Law offices everywhere generate a huge amount of paper. As professionals in office spaces look to find greener, more environmentally friendly methods of operating, it should come as no surprise that many lawyers have begun creating paperless law offices. Even if you have decided to go paperless, however, it can be difficult to determine exactly where to begin with legal record storage.
The process by which your firm goes paperless will greatly depend on how your firm operates. There is no universal solution to becoming paperless, but there are some suggestions and best practices that are helpful in most situations.
Set Realistic Goals
Before taking steps to create a paperless office, it is a wise idea to create a specific goal about how you will achieve this objective. Many law offices first transition to using less and less paper over time before becoming entirely paperless.
Decide Where to Store Information
One of the most important issues to consider when digitizing a law firm’s documents is where to store your data. Many law firms choose to store their digital files in the cloud.
Take Steps to Protect Your Firm’s Files
No matter how you decide to store you firm’s files, data security should always be a major priority. Law offices have an ethical duty to keep their employees’ and clients’ information secure. Many firms decide to keep at least three copies of their digital data in at least two different locations. They also often choose to have their data encrypted to prevent data breaches.
Design a Paperless Flow
After deciding where data will be stored, it is important to create a workflow for handling digital data. It is particularly important to determine how handwritten documents should be handled. Many companies discover that paper documents must be scanned and filed in the appropriate place in a law firm’s file management system.
Create an Organizational System
It is important to create an organizational system for maintaining digital documents. Otherwise, law offices can quickly find themselves overwhelmed with a large number of digital documents. Every person who works at the law office should be familiar with the organizational system and follow it.
If you fail to create an organizational system, it is likely that you will be left unable to manage your documents. Whatever type of organizational system you implement, it is a wise idea to utilize a descriptive naming pattern for files as well as to listen to employees regarding revisions that should be made.
Remember Retention Laws
While law offices that decide to go paperless are often in a hurry to reduce the amount of papers left lying around, it is still important to remain mindful of regulations. For law firms located in Texas, according to the Texas Center for Legal Ethics Opinion 627, lawyers are able to dispose of client files only after the adequate passage of time. This opinion, however, does not state how long the period should be, although it uses a five-year retention period as a basis.
The length of time that paper documents are kept is also influenced by the type of cases that a law firm handles. For example, the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure state that a firm must retain trust paperwork for a period of five years and cannot destroy certain types of agreements or discovery materials. Given these factors, law firms are advised to think twice about immediately destroying documents associated with a case. Offsite file storage is a good solution for firms who wish to decrease office paper volume yet still maintain access to records.
Speak with an Archival Expert Today
There are a number of advantages to becoming a paperless law office. If you have questions or concerns about this process or about offsite file storage, speak to the records management professionals at Armstrong Archives today.
Posted By: Sherri Taylor – President/Managing Partner
Sherri Taylor is the Managing Partner and President of Armstrong Archives, one of the largest independent records and information management companies in the Dallas/Ft Worth area.