Is Your Law Office Paperless? (Poll)

Thanks for checking in on our ongoing Lawyerist poll series.

We use these weekly polls to get your feedback on both the posts we write and how we manage the site. Your participation helps us improve our work and make it more valuable to you.

We write a lot about the paperless law office. We really think it is one of the single most effective ways for lawyers to improve their productivity. There are some hurdles to going paperless, including the need to buy a scanner (our recommendation is the ScanSnap s1500), but most of the transition is a psychological change in how you think about documents.

Wherever you are in the process of thinking about being paperless (even if you think it sounds like a stupid idea), we want to hear from you.

Please take a minute to let us know in the survey below.



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  • Charles Jannace

    The greatest obstacle to going paperless is the Clerk’s offices. As long as we still have to file hard copies it is not practical to go to entirely paperless. The next greatest obstacle is older attorneys who resist receiving documents by email. The greatest goals that we have met are reducing paper to clients who have email accounts and within the office with less photocopying and less drafts from the printer.

    • I see why paper court filings are an obstacle to complete paperlessness, but complete paperlessness is a myth. We’ll always have some paper.

      The fact that you may need paper for some things (paper filings, copies to offline clients, etc.) is no obstacle to making your firm paperless.

  • Paul Gaylord

    Concur with obstacles above but I’d like to add one — maintaining a paperless office can be time consuming — 4-10 billable hours lost per week depending upon case load. This obstacle is often overlooked when discussing the paperless office because it rear’s its ugly head half-way through the paperless transition and in my experience is the number one reason most transitions fail. Therefore, when creating our solution we focused on this issue, ease of use, affordability, relevance and security.

    • If maintaining a paperless office is time-consuming, you are doing it wrong. Time savings was one of the main reasons I went paperless, and it is the main reason I could never go back to maintaining paper files.

      Now, if you are duplicating your files—that is, scanning and then filing the paper—I can see where the extra time goes. But like I said, if you are maintaining both paper and digital files, you are doing it wrong.

    • Charles Jannace

      Mr. Gaylord is correct simply because paper comes in the office (my office is primarily litigation) from various sources (adverse counsel, the Clerk’s Office, clients e.g. document production) and there is no alternative. It is time consuming to scan this paper (although we do it) and foolhardy to shred it although client originals are promptly returned. I find that time and paper is eventually saved (especially in discovery) when sending out e-copies to adverse counsel.

      • Why foolhardy to shred it? My malpractice insurer recommends shredding—so long as you use good backup systems.

        I think it is foolhardy to file any paper you aren’t required to or likely to use again. We return originals to the client, and keep only a few things that we have to. Most of our paper client files are just a few pages.

      • In assessing the cost in time of running a paperless office, I think you have to exclude documents that would have to be copied and sent to clients. Those documents, of course, come with additional savings because they can be emailed to clients.

        For documents received from clients or for discovery that will not be copied for the client (medical records, reams of corporate documents, personnel files), there is certainly an upfront cost to scanning everything. Some of that cost is immediately offset by the savings in not creating file folders for documents, not tabbing them with scrawled post-its, etc. But after the initial scanning, you have to offset the time saved by not having to get up from your desk and go to a file room to find a document, the ability to bates stamp the documents with a few key strokes, the speed of reproducing the documents on disk for production to an opposing party, and the ease of producing the file to the client if he or she asks for it. And of course there is the savings in storage space from discarding all that paper once the file is closed. A paperless office is a global or long-term law office strategy.

        • Paul Gaylord

          I am a staunch advocate of the paperless office and I believe we all concur – going paperless takes time (upfront) but that time is regained two-fold further into the process with doc retrieval, sharing and storage. I’ve seen sole practitioners begin this process, get discouraged and quit well before they reap the rewards. Why? Because it took more work/time than expected.

          My point in the above post — if it’s causing failure then it’s an obstacle – one I rarely hear mentioned but one that deserves to be in the discussion with others. To ignore, is a disservice to the busy solo that’s not tech savvy but has the vision of becoming paperless/efficient without a realistic idea of what they will encounter.

  • I recently ran into an obstacle that I had not considered previously, which is taking over a case that was started by a different attorney who does not run a paperless office. I actually took over two cases for the same client, both of which are litigation, and they each came with two folders full of documents up front.

    As a solo with other work to complete, I do think that it is time prohibitive for me to scan all these documents right away, although I could see spreading that work out over a period of time.

    Nonetheless, being paperless has been highly beneficial for me, and I can tell that the paper with which I DO have to deal causes huge organization headaches, given that it is strewn about in uncompleted piles all over my desk.

  • Michael Kraft

    I wanted to post on an earlier article where you mention downloading bank statements and the like rather than receiving them electronically. Unfortunately, the obstacles created by the financial services industry in keeping up with GLBA and other privacy laws makes it harder than just receiving the paper and scanning it. My bank, for instance, provides a link. I then have to log in (a two-step process), go to the page with the statements and then download it. If the paper statement arrived, I’d just scan it and save it. Much less time consuming.

  • As a litigator, it is tough to be even close to paperless, especially when trying cases. However, getting all medical records on disc and only printing out the relevant documents saves me an absolute ton of time and paper.