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Daphne Drescher

By: Daphne Drescher (Guest Blogger)

I admit it. There are nights when I awaken during the night to dreams of a paperless office; that day when I will work a full, eight hour shift and not have to search for that one, deeply-desired, highly sought after, and completely missing, rainforest remnant in a sea of swirling, paper madness the law firm is built upon. Then I arrive at my office, where I find myself completely surrounded by it – tons of paper, that is!

Today, Daphne is stopping by The Paralegal Society to offer up some terrific tips on going paperless…and living the dream. Not sure if you or I will ever make it there, but there’s certainly no harm in reading some helpful tips on how to vacate the paper dungeon. 

Here’s Daphne…

Reprinted with permission from Proparalegal: http://proparalegal.com.

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I’m a big fan of using less paper in the law office. I am convinced that storing case documents electronically not only saves an office money in supplies and storage space, but also provides huge savings in attorney and staff time. And whether the office bills hourly or not, time is still money, right?

I’m not overly idealistic about this. I know as long as state courts require paper filing and service, there will still be a need for some paper case files. But that doesn’t mean we can’t benefit from storing files electronically too.

Besides, these days even in state court cases most attorneys are sending and receiving letters and other case documents electronically, even if they’re also sending hard copies in the mail. This is certainly true of my attorney clients.

Any document generated in, converted to, or transmitted via a digital format may as well be stored that way. It’s a time saver because it takes a lot more time to get up, go to the file room, find the right file, paw through it for the document you need and copy it than to just pull it up on your computer screen. It’s greener too!

Here are some electronic filing tips:

Designate computer or server space for electronic case files. You’ll want a single location for your case files. What’s your office computer setup? These days, most offices network all computers to a server. So create a designated location on the server where client files can be stored, and where everyone who needs them can access them.

The main thing is the location for your case files should be secure and it should be regularly backed up.

Design an electronic file folder structure that mirrors your physical files. My typical case files are identified by client and matter numbers, and then further categorized by type of document (e.g., correspondence, pleadings, discovery, etc.) But however your paper files are set up, create the same structure in your electronic files.

For example, create a main folder for each client, and subfolders for each of that client’s matters. Within each matter, create category subfolders to store individual documents, and label the folders exactly as you label your physical file folders. No use reinventing the wheel!

Use a consistent file naming scheme to make documents easy to find. Train everyone in the office to use this scheme. When each team member dreams up his or her own unique way of naming documents, it’s a recipe for no one else being able to locate them. So pick a scheme and stick to it.

My personal preference is date first (year/month/day), then author, then doc title or description. That way everything sorts chronologically, and it makes searching by author or title easy. On the other hand, I have a client who prefers client name (last/first), author, date. The scheme doesn’t matter as much as consistent use.

You can store your files in any file format. Some offices like to scan everything to PDF format, and this certainly has advantages. It prevents alteration of documents, and it’s the format increasingly used by the courts. And if it’s important to you to preserve a date received stamp or an original signature, then scanning to PDF is definitely the way to go.

But don’t let the fact that you don’t have time for all that scanning deter you. There’s no reason you can’t store every document your office generates, even if it’s mailed, filed or served on paper, within the appropriate case file in the same file format that generated it. Most word processing software lets you quickly convert documents to PDF format as well.

How about you? How does your office store case files? Email me – I’d love to know.

Would you like more information? Grab my free white paper, Going Paperless! Creating Electronic Client Files, here.

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Daphne is a virtual litigation paralegal and owner of California-based Drescher ProParalegal. She is also an instructor in the Paralegal Degree Program at Empire College. For more information, visit Daphne’s website http://proparalegal.com where you can subscribe to the free Drescher ProParalegal Newsletter full of litigation practice tips and resources for legal support staff.

Has your office gone paperless? Do you want to? Will it ever happen? You tell us!

Now repeat after me: “Your lack of planning doesn’t constitute an emergency on my part.” …or does it??? (No need to respond. We all know the answer to that one!) Now go step into your Monday to locate that one, coveted, missing piece of papyrus in that sea of crazy, and diffuse those 7 impromptu emergencies like a paralegal ninja happy on caffeine fumes!

We’ll see you next time.