Lawyers can get very hung up on the need to keep paper copies of everything. It’s just not necessary!If your firm starts systematically using email in place of post, you will find yourself querying the need to print everything and consider the benefits of scanning incoming post, where you still receive paper correspondence from others. Once you do this, you are well on your way to paperless files, and you'll be able to access these files from anywhere.
All documents stored electronically should be stored in document management systems and can be printed at any time should hard copies be needed. Robust backup systems are, however, essential to ensure you do not lose the electronic files.
Don’t rely on backup tapes unless these are taken offsite and kept in secure fireproof and waterproof safes. Better still, use encrypted offsite electronic storage facilities. If all your data is kept electronically, even if in addition to keeping paper files, you will have a far better business continuity model than you would if disaster strikes and your paper files are found floating around in three feet of water.
Collating documents to brief counsel or instruct an expert becomes much less effort when you can access outgoing and incoming documents electronically, so that you can email the brief for instructions. Even if you want to print such documents, it is simpler to organise and achieve from electronic document management than from a thick paper file.
Archiving and storage of electronic files is a lot easier, much cheaper and involves less manpower than finding ever-expanding space for bulky paper files. I know of at least one firm of accountants that stores hard copies of scanned incoming post in chronological order in their basement for six months, then destroys them.
Often, solicitors can learn a lot in the ways of business from accountants – they are exposed on a daily basis to business practices and, of course, they are trained to maximise revenue and minimise costs, so it is not surprising that they know a few tricks that law firms would do well to learn from.