Practice Management

Nicole Black

Nicole Black

A decade ago, the idea of a paperless law firm was unappealing to many lawyers. After all, lawyers filed paper documents with the court. Why invest in the transition to digital documents when paper documents were still required in many different legal contexts?

For that reason, many lawyers were reluctant to transition to digital documents, even though most lawyers agreed that technology was becoming essential to the practice of law.

Fast forward to 2019—and how things have changed! After all, it’s a much different world than it was at the turn of the century. Many lawyers are now required to understand technology, and e-filing is being mandated in many jurisdictions. This e-filing mandate is causing lawyers to digitize their law firm’s documents, and as a result more firms are moving toward a paperless law office—or at the very least, an office with less paper.

In part, this is because technology has improved, making it easier, more cost-effective, and more appealing than ever to move to a digital law firm. The many benefits of paperless law offices, including increased mobility and flexibility and online data backup, have convinced lawyers to make the switch.

As more law firms move toward a paperless office, the biggest hurdle they often encounter is a lack of information. For many lawyers, the idea of going paperless sounds like a good one, but the implementation can be daunting. It doesn’t have to be this way—the key is understanding which tools will be best for your law firm’s needs.

For starters, you’re going to need additional hardware. Specifically, one of the key tools needed is a reliable, affordable scanner. In The 2019 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide authors Sharon D. Nelson, John W. Simek, and Michael C. Maschke help lawyers sift through their technology choices and address the many different hardware needs of law firms. When it comes to scanners, they recommend two different models for law firms.

The first is for firms in need of a low-volume scanner: the Fujitsu Scansnap iX500. This desktop scanner scans up to 25 color pages per minute.

The second, the Fujitsu fi-5530C2 scanner, is for firms in need of a higher-volume scanner. This scanner scans 50 color pages per minute. Depending on your small firm’s specific needs, either would be a good choice.

You’ll also need access to a scanner when you’re on the road, since you’ll sometimes need to share documents that you’ve just received from the court or opposing counsel. That’s where mobile scanners and mobile scanning apps come in.

If you travel often and find yourself needing to scan lots of documents while on the go, then you might want to consider investing in a mobile scanner such as the Brother ADS-1250W portable scanner. It’s small enough to fit in a briefcase or laptop bag, and it has the capacity to scan up to 25 color or black-and-white pages per minute. Another good choice is the Fujitsu ScanSnap s1300i which is a bit more compact and can scan up to 12 double-sided color or black-and-white pages per minute.

Alternatively, you can use your smartphone or tablet to scan documents and upload them to PDFs. There are a number of document scanner apps available either for free or at very reasonable prices (less than $10). These apps make it easy to scan a document using your device’s camera function. Once you’ve scanned the documents, you can then easily share them using any number of methods, including fax, email, or text message. Many also give you the option to store the document by uploading it to a cloud-based document storage website such as Dropbox, Evernote, or Google Docs. My scanner app of choice is Scanner Pro ($3.99). Other alternatives include free apps Genius Scan or TurboScan.

Is your law firm ready to go paperless? With the rise of e-filing, there’s no better time than the present. But make sure to plan ahead, since that’s the key to a successful transition to a paperless office. Come up with a strategy before starting the process, and make sure to draft clearly written policies and procedures for everyone in your firm who will be part of the move to a paperless office.

And most importantly, choose the right hardware. The suggestions in the post are a great place to start.

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York, attorney, author, journalist and the legal technology evangelist at MyCase, legal practice management software for small firms. She is the nationally recognized author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers and is co-author of Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, both published by the American Bar Association. She also is co-author of Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes regular columns for ABAJournal.com, Above the Law and the Daily Record, has authored hundreds of articles for other publications, and regularly speaks at conferences regarding the intersection of law and emerging technologies. Follow her on Twitter @nikiblack, or she can be reached at niki.black@mycase.com.