http://flic.kr/p/5vJogu

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.