Should Law Firms Overcome Paperless Challenges to Reap the Benefits?
Is it in your law firm’s best interest to go paperless or maintain hard copy files? That question can best be answered by weighing the benefits and challenges.
Law firms gather and house some of the most critical information regarding their client’s business and personal dealings. Maintaining confidentiality is at the very core of a law firm’s reputation and profitability. In terms of your law office building the best profit margins possible, cumbersome paper files ted to be more costly than electronic record keeping.
But decision-makers often have questions and reservations about transitioning to a paperless system. Will going paperless put sensitive client information at risk? How will I reference my files while engaged in heated courtroom litigation? Those are certainly reasonable and fair concerns. And that’s a decision you will need to make after weighing the pros and cons of taking your law firm paperless.
Benefits of a Paperless Law Firm
Today’s advanced software development sector has been hard at work developing products uniquely tailored for niche industries. There is a wealth of packages that can manage everything from notes, to complete files, to accounting and administrative needs, among others. Software experts have created a product that speaks to every need. And if a new one emerges, you can rest assured that someone will craft a new program or modify an existing one.
But in practical terms, lawyers and admin staff members probably want to know how this enhances workflow. Business resources such as Forbes and Entrepreneur cite the benefits of the growing trend. These are essential benefits you may enjoy by going paperless.
- Courtroom Efficiency: The days of lawyers wheeling in bulky case files and rifling through them in front of judges is swiftly becoming outdated. Programs such as MyCase allow lawyers to access case files, critical client notes, and pertinent motions on any mobile device. If confidence and preparation have value to judges, the image of you tapping your phone once while the court waits for opposing counsel to rummage through piles of paper is priceless.
- In-House Efficiency: The air of readiness certainly distinguishes your lawyers in front of judges and clients. But at the end of the day, a law firm is a profit-driven business and going paperless needs to underscore that goal. Many top-flight software packages on the market can seamlessly deliver information to designated employees based on need. Rather than share a hard copy file or spend time and money making copies, it’s all available online. Programs such as AbacusLaw, PCLaw, and others may be suitable options.
- Improved Customer Service: It’s not uncommon for clients to check up on the status of their lawsuit, criminal proceeding or other matters. These continued phone calls require admin personnel to go to file cabinets or other offices and physically look at the case. By putting updates into your system, designated people can give them answers with a simple mouse click. Legal programs also send clients notifications about essential court dates, meetings, and other matters. Customer service can be fully automated.
- Paperless Law Firms are Green Businesses: The value of promoting a green-friendly law firm cannot be understated. Every day people are growing increasingly passionate about protecting the environment. It’s not uncommon for questions about efforts to reduce C02 emissions, as well as waste and pollution to be asked by prospective clients. Housing rows of file cabinets and the appearance of wasteful business habits can be a deal-breaker.
For a law firm to transition to a complete paperless enterprise, it may be in your best interest to work with a third-party IT service provider. Installing, maintaining, and securing software programs and sensitive files requires a 24-7 technology expert. That reality leads us to potential stumbling blocks.
Challenges of a Law Firm Going Paperless
There is a common myth among law firms that hard copy files are a necessity. According to a global professional organization survey by AIIM in 2014, companies indicated that paper-driven businesses were going the way of the dinosaur. Some even called paper use “unacceptable” in terms of profitability and environmental concerns. Despite the paperless trend, law firms see common challenges as too risky.
- Security Risks and Viruses: While security breaches and virus infiltration are professional dangers, the vast majority of businesses are either partially or entirely electronic. Working with IT cybersecurity professionals can minimize risk and using the Cloud can deliver enhanced protections.
- Transition Costs: Some decision-makers shy away from moving to a paperless office due to initial costs. However, paperless offices are demonstrably more efficient and profitable by comparison.
- Existing Hard Copies: Law firms with banks of file cabinets may see the cost of creating electronic versions as prohibitive. It may come as something of a surprise, but most documents have an original electronic version your admin team can access.
- Legal Industry Compliance: This common concern has been duly noted by software developers. Today’s programs are keenly aware of the legal communities’ heightened compliance needs. Fully electronic law firms are now better equipped for audit or oversight than their counterparts.
The key to adapting and overcoming perceived paperless challenges is working with a third-party IT specialist that can deliver the latest security enhancements, software installations, Cloud integration, and 24-7 oversight necessary. Law firms that go paperless are getting tasks done more efficiently and cost-effectively than those bogged down in bulky paperwork. The reality of living in the technology age is that those who do not keep pace, fall behind. The paperless law firm is becoming standard practice.