Monday, April 20, 2009

LegalIT 3.0: Achieving the Paper LESS (TM) Office

Liveblogged at the Legal IT 3.0 conference in Montreal. Any error or omissions are my responsibility, not that of the presenters. Target audience are lawyers in firms and counsel in organizations.

Ross L. Kodner

His CLE materials are available on the Microlaw website.

He doesn't actually think we will be able to achieve paperless offices in our lifetime. What he is going to talk about an approach for dealing with paper. Reduce how much time you are spending looking for paper documents, touch documents less often.

Do you scan everything or almost everything as it comes into your organization? If you haven't, since you have been practicing law, your case files are likely fragmented in many different places. You probably have not seen entire case file all in one place. Document management system, contact system, email, case file system, billing system--information is in many different places. This is dangerous. You should have the ability to see all of your client file information in one place.

If you are going to build a complete case file, it is much easier in electronic than paper form. Currently everyone prints all the emails and put them in the paper files. This is time consuming and expensive. It also does not make sense to take an electronic item that is fully searchable with complete metadata to print it out in an inefficient format (paper). Can take up to 30 minutes to get it into the file by the time you print and file.

If you are going to scan paper that comes in, who decides what is going to be scanned?

File naming conventions
  • need to be consistent
  • need to be logical
  • e.g. date, doctype, entity type, subject
  • you should be able at a glance to tell what is in a file
Scanning does not always mean OCR
  • scanning in the past was synonymous with having the computer recognizing text
  • unless a good, clean document you are going to have garbage scanned in - often faster to type something in than clean up a poor scanned document
  • scanning is often into PDF
  • make sure you know how to scan so that the PDFs are searchable
  • WHO is doing the scanning?? How do they know what to scan, how to scan it, how to name the files, and where to file them? Often scanning can mean more problems than they are worth. You are better to have individual assistants do the scanning rather than having centralized scanning. You will know what you have where. Get smaller scanners for the desks, use the large central scanning for the big cases.
Where do all the documents go? Think of your server as a giant file cabinet. You store the matter files in the equivalent of a brown expandable file, and the different types of files in the equivalent of the manila file folder. Your individual documents are inside this file.

WorldDox - good for small- to mid-size firms

Sam Coppola
Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

A lot of his practice is in the film industry.

As younger people come in, the non-equity partners do want to do things the same way as others do.

Before - large firm use of paper:
  • 39,000 lbs of paper (19.5 tons or 200 tons CO2 gases) in Montreal office
  • recycled 162,250 lbs of paper in Montreal
  • 57,000,000 sheets of paper annually - half the average of use of paper by most law firms (average is 0.5 ton per lawyer or 5 tons of CO2 gases)
After - use of paper increased!

Stikeman Elliott recently announced themselves as carbon neutral. They achieved this by buying carbon credits. Coppola believes to truly be carbon neutral, we need to find ways of reducing what we use such as reusing paper.

Quebec law - paper is still required in An Act to Establish a Legal Framework for Information Technology - he can't serve someone electronically yet.

Adapting in a big firm
  • set a date - set aside all the old paper
  • get a tablet PC, write your notes into it - becomes a visual image of your notes - has more integrity
  • digital dictaphone
  • a second screen for his computer
  • client meetings: have the tablet PC, take the digital notes. If you have wifi, connect to your own network, automatically upload to the system - take only your computer, only use paper. That will also set an example for your client.
Paperless meeting room
  • e.g. Estonian ministers started meeting without paper in 2008
Document management systems
  • Document input
  • Document processing
  • Indexing & verification
  • Storage & management
Digital dictation
  • readily adapts to traditional lawyer workflow
  • transcription may not be necessary
Billing & Accounting
  • his accounting department still insists on printing a pre-bill and the actual bill to get his signature; he could sign electronically with his tablet
  • accounting assistant needs to be able to work on multiple documents at once, therefore need more than one screen - "multi-screens"
  • they are still sending paper reminders about bills - send by email instead. You will have to follow up with clients still.
Originals still count! Some types of documents should still be in paper
  • corporate formation documents, minutes of meetings
  • birth certificates
  • stocks, bonds
  • etc.
Signed documents
  • paper preferred, electronic secondary
  • CD or DVD format becomes easier
  • every time you create an electronic document, you have to ensure the integrity of the document - you could still be called to court about the process of transferring documents into digital format. You may need to answer to the process.
Not using paper document, "lose control of the paper"
  • you ideally want to be the one in control of the document and updating it - can be a big edge
  • if you do your document in Word, send it out in PDF so they have to come back to you to make changes so you can see what is being changed.
"Less we can!"


Natalie said...

Thanks for the update, really appreciated for those who missed it. I'm sorry I couldn't make it.

Karen Sawatzky said...

Thanks so much for opublishing this - it's very helpful.