With a paperless office, attorneys and support staff can find documents without having to leave their desks or rummage through file cabinets or boxes. Also, when it comes time to close files, it is a simple matter to drag them from an active work directory to an archive directory, thus eliminating the need to find space to store retired files.
The components necessary to make a paperless office workable are the scanners to scan documents, shredders to shred documents once they are scanned, a secure hard drive storage setup to encrypt digital documents when they are stored on the hard drive, a document management system and a secure backup system.
A number of “tried and true” practice/case management software packages are available for small law firms. They can either be on the “cloud” (a subject for a different day) or installed on your hard drive. A comparison chart is available from the American Bar Association at http://www.abanet.org/tech/ltrc/charts/pmtbchart.pdf.
If you commit your files to the digital realm, you must, of course, back them up and have a plan for disaster recovery. Regarding backup, there must be concrete rules to which everyone in the firm, without exception, must adhere, including the following:
- Perform full backups daily;
- Keep one or more complete set of up-to-date backups off-site;
- Test the backups occasionally to make sure (a) they’re actually being recorded to the media and (b) they can in fact be restored.