Back around the turn of the century, I began to practice as a solo attorney for the first time. A friend of mine who had been a solo attorney gave me a little advice. I had come from working in-house, where we never billed anyone and, before that, a big firm, where I never actually had to send a bill to a client (other departments did that).
Here was the advice this colleague gave me: When you give the bill to the client, make sure that it is accompanied by the biggest stack of paper that you can muster. Tell him the file is for his records. You see, we aren’t selling anything you can hold, and a big stack a paper gives the client the feeling that you did a lot of work.
In a new “go green” world, that is a very antiquated approach – even though it was only 15 years ago. I almost never actually see my clients. The bills are presented via email. A client might not reject being given their entire file in hardcopy form, but they would surely resent it.
Lawyers love paper…can it be done? (Yes!)
Lawyers still love paper and any law office you’ve ever been to has tons of it all around, or they are doing their best to hide the mountains of paper.
However, technology can make these mountains into molehills (or something like that). To wit: I received 20,000 pages of discovery from an adversary electronically last year. So, while in the past that would have killed a tree or two. (Actually it is only a quarter of a tree according to this link; however, maybe you’d think differently if you saw this movie. But, I digress.)
A client of mine has a paperless start-up business, and she was able to bill clients, formulate virtual documents, get signatures and approvals, and manage payroll from her iPhone and various apps while abroad.
In any event, despite all this and my desire to have a successful legal career, I am now determined to have a paperless legal practice. It’s not entirely possible, however.
How to achieve an (almost) paperless legal practice
Lawyers always need to keep original documents and copies of those, e.g. wills. However, we can cut down on multiple versions of documents and the endless revisions that typify contracts and litigation documents.
Here are some tips to minimize the paper in your practice:
- Take notes on your laptop or tablet. I don’t do this yet, but I wish I did.
- Back up everything on a remote physical drive and on the cloud.
- Learn to review and mark up documents on a screen and not on paper.
- Scan everything you receive and label it in a detailed fashion on your computer.
- Create electronic filing system that is easy to follow and understand.
- Assure that you have a highly secure cloud backup.
What you’ll gain:
- Less paper, more space.
- Environmental benefits (Tell your clients that your office has gone green.).
- If you use Dropbox or Google Drive you can access all your documents all the time- even from a tablet or a smartphone, even when traveling.
- Documents will be easier to find and to send via email. No searching through folders.
- Less spending on paper and toner.
Yes, it’s sacrilegious, but the (almost) paperless legal practice is in reach of today’s legal professional.
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