Tip of the Month: Goin' Paperless
by Stephanie Mensing
For the past few months, I've been going "paperless" - meaning, I'm transitioning to an almost paperless law practice. All of my open files are digital and now almost all of my closed files are too. Why? My first goal was to save office space since storing my closed files was no longer feasible. During the process of scanning my old files, I realized both how much paper was being wasted doing things the "old way" and also how much easier it would be to access my files from home (or anywhere else) if they were digital. Hopefully over the next few months, I can provide some helpful tips for those of you who are considering going paperless or are already in the process.
To start, you need a good document scanner. I recommend the Fujitsu ScanSnap s1500M (for Mac users), which I use, or the s1500 (for PC users). It seems to scan everything, from a stack of different-sized documents to photographs, without many issues. The scanner also comes with some great software, including Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional (Mac) or Adobe Acrobat 9 Standard (PC). (Both versions allow users to search and edit documents.); ABBYY FineReader, which allows users to convert paperwork into editable text by scanning directly into Microsoft Word and Excel; and Cardiris 3.6 (Mac) or CardMinder 4.0 (PC). Both allow users to scan a stack of business cards, extract the information, and export to Address Book or Entourage (Mac) or Excel, Outlook, and other contact managers (PC).
After purchasing a good document scanner, the next step is to begin scanning. If you are starting a new practice or planning to go paperless for new files only, you can start scanning every document you receive and organize them the same way you organize your paper files. For example, I have a folder for each client and within those folders, I have folders for correspondence, pleadings, motions, etc. Within those folders, I create subfolders, as needed. The process for scanning closed files is basically the same, although you may choose to be less detailed in organizing the files.
Once you start going process, the key to avoiding paper pile up is to make sure you scan every document in a timely manner. For example, scan all mail the same day you receive it, encourage opposing counsel to send documents in PDF format, and when meeting with a client who brought documents for you, scan the documents and hand them back to your client.
Next month I will discuss security and backup of your paperless files and how to dispose of your old paper files.
Stephanie Mensing is in private practice at Mensing Law LLC. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.