I’m often asked how much money it will cost in staff and time to scan in all of the documents which are generated from outside our own office onto our file server. Essentially, people want to know whether or not a paperless law office will save, or cost, them money.
There’s no doubt that it takes people and time to scan in documents. While I have not run an analysis comparing the cost of a paperless versus a non-paperless operation, I do have some observations.
Scanning documents is a multi-step project. Obviously, someone has to stand at the scanner and scan them in. That person then has to pull the document from a common scanning file and place it on the file server under the correct client/matter. Quality control requires that the person confirm that all pages have in fact been scanned. This does take time.
Once the documents are scanned, however, there is lots of time saved on the back-end. I never have to ask my staff to find me a hard copy of any document, pull a file or engage in host of related administrative activities. My overall sense is that the amount of time it takes to scan the documents is far less than the amount of time spent in a paper-based office retrieving and organizing physical files.
There are other efficiencies and cost savings achieved as well. I would estimate that we have reduced our copying, paper and mailing cost by over 80%. This is a significant cost savings which is often overlooked.
There are tremendous efficiencies obtained when a law office implements a paperless solution. Lawyers have immediate access to the complete file simply by accessing their computer. This means that they are not having conversations with people about general concepts. They are looking at the exact issue in the exact document and making decisions about what happens next. They aren’t guessing about what might be included in an adversary’s most recent letter. They aren’t trying to recall how they responded. They’re pulling up those documents on the fly in seconds and making strategic decisions about what to do next. When a client calls, the attorneys aren’t discussing what the options might be moving forward, they are looking at the documentation required in order to actual make the decision about what to do next.
The software and hardware requirements required in order to “go paperless” are extremely reasonable. Properly implemented, any firm should realize a significant return on investment over the course of the first year. More importantly, the lawyers and staff will be empowered to make more intelligent decisions based on real information access. That should make clients happy as well.