The thought of a paperless office makes some people run scared and others rejoice! I am the latter.
A paperless office means the use of paper is eliminated or greatly reduced.
Kim Wilson & Co Family Lawyers went paperless (or paper light as some say) across the office on 1 July 2016. We had systems in place prior to 2016 to create an electronic file, however, we found we had a cumbersome situation of part paper and part electronic files. The administration time involved was huge.
As older files are closed, there are less hard copy files in the office. I find this process very liberating as there is less clutter around you.
Not surprisingly there was some resistance, we are creatures of habit and like what we know.
We had to take steps to notify existing clients of the change to holding an electronic file, and adjust agreements with clients for new matters moving forward.
Kim Wilson & Co Family Lawyers is a Quality Approved Practice recognised by the Law Society of Western Australia Quality Practice Standard program. A change to electronic files meant internal processes needed to be reviewed and updated in detail. Our office manual required an overhaul.
There is a lot of material available online about the benefits of a paperless office and how to create one. There is also a lot of software available to assist in the process. There are many benefits to the environment (and hip pocket) with a significant reduction on paper and stationery costs.
Each law practice is different and you must assess what will work for you and your workplace.
Factors which have worked for us as we transitioned to electronic files:
- Setting realistic goals to go electronic;
- Trialing a system in a pilot group before rolling out across the office;
- Making notes as we went;
- Accepting the project was a work in progress and couldn’t be implemented in one go;
- Documenting the system (even if in part) as we went;
- Keeping staff informed and part of the process;
- Revisiting the process after first major event with an electronic file;
- Reviewing regularly and updating systems and manual as required;
- Reviewing files which can be closed, particularly those with part hard copy material, so these can be archived.
There are many benefits of a paperless office, to the firm and more importantly to our clients.
Our clients benefit from their lawyer having easy access to electronic files in meetings, during Mediation and Court attendances. There is a lot less hard copy material and paper to take to Court if a matter is to proceed to Trial. It also makes it easier for the lawyer and the client to be looking at the same set of documents.