5 Reasons I’m Glad I Went Paperless


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I made my firm paperless almost 5 years ago. Back then, I was working out of a spare bedroom, and I got a ScanSnap s1500 partly because the advantages of being paperless were obvious to me even then, and partly because I needed to stop the accumulation of bankers boxes in the closet.

Here’s why I’m glad I did:

1. I Hate Filing

How much time—and money—does your firm spend looking for files, taking documents out of files, putting documents back in files, copying documents, etc.? There is a good chance you employ someone whose primary responsibility is looking after your files.

Screw that.

I file things only once: the first time I get them. I run it through my ScanSnap s1500, save it, and shred it (or save it, if it is an original or I just want to have a hard copy for some reason). The next time I want it, I just pull it up on my screen. If I need to make a copy, I just print one.

2. I Don’t Like Carrying A Lot of Stuff

Most lawyers regularly go home with a stack of files. That’s a lot of lifting and carrying for a desk job. If you handle even moderately-complex matters, bringing the file home may require a hand cart or a couple of junior associates.

Not me. I don’t even carry a briefcase most days. My files are digital, and I sync them up in the cloud so I can access them from any computer—my laptop at home, or even my smartphone.

This goes for court, depositions, and other meetings, too. All I need to bring is a laptop, phone, or iPad, and I can get to my entire firm filing cabinet.

3. I Save Time by Searching

When cross-examining a witness, paperless files are a huge advantage, since you can search all your files—including their contents, if you use OCR—with just a few keystrokes. For example, when a witness says something that sounds wrong, you can find impeachment evidence by punching a few keywords into your desktop search. You may even find evidence from another case or from a news story you once saved.

Imagine trying that with a pile of paper and a law clerk. You might find what you need, but you may have to run back to the office to dig it out of your archives, and bring it back the next day.

4. I Like to Share

With digital files, sharing with co-workers, clients, and even opposing counsel is easy. Tools like Dropbox and SugarSync are like cheap, high-powered file servers. I share my clients files with Randall, my home finances with my wife, and my reference folder with several lawyers in my practice area.

5. I Have Catastrophe Paranoia

Disaster scenarios constantly run through my head. I imagine things like my office burning down, my laptop being stolen, or an identity thief making off with my client files. That is why my digital files are backed up with multiple redundancies, and everything that leaves the office is encrypted. (It’s easy to do. I set it up once, and now I never think about backup except when I need to restore a file I accidentally overwrote.)

Right now, it would take multiple catastrophes in several parts of the country to take out my business files. Possible (knock on wood), but unlikely.


The only hard part about going paperless is making the decision to do it. The rest is easy. You just need to buy the ScanSnap s1500 and start scanning everything.

If you do it, you won’t regret it.


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  • Classic post. First step is paperless…next step is to the cloud! Way to be technology forward.

  • Sam: Great review on the benefits of going paperless. I hadn’t thought about the advantages of being able to search and find documents far quicker than you can using paper files, even though I have found in my practice when I scan a document it’s far quicker in the future for me to find it. However, in my case I usually only have a few scanned documents per file rather than the ENTIRE file. I was wondering if you could do a video to demonstrate the quickness of this feature? I’m pretty sure you’re a Mac guy and not a Windows guy, but you could use CamStudio to record your screen in a video if you have a PC handy. I’m not sure if they have a Mac version.


    John Corcoran
    Attorney, Plastiras & Terrizzi
    Publisher, California Law Report

  • M Farley

    I’m with you on all of this, and I’m scanning everything that comes in to my office, but I run into difficulty determining what to keep (in the hard file) and what to shred. I have a general practice which includes litigation, and while it really feels good to put all that junk in the shredder, I always find myself keeping some stuff because I might need a document in court.
    I’d be interested in hearing about any decision making processes that others follow on this question.

  • I keep all the paper I receive while the case is open because if I need to make multiple copies of the same document later, I don’t want to waste the time and paper of printing a new copy to take over to the copier to make additional copies. I don’t toss the paper until I close the file. For me, paperless is about having everything accessible electronically with minimal paper storage, but not no paper at all.

  • I guess that also depends on what kind of printer you have. It shouldn’t cost anything more to print a copy than to run one off on the copier, and if you’ve got a decent printer, it doesn’t take any longer, either.

    I do keep some paper. First, I keep original pleadings and other documents I may need to file with the court. I also keep lengthy exhibits that I may need to use again, so that I don’t have to waste paper and money re-printing them.

  • Have you ever considered using Earth Class Mail to manage your mail? In addition to scanning your mail, our on line mail management application allows you to store, ship or recycle your mail. We can even deposit your checks. Earth Class Mail allows you to manage your mail without ever handling the paper. With a street address you can have us sign for and receive accountable mail and parcels for you, without the worry of having it left in your lobby. You can transfer mail to your colleagues with the click of a mouse. There are so many ways to work more efficiently using ECM. Please visit us at our website http://www.earthclassmail.com to learn more.

  • Changing your mailing address is a royal pain, and attorneys need to receive originals of many things. I can’t imagine constantly trying to get opposing counsel to use one address instead of the other all the time.

  • Betty Rich

    We bought the ScanSnap S1500M a little over a year ago and it is fantastic – worth every dollar. As we are in the process of moving our office/ I am in charge of scanning everything and can do it around other work. Don’t waste time on other products – just get the ScanSnap – it is a powerhouse.

    Has great features like making a searchable document, scanning to email, folder, simplex, duplex and it is very fast overall. A great product (and no – I don’t get a kickback from writing this!)