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Commenting On Comments

I have to admit that I’ve been pretty delinquent at responding to comments on my own blog. This is not intentional. Often times, I am simply not at my computer when I am dictating my blog post. But I’m a little burned out to today. I’ve been working my tail off. I thought I’d take the time while I’m sitting here with my digital dictation to go through some of the recent comments and provide information that has been requested.

One of the frequent commenter’s on our Grant Griffiths at the Home Office Lawyer blog. I want to thank Grant for following the bouncing here and apologize for not getting back to him sooner. In this comment, Grant asks for more information about our paperless office. He wonders how we did it and what equipment we are using. He asks how we are storing our client information and what we are doing with the original documents. And Grant wonders how our clients have reacted to the idea. Well, here goes...

We implemented our paperless office using the technology listed here:

HP MFP (Scanner, Fax, Copier), Airspace Secure Wireless, Networks, MS Office, Copernic Desktop Search, Adobe Professional Software, Nitro Professional Software & Leap File.

We don't use a database tool between our scanner and our file server such as Worldox. We experimented with some products similar to Worldox but found that we simply didn't need that piece to the puzzle right now. We scan the documents in, mostly as images in order to reduce file size. We use a document routing coversheet in order to identify each and every activity that has to occur with that file (I'll post the coversheet in an upcoming post). That document routing coversheet indicates where the document gets filed, what calendaring activities need to occur with it, whether it gets uploaded into the extranet, every person the file gets disseminated to by email, mail or fax, and all to-do items associated with that piece of paper. Essentially, we really work the paper at the front door. Instead of just simply shifting it from one in box to another out box, we find out everything that is important about that piece of paper, capture that information and make sure that piece of paper gets everywhere it needs to go. All to-do items flowing out of that piece of paper are captured at this first critical stage.

Then, we simply file the document on our file server.

The original documents get filed in boxes by date. We don't spend a lot of time trying to organize that paper by client or matter. We simply box it up and ship it off to storage. Interestingly, in the one year that we have been completely paperless, I can't think of a single instance where we lost any piece of scanned paper. I can't help but contrast this with all of the paper based offices that I've worked for where you could almost never find the piece of paper you were looking for, or the overhead associated with finding that piece of paper in terms of time and energy out weighed the value in actually retrieving it. I don't buy the arguments that there is some sort of risk in going paperless because you might misfile a document. That simply has not been our experience. With Corpernic Desktop search you could almost always find a document which is misfiled by file name or otherwise. You don't even need to OCR the documents in order to have that capability.

Our clients have reacted incredibly well to the paperless experience. Keep in mind, every client conversation I have is way more powerful now than it was before. I can recall any document that I need to in real-time during the conversation (or preferably before the conversation) in a matter of seconds. So if I need to see the latest two pieces of correspondence to my client, I pull them up immediately. My PDF markups are already imbedded in the document. If I'm talking to another attorney and we're discussing the status of overdue discovery responses, I can immediately pull each piece of correspondence dealing with that issue in real-time. This gives me a tremendous advantage over the other attorney, who I know, can't get the piece of paper even if he has the file on his desk. The other thing my clients is the fact that I send them PDF files by email, often times already marked up in adobe. This includes audio comments which I embed directly onto the file. Instead of receiving a worthless piece of correspondence and the enclosure, they receive the document with all of my most important thoughts in audio comments embedded in it. I'm typically able to turn documents around to my clients far quicker than I used to be able to in a paper based office.

I think our clients also appreciate the fact that we are far more efficient in a paperless environment than we ever were before. We remind them that this saves them money and that it is the efficiency of technology which allows us to keep costs down.

Of course, our clients have access to their important file materials through our Base Camp HQ Extranet. They love being informed and involved in their own case. They love being able to see the exact status of the case and who is doing what at any given moment.

Thank you Grant for posting your comment and certainly let me know if you have any other questions. Of course you could always email me if you want a private tour of our system or our extranet.

Comments

Robert Williamson (Construction Law)

Outstanding. I like the simplicity of what you have set up. 1. Do you use any kind of case management software or is that role supplanted by the extranet? I use Timematters for basic activities, Sanction for evidence management and Casemap for case analysis. I have Worldox too, but it's overkill.

2. I do keep paper received in a client file after scanning, but don't try to keep them in any special order. Creating a file for each day or week would be even simpler. But what about original documents and photos etc. that you might need to use or produce as evidence or that the client might want back after the case is done?

Greatest American Lawyer

Hey Robert:

Great questions.

We use Amicus Attorney for case management. We calendar in both the extranet and Amicus. We are relying on our extranet only for the most important dates and deadlines. I wish we had one web enabled applications that provided a single solution but I don't see any of the vendors 'there' yet. Amicus X has a web interface which requires at least 10 licenses. I have not used it but go the idea that they are still working out some bugs.

We have special filing for original transcripts, original documents and the like. Much of the time, we return originals to the client.

Robert: Are you scanning to OCR or image? We have not been able to achieve a small enough file size to make OCR workable on most documents. File size of image only pdf has been totally workable thus far (we use leapfile.com for larger documents). But we do believe that we are too close to the edge to increase file size with OCR overlay.

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