In my last post, I described some of the efficiency benefits of having a paperless law practice. There are many other benefits I did not discuss, such as environmental benefits (some people refer to “going paperless” as “going green”) and collaborative benefits in multi-lawyer firms. While an overabundance of paper remains a problem in many law firms, it should come as no surprise that more and more firms are making the paperless transition.
Today, I want to share with you my paperless workflow, beginning with the receipt of either a paper or electronic document and ending with sharing the document with a client through my cloud-based case management system, Clio. Here is a diagram that provides a visual overview of the process.
When I receive a document that is already in electronic format (whether by email, on a disc, etc.), I simply save it directly into the Dropbox folder on my computer. For paper documents, I use my Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M to create a searchable PDF copy of the document. Then, unless the document requires further physical action such as an ink signature, it is either stored in a file cabinet or returned to the client. As above, I save the PDF version into the Dropbox folder on my computer.
Documents Organization and Access
Within my Dropbox folder, I have subfolders for each case, which have been created by Clio, my cloud-based case management system. Whenever I store a document in one of these subfolders, Clio automatically sees the document and makes it part of my virtual file for that case. This means that wherever I have access to my computer, smartphone, or tablet, I can readily access my clients’ entire case files through Clio.
In addition to managing my clients’ virtual files, Clio provides a service called Clio Connect, which allows me to easily share documents with clients. When I grant a client access to a particular document, the client receives an email with instructions for securely accessing Clio Connect and retrieving the document. Alternatively, if the client uses Dropbox, I can grant him or her secure read access to the entire case subfolder in Dropbox.
A Straightforward Workflow for a Paperless Law Office
As you can see, this paperless workflow is quite straightforward and makes it very easy to organize and work with a digital copy of the client’s entire file, including quickly sharing documents with the client. Compared with the old-fashioned way of managing documents – making space-consuming and inefficient physical copies, and physically mailing documents back and forth – it is easy to see why a paperless law practice is a no-brainer for any attorney who wants to offer efficient, cost-effective legal services to his or her clients.