8 STEPS FOR MOVING TO A PAPERLESS LAW OFFICE

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1 8 STEPS FOR MOVING TO A PAPERLESS LAW OFFICE SIMS LAW FIRM, LTD 1700 Park St., Suite 206 Naperville, IL (fax) BRYAN M. SIMS Bryan Sims is a shareholder and founder of Sims Law Firm, Ltd., where he concentrates his practice in the areas of commercial litigation and civil appeals. He is a member of the Illinois Bar and the Northern District of Illinois Trial Bar. He is also admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court, the United State Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the United States courts in the Central District of Illinois, the Southern District of Illinois, and the Eastern District of Michigan. Bryan is a member of the Illinois State Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the Du-Page County Bar Association, and the Will County Bar Association. He is a member of the ISBA Standing Committee on Legal Technology, where he has served as the chair and is currently the newsletter editor. He has been a member of the 2006 through 2012 ISBA Solo and Small Firm Conference Planning Committee. Bryan has spoken on legal technology issues at the ISBA Solo and Small Firm Conferences, for the Chicago Bar Association, the Lake County (Indiana) Bar Association, the International Technology Law Association, and the ABA Techshow. Bryan contributes regularly to TechnoLawyer and was recognized as the 2005 TechnoLawyer of the Year. He has also written for PDA JD and regularly wrote reviews for Law Office Computing. Bryan blogs regularly about the intersection between law and technology at Before entering private practice, Bryan worked as a judicial law clerk for Illinois Supreme Court Justice S. Louis Rathje. He has also worked as a staff attorney for the Second District of the Illinois Appellate Court. He is a 1993 Cum Laude graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University and a 1996 Magna Cum Laude graduate of Loyola University Chicago School of Law. While in law school, Bryan served on the staff of both the Loyola Law Journal and the Loyola Consumer Law Reporter. Page 1

2 Table of Contents BRYAN M. SIMS (bio) STEPS FOR MOVING TO A PAPERLESS LAW OFFICE Change Your Attitude to Embrace a Paperless Office Obtain the Proper Scanning Equipment Have the Proper Monitors Purchase the Proper Software Create a System for Handling Your Legal Documents Start Scanning Today Ditch the Fax Machine Have an Effective and Layered Backup System in Place Join the Cloud (Optional) DISCLAIMER: The following materials and accompanying Access MCLE, LLC audio program are for instructional purposes only. Nothing herein constitutes, is intended to constitute, or should be relied on as, legal advice. The author expressly disclaims any responsibility for any direct or consequential damages related in any way to anything contained in the materials or program, which are provided on an as-is basis and should be independently verified by experienced counsel before being applied to actual matter. By proceeding further you expressly accept and agree to Author s absolute and unqualified disclaimer of liability. Page 2

3 8 STEPS FOR MOVING TO A PAPERLESS LAW OFFICE One of the realities of the legal profession is that it includes lots of paper. There are letters, pleadings, orders, memoranda, cases, and statutes. Some weeks it seems like I receive a ream of paper from opposing counsel. The volume of paper creates two immediate problems. First, there is a storage problem. Where do you put the ever-increasing paper? Second, there is an analysis problem. How do you analyze and search the information in the documents that you have? Fear not, all is not lost. You can have a paperless office. This does not mean that you will have no paper in your office. You will still have to print things on paper and other people will send you things on paper. However, your office need not be bound to nor dependent upon paper. From a mobility perspective, having all of your documents as digital documents means that you can easily take the documents with you and that you can make them accessible to your, your staff, or your clients via the internet. Below, I address each of the steps necessary for you to convert to a paperless office. This does not mean that the transition will be easy or painless. However, the transition is something that any law office can do. Further, if you make the transition, the rewards will be innumerable. 1. Change Your Attitude to Embrace a Paperless Office Converting to a paperless office is more than establishing a process for scanning your documents and more than trying to reduce your storage of paper. Instead, going paperless requires a paradigm shift in how you think about and handle your documents. The key thing to remember here is that documents are not pieces of paper. Yes, documents can be printed to a piece of paper. However, that does not mean that the document is a piece of paper. The key thing to take from this step is that your case file should be an electronic file and not a paper file. When you want to review a document from your file, you should reach for your mouse rather than the paper file. Thus, the first step in going paperless is recognizing that your file is on your computer and not in your storage room. Page 3

4 2. Obtain the Proper Scanning Equipment Convert existing paper documents into digital form on your computer. You do this by using a scanner. Two conceptual choices for a scanner: A) Use a large multifunction printer/copier/scanner/fax machines. These are large networked machines that can handle huge print or copy jobs. If you have leased or purchased one of these machines in the last few years, it almost certainly contains a scanning function, even if you have not enabled it. The benefit to using these machines is that they can handle large scanning jobs without a problem. The drawback to these machines is that, while they are being used for scanning, they cannot also be used for printing or copying. B) The second option is to use a desktop scanner. This is a smaller form scanner that connects directly to your computer. Although there are a variety of these scanners available, there is one that I recommend: the Fijitsu ScanSnap S1500. This machine because does a good job and it is very easy to use. Simply place the paper into the document feeder (it holds about 50 pages) and press the blue button. Shortly thereafter, the document appears on your computer. The advantage to using desktop scanner is that it is available right on the desk of the person doing the scanning. This makes it very easy and convenient for that person to scan and handle the documents that need to be scanned. The best set up, of course, is to have both a networked scanner for large jobs and a desktop scanner for ease and convenience. 3. Have the Proper Monitors If your primary file is going to be an electronic file, then you need to be able to read it with ease. When it comes to monitors, you need to think bigger, and more of them. Using multiple monitors can make working with electronic documents easier and more efficient. Similarly, using a larger monitor makes it easier to arrange your documents and to increase the zoom level, if necessary. Consider the vertical monitor very seriously. These are designed to show an entire page at one time. A pair of these makes it very easy to work with two documents side by side. Additionally, if you wish, you can purchase monitor stands that will allow you mount your monitors and adjust them to just the right position. You may be tempted to skimp on this step. However, I recommend that you do not. If you are treating your electronic file as your primary file, you need to be able to work with it. This is best accomplished with both more and bigger monitors. Page 4

5 Buy bigger and more monitors for staff as well as attorneys. Often they will be handling the documents as much or more than the attorneys. Studies have revealed that using multiple monitors can increase productivity by 35%. See or simply search Google for the phrase: multiple monitors increase productivity. 4. Purchase the Proper Software Proper software is required for manipulating documents electronically. Industry standard requires documents be stored in a PDF format. The primary software for creating PDF is Adobe Acrobat. PDF is an open format, which means that you use less expensive programs like Nitro PDF and Bluebeam PDF Revu. I suggest that at least some people in your office have Adobe Acrobat Professional. There are things that you can do with that program that you simply cannot do with other programs (for example redaction). However, others in your office may have only Acrobat Standard or software from Nitro or Bluebeam. Train the legal staff on how to fully operate the documentation software, not just to read or print a PDF, but also to assemble documents, create indices, search documents for keywords, Bates Stamp your discovery, redact sensitive information, sign documents, create and distribute forms, complete forms, and collect information. These are just some of the things that you can do with PDF software. 5. Create a System for Handling Your Legal Documents Create a system or process for handling legal documents. For example, when a pleading is received from opposing counsel: Who scans it in? How does it get routed to the attorney that needs to see it? How is saved to the computer? What is the file name? What happens to the paper? How does the client get a copy? Know the answers to all of these questions before scanning any documents. Make sure that everything gets scanned, but that nothing gets scanned twice. Page 5

6 Further, make sure that documents can be found again, and that the person or people who need to see it, can do so. Use a document management system (such as Worldox). Such a system ensures that documents are named and coded correctly. If you do not use a document management system, you will need to establish a filing and naming convention that will allow you to find your documents. One example of a filing and naming scheme for legal documents: I have a top level folder called Clients. Inside of that folder is a folder for each client that I have. Inside of each of the Client folders is a folder for each matter that the client has. Thus, in my scheme for a real estate matter for John Smith, my folder structure might look like Clients > Smith, John > Sale 123 Main St. I have also seen schemes in which the Clients folder has folders for matter types (e.g., divorce, litigation, corporate, real estate) so that the folder structure would be something like Clients >Real Estate > Smith, John > Sale 123 Main St. Within that client matter folder, I have the same set of folders for every file. I have created these folders and they just sit in a folder (called Default Folders) on my hard drive. When I open a new matter, I simply copy these default folders into my new matter folder. The folders I use are: Pleadings. This is where I put copies of the pleadings in the case. If you want, you can have separate folders within this folder for each party in the case. Thus, you can have all of the plaintiff s documents in one subfolder and all of the defendant s documents in another subfolder. Alternatively, you can store all of the pleadings in this one folder and use a naming scheme that allows you to find your relevant documents. Word Processing Documents. This is the folder where I store the documents that I draft. Once the document is completed, signed, and filed, I store a copy of that in the Pleadings folder Correspondence folder, or other appropriate folder as a PDF. The original word processing file resides in this folder. Correspondence. This is where copies of correspondence go. I normally store these in date order (see naming schemes below). Discovery. This is where I store the discovery related documents. Included as subfolders here are folders such as Depositions, Discovery Pleadings, Documents, and Subpoenas. Depending on the particular case, there may be additional subfolders within those subfolders. Much of this is fact dependent. Page 6

7 Research. This is where I store my relevant research, such as cases and applicable statutes. I print to PDF copies of cases that I use and review them on the computer, highlighting them and applying electronic sticky notes using Adobe Acrobat. This means that I can always find my cases as well as my thoughts about them. Orders. Many attorneys that I know store the orders in their pleading racks. I never liked this. I want access to my orders in one single location. Thus, I have a folder where I store nothing but orders. Like correspondence, I store these in date order. Costs. This is where I store copies of receipts relating to the expenses incurred in the case (filing fees, etc.). I also store a copy of each of my statements in this folder. Notes. This is where I stick various thoughts or notes that don t really go anywhere else. Following this scheme allows me to pinpoint where I will likely find any particular document. Also, if you look at the screen shot above, you will see that each folder name is preceded by a two-digit number. This allows me to order the folders in the order I prefer. If you want your orders to be the top folder, name it 01 Orders. Using this format allows you to place the folders in what-ever order you desire. Use a descriptive file name, which may vary depending on the particular type of file involved. For example, in the correspondence folder and the order folder I organize my documents by date. That seems to make the most sense to me for those folders. For example, if I wrote a letter on September 1, 2007 to my opposing counsel confirming a deposition date of Witness Roe, my file name would be something such as ltr to OC re confirm dep of Roe. For the date section of the name, order the date as Year, Month, Day. This groups all of the correspondence properly together in date order. If you use a Month Day Year, scheme, all of your January letters will be together, then all of your letters from February, etc. This is not an efficient way of organizing these documents. After the date identify the type of document. In this case ltr for letter. Next, the to tells me I wrote the letter to someone else. If it were a letter I received, the to would be a from. Next, the OC tells me it went to my opposing counsel. After the re, I include a description of what the letter is about. On documents such as pleadings, do not worry about the date unless it is important for some reason. Instead, stick with descriptive terms. For example, in my pleadings folder, I generally put all pleadings from all parties in the same folder. When I am looking for something, I usually am looking for a document from a particular party. Thus, I normally start my file name with the party name. I use whatever name I typically use to think about the party. Sometimes that is plaintiff or defendant, and sometimes it is the party s actual name. Regardless, using the party name first, sorts all of that party s documents together. Thus if I were saving a motion for summary judgment filed by the defendant, I Page 7

8 would likely call the document Defendant Mtn for SJ. or, if the Defendant is Mary Doe, I might call it, Doe Mtn for SJ. Regardless, try to maintain a consistent naming scheme. Although todays search programs are quite sophisticated (including the search feature built into Windows 7), those does not mean that you want to rely entirely on the search feature. Thus, you will need to develop a consistent filing and naming convention and ensure that everyone follows it. 6. Start Scanning Today You need to start scanning today. Don t worry about the mail that arrived yesterday, start scanning today. There will be files that you will want to have scanned entirely in. However, for the moment, start scanning everything from this point in time forward. Also, if it relates to a case, scan it. You do not want a situation where you can t find a document because you don t know if you scanned it or it is still in paper form. Don t worry about this. Scan everything. Make your electronic file, the official file. 7. Ditch the Fax Machine Get rid of your fax machine, your fax toner cartridge, and your fax phone line. A more effect method for sending a fax is: 1) Don t fax anything that can be sent via instead. 2) If you must fax, use a fax service which allows you to send and receive faxes via your . When someone faxes you a document, it shows up as an attachment to an message. When you want to send a fax, you simply attach your document to an and address it to the recipient s fax number. Your service converts the document to a fax and sends it on its way. 8. Have an Effective and Layered Backup System in Place Regardless of having a paperless practice, you must have an effective and layered backup system in place. As an attorney, you not only have a duty to protect your client s data and information, but you also want to protect the information so that you can easily restore it if it has been destroyed. A proper backup system is multi layered and uses multiple media, methods, and storage locations. Page 8

9 When it comes to backups, there are two separate concepts to keep in mind. One is backing up your data, the other is mirroring (or imaging) your drive. A proper backup system incorporates both components. With respect to the mirroring issue - The purpose of mirroring your drive is to ensure that you can be up and running after a hard drive crash in a minimum amount of time. Mirroring your system drive, creates an exact duplicate of it. This means that when your hard drive crashes, you install a new hard drive, restore the mirrored information, and your computer and all of its programs are back, just as though you never crashed. The key to this, of course, is that you must mirror your system drive on a regular basis to ensure that it is up to date with all of the latest changes to your computer. A variety of software programs exist to do this, some of the most popular include Norton Ghost, Retrospect, and Acronis True Image. With respect to the backing-up your data - I first suggest a local backup using external hard drive, which is most convenient and least expensive method given the low prices for hard drives. A terabyte external hard drive is less than $100. You will need multiple hard drives for your data backup because you will always need to keep at least one of these off site. This is to ensure that you have a copy of your data somewhere other than the same location your computer is, in case your building floods or burns down. Remember that if you are storing your backups where they can be accessed by others, in order to maintain client confidentiality, you need to encrypt your backups. In addition to using backup drives and keeping them offsite, find an online backup service and backup critical data files with the online service. This gives you added protection in the event that a natural disaster hits both your office and your offsite storage location. This is certainly possible with events such as hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, tornadoes, etc. The online site gives you an additional location (hopefully in another part of the country) where your data can safely weather the storm. On the flipside, do not rely entirely on an online backup. One, you should never put all of your data in the hands of someone that you cannot control. Additionally, restoring all of your data over the internet can take a substantial period of time. Schedule your backups so that they occur automatically. If you have to remember to manually perform a backup, you will not. Test your backup solution regularly. A backup does you no good if you cannot restore your files. Thus, on a regular basis, you need to randomly select a file and try to restore it, just to make sure that your backup solution is working properly. Page 9

10 9. Join the Cloud (Bonus Step) Once the law office is paperless, consider the ability access all documents remotely when you are outside the office. Large organizations have done this for years. They have the budget and the infrastructure to make their information available to their remote workers. Unfortunately for those of us in solo or small firm practices, the infrastructure to do this reliably and securely is not cheap. Fortunately, there is still a way for us to achieve this same result, namely we can integrate cloud services into our practice. Use the phrase "cloud computing" in a group and you will get as many definitions as there are people in the room. Some ascribe cloud computing to delivering Software as a Service ("SaaS") wherein all users of that service or product access the same tools sharing a common interface and providing little or no customization capabilities. One example of this would be any of the free services such as Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail. Why you can generally change the appearance of move columns around every user shares very much the same interface with little ability to provide a significant customization to the service. Others describe cloud computing as any service or product outside your firewall delivered across the Internet including traditional off-site or remote hosting of applications and data. An example of hosted services would be buying copy of exchange server but rather than installing it on a server in your office, you have a company in the Internet install it on one of their servers. You have full control over the features and settings in the product and share it with no one other than those in your office. Luckily, for the purposes of these materials, we do not need to make this determination: the ultimate goal should be finding products or services that work for you. Ideally, these products or services will allow you to access your tools and data anywhere you have an Internet connection. Solos and law firms are using these tools to connect all of their users and staff whether located in a single office or geographically dispersed locations. Most lawyers would argue that documents rank in their top three most important assets, along with their brilliant critical thinking skills and eloquent oratory abilities. With the legal profession becoming more and more mobile, the need to access documents on the go is necessary. Whether lawyers need to review files in court or during client meetings, the ability to pull up a client file on a laptop, tablet or smartphone is not just convenient but a critical part of one s practice. Cloud-based technologies allow this to occur. No longer do lawyers need to store mass amounts of data on an expensive on-site server that needs to be replaced every five years or so. Like any use of cloudbased technology, lawyers need to understand the security and storage capabilities of the provider before putting client files on a third-party server. Once the lawyer is comfortable with the provider, it provides many options for storing documents on the cloud. Page 10

11 Some cloud-based document management systems have existed for several years and have robust features to help organize information. Others are created to be very simple. Even though the user is storing documents on a third-party server, systems, such as Box and Dropbox, allow the user to sync documents to a local computer. The following discusses several of the options for cloud-based document storage systems: i. Dropbox (www.dropbox.com ). Dropbox is one of the more popular systems that lawyers use to save their documents online. Dropbox, which originally was a consumer-grade product, has been integrated more and more into the business world. Despite some public hiccups on security, Dropbox maintains that documents are secure on their system. Dropbox can be used on a PC or Mac computer. It also has apps for the ipad, iphone, Android and Blackberry. Documents sync locally to the user's hard drive. Dropbox also recently rolled out a Dropbox for Teams product that allows mul-tiple licenses to be purchased for one account. ii. SpiderOak (www.spideroak.com ). SpiderOak is a competitor of Dropbox in that it provides a simple online storage system where you can store up to 2 GBs for free. Additional space can be purchased and synced to unlimited devices. SpiderOak has mobile device apps for ios and Android systems. SpiderOak markets itself as the sole zero-knowledge" data privacy product. In other words, data is encrypted on SpiderOak s server and cannot be viewed by any SpiderOak employees. This puts the control of remembering passwords on the user to keep a true zero-knowledge environment. iii. Box (www.box.com ). Box has been in the cloud-based document storage arena since Box s market is targeted towards enterprise use. While most of its features are available through a free account, more robust security and functionality is available for a monthly license fee. Box integrates with a growing number of online applications, such as Google Apps, EchoSign, Zoho, and Yammer. Documents can be synced local-ly, or the user can upload and download information through the webbased plat-form. Box allows tagging of documents to increase organization and has robust collaboration features. iv. NetDocuments (www.netdocuments.com ). NetDocuments is one of the leading online document management systems. In 2011, NetDocuments rolled out a new interface to increase functionality. NetDocuments is one of the more comprehensive platforms to store and work with documents online. If you are a Windows user, you can save documents directly from Office applications, including Outlook, straight in-to NetDocuments. NetDocuments also has collaboration features, and, like some of the other products such as Box, has the ability to monitor online status of documents and whether they are being edited. Except for NetDocuments, each of these services provides you with free space that you can use to test the service. I have a paid account at Spider Oak for 100GB of data and it costs me $75 per year. According to their website, the current price is $100 per year for 100GB. Page 11

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