hours of “less paper” training concentrating specifically on PDF skills, search skills, and document management, the training group heads back to their desks with great enthusiasm. I did my job; I can only hope they adhere to the skills we reviewed and reap the benefits of their new “less paper” world. If they do, they truly will be more productive and less apt to lose a document in this non-printing world to which I’ve introduced them.
This is a blog and my word count is already too high. I conclude with this bold statement: Fear not lawyers, paralegals, legal assistants and staff, you too, can become a less paper more productive law firm/legal department. There is no day like today to get started. There are several resources available to help you begin including: