Starting a Law Firm - The Paperless Office?

I recently started my Greenville estate and family attorney law office, and one of the things that I have been keeping my eyes and ears open for are stories from other attorneys on how they were able to make their offices either completely paperless, or as close to paperless as possible.

One thing is clear. Going paperless requires quite an investment in time and money.

Time must be spent in getting yourself and your staff up to speed on how to scan documents, and once they are scanned, properly indexing them into a searchable form.

The money is required for the hardware and software you will need to be paperless. The scanners are not so bad, it seems that most people like the Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners, which typically run less than $500.00 and apparently come loaded with Adobe Acrobat, which itself can run up to $250.00. The indexing software may be cost prohibitive to an attorney who is just starting out. One program that most people recommend is TimeMatters, which runs $900.00 for a license, and has additional fees for yearly maintenance of the program.

Myself as an estate planning attorney knows that such an office cannot be 100% paperless. Original signatures are required on estate planning documents. Clients might choose to store their original Last Wills with me, so I cannot never reach 100% paperless in my office. But, it would be fun to try to eliminate as much paper as I can.

I have already begun several steps to get myself on the way to a paperless office. I have scanned my signature into my computer so that now I can draft a letter, insert my scanned signature, and then fax or email the document where it needs to go. If I am forced to snail mail it, I can just print out the number of copies that are to be sent out. No longer do I have to print out the letter, sign it, copy it the requisite number of times, file one copy, and mail the rest, and if I am so inclined, scan one signed copy back into my computer... a rather time consuming process if you could imagine.

What I am doing now is trying to develop systems to deal with other types of paper that come into my office. I also do estate administration, and obviously this requires court filings, which requires original signatures. When forms come back from clients, I typically like to have an extra original signed set just in case something goes wrong with the court filing. I can see that what could be a good system is to still have clients sign in duplicate, send one original to the court, keep the second original signature page in the file just in case, ask the court to confirm receipt in writing by stamping a copy that will be returned, and then scanning the stamped copy to the computer, allowing the copy and unneeded signature page to be discarded.

The above system demonstrates that you are not going to avoid all contact with paper in your law office, and you cannot avoid generating documents. But you can takes steps to eliminate unnecessary paper, and reduce the amount of paper that you have to store in bulky unsightly files.

Starting a Law Firm

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