12 Steps to a Paperless Law Firm in 2020

          The success of your law firm depends on how efficiently it operates. How can you keep paper to a minimum and then eventually go nearly paperless in your practice and still maximize productivity? Federal courts have been paperless for quite a while now, as have many state courts. The reality of law-firm operations is that you will still have to deal with some amounts of paper. There will probably still be intake forms, checks to scan, as well as clients who prefer hard copies. You will still, in all probability, receive paper documents from outside parties. The goal, however, is to use less paper, not be completely free of it. Keep reading to learn the 12 steps to a paperless law firm.

          To establish a paperless law firm, it is best to start by creating a workflow for digitizing and handling paper. To do this, you will need to create a gateway. A gateway is a physical place that helps you keep a check on where your paper files are in the paperless process. This gateway often takes the form of an inbox or file holder. Be diligent about moving the paper documents through to their final resting place.

          Do you want to go paperless? Then it is time to make a commitment to it and realize that after this 12-step plan is completed, your office will operate with less stress and less waste. By going nearly paperless, you will accomplish the single most important thing that you can do to run a more efficient law practice.

Step 1: Make the commitment.

 Approach the project with determination and motivate your colleagues to get on board with the mission.

Step 2:  Determine Your Process

Define how you will handle two situations:  the internally created documents and the externally created documents. Next, create a checklist for your staff to follow.

Step 3:  Establish Naming and Filing Conventions

Define the overall folder structure and file naming conventions separately from the paperless workflow.

Step 4: Invest in desktop scanners

   Invest in good hardware. It would be best to have enough desktop scanners for everyone’s desk. You don’t have just one trash can in the office, do you? So, it doesn’t make much sense to have just one central scanning resource for everyone to share. It’s to your advantage to acquire the best document tools. Multi-functioning devices, like printer/copier/scanner/fax machines, end up compromising functionality because they support too many tasks.

Step 5: Online File Storage Provider

Does your office use Gmail, Google Calendar, and other G Suite tools? Is Google Drive working well for you? If you are a smaller law firm check out specialized document storage tools like Dropbox, Box, iCloud, or OneDrive. A larger practice may want to use NetDocuments, Box, or Google Drive.

Step 6: Automate Billing and Collections

We are now at the halfway point of the 12 steps to becoming a paperless law firm. Paper bills and waiting for checks require too many people-hours and is an extremely slow way to collect revenue. Rather than printing, folding, stuffing, stamping, addressing, and sending paper invoices, enacting paperless billing means client fees are sent off with the click of a button. Payment can then be easily initiated online with debit or credit cards and the fees are banked on the next business day.

Step 7: Automate Simple Documents

Customize document templates and automation with an editor and automate printing and delivery to clients. Valuable time is saved through this process. Imagine if information about a new client could be collected during the intake process and then instantly generated into a document.

Step 8: Take advantage of the downtime to Scan Backlogs

A decision should be made when there is downtime in your office – should you scan all your documents or just the active cases. During the summer when things begin to slow down a bit your office staff should take advantage of the slower pace to make a dent in any scanning backlogs.

Step 9: Embrace Mobile Tools

Take advantage of the tool everyone carries all the time:  smartphones and tablets. Your smartphone allows for scanning-on-the go functionality. The cameras are incredible and are just right for getting a document quickly into your system no matter where you are.

Step 10:  Automate Pleadings and other Complex Documents

Take the next step started in Step 7. By now all the engagement letters are being prepared via doc automation and the firm is efficiently onboarding clients. Almost any document can be turned into a reusable document template.  Using automation will make it easy for all the members of your staff.  First, take any document from Microsoft Word, sign into a Document Templates and Automation screen such as the one that is part of a suite of tools by Law Ruler. Then locate the mail merge codes for each field that needs to be added to the document such as client name, address, or court. Next, paste the mail merge codes into the document and save. Mobile phone text and email reminders can now be easily and efficiently delivered to clients. Unsigned contracts, NDAs, waivers and other documents can be automated quickly for follow up and conversely improve conversion rates! As a result, with just a small investment in time, any document can be turned into a document template saving time moving forward. Remember – repeatedly editing client information into the same document is a waste of your time and your resources.

Step 11:  You can Still Use Some Paper

Not everything needs to be digitized. Paper is still a good tool for notetaking. Handwritten notes are still special in our highly digitized media-led world.

Step 12:  Reflect on Success and Plan Improvements

Congratulations! You did it! It took only twelve steps and now you don’t have to waste fifteen minutes looking for files. Your files can be viewed from wherever you are, and you are collecting more money than ever because of your conversion to electronic payments. When you use practice management software, you will be able to manage your files effectively. Yes, documents can be stored in Windows folders that are given client names, but they will not have billing tools and records immediately available. Documents can be shared with someone via a Dropbox link, but that is not the same as your client being able to log into an online document repository to see every document shared with them arranged in order. If one of the lawyers in your office needs to work on the file, how will they quickly and easily see all your notes from every conference and phone call arranged in reverse chronological order?

Now that you have got the fundamentals down and have started your journey to a paperless workflow, it’s time to look for other inefficiencies in your firm’s processes. What can you do better? How can you increase your law firm’s client leads, engagement and retention? How can you take advantage of today’s digital marketing tools and position your law firm ahead of its competition? By using these 12 steps for becoming a paperless law firm, Law Ruler, the leading legal case intake and conversion CRM for personal injury, mass tort, family law, and others – can help. Click here for more information.

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12 Steps to a Paperless Law Firm in 2020

          The success of your law firm depends on how efficiently it operates. How can you keep paper to a minimum and then eventually go nearly paperless in your practice and still maximize productivity? Federal courts have been paperless for quite a while now, as have many state courts. The reality of law-firm operations […]