Stop Making Excuses for Not Going Paperless

According to the National Center for State Courts, the Washington Supreme Court began to accept electronic filings in 1997—19 years ago. Now, every state court system has either implemented electronic filing or is in the process.

In 2001—15 years ago—bankruptcy courts began rolling out CM/ECF, the federal court systems’s paperless case management system. By 2004, all federal district and appellate courts were using CM/ECF.

I went paperless sometime around March 2005—nearly 12 years ago—on the advice of my malpractice insurance provider, Minnesota Lawyers Mutual. MLM had already gone paperless itself, and recommended going paperless to its members as a best practice. And of course over the years I have encountered many other paperless law firms.

In sum, some courts have been paperless for nearly two decades and the rest are in the process. Malpractice insurers are paperless and recommend it. Many law firms have gone paperless in the last decade or so.

And yet … I regularly find myself arguing with lawyers about whether it is even possible to go paperless. Courts may be notoriously slow to change, but they have managed it. Malpractice insurers are quintessentially risk-adverse, but they have managed it. Numerous law firms have managed it.

So if you find yourself questioning whether it’s possible to go paperless, or whether it’s a good idea to go paperless, well …

It is.

The end.


  1. Avatar Guest Johnson says:

    What are the benefits of going paperless, absent saving some trees?

  2. Avatar Paul Spitz says:

    I think the people who resist fall into two categories. The first category is composed of lawyers and firms that have a substantial amount of paper files – tons, maybe – and don’t want to go to the effort of converting those files to a digital system. The second category (and there may be overlap) is composed of people who confuse “paperless” with “not using paper.” You can certainly use paper notes, or draft documents using paper, if that makes your life easier. Just scan all those notes, correspondences, drafts, etc. into digital files when you are done with them, and shred the originals.

    The savings can be enormous. You don’t need to pay for offsite storage for old files. You can drastically minimize your onsite file storage as well, which will cut your occupancy costs. This isn’t just about saving trees.

  3. Avatar Amanda Gordon says:

    At some point, I hope it becomes easier for lawyers to admit that if one is a messy person, having electronic files reduces the likelihood (1) files are lost forever, and (2) you spill your coffee on the only copy of the document. I’m paperless and spend way too much emotional energy dealing with lawyers who refuse electronic service and/or refuse to send me word versions of settlement agreements that we are negotiating. If spell check did not exist I would not have graduated from college, so the idea that I have to make hand written redlines on a settlement agreement/prenup drives me insane. No one can read my handwriting anyways…. (excuse the soapbox). Paperless is the best.

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