After getting a scanner and scanning everything in your office, you’ll want to get rid of paper faxing. Even if you use email for everything you can, that doesn’t get rid of all incoming faxes, or the need to fax yourself, from time to time. (Most likely culprit: documents that need to be signed by people who don’t or can’t get email.)
The solution is to set up an electronic fax system. How you do that depends on your office setup and your workflow.
Our office is a mid-size firm (two offices with a total of three attorneys and four support staff) and our solution was a fax server, which our favorite local tech guy installed. Using this server, anyone in the office can send faxes from their desktop, and incoming faxes are sent directly to our email, rather than being printed. The fax server allows us to choose who gets the faxes so we have all the attorneys and paralegals receive. The attorneys can review everything, the paralegals save the faxes in the correct client file, and if its not their file the paralegal just deletes the email. (The time spent to quickly realize its not your file and delete the fax seems a small price to pay.)
It works great, but there are a few drawbacks:
This system is costly, and probably too technical to install yourself, so it may not work for a new or sole practitioner.
I can only send a fax if I am on the office’s network, meaning I either need to be in the office or connected to the office network remotely in order to send a fax.
The fax server still does not alleviate the issue of how to sign a document.
There are programs you can use to sign a PDF or other document, but I deal with many people/facilities who cannot receive documents by email (medical facilities are one of the biggest culprits and only some insurance companies are starting to accept email) so if I sign a PDF electronically I still have to get it to the fax server to fax it electronically. In my experience this takes just as long as printing it, signing, and then physically faxing. Thankfully, I have found a better option.
HelloFax and HelloSign
Another electronic faxing option is one of the many online programs which provide electronic fax sending and receiving. I began using HelloFax and its sister site, HelloSign, a few months ago as a test. Even with our fax server, I still use them. HelloSign lets you sign documents (or request a signature), and HelloFax lets you fax the signed documents, all without printing anything.
HelloFax allows you to receive incoming faxes via email. There is an option to use a provided fax number (perfect for a new start up as you don’t need to buy another line for the fax) or you can use your current fax number by porting it, which HelloFax will set up for you. With either option, there is a charge of at least $9.99 per month, but this is still much cheaper than paper, a fax line, and a fax machine. (There is also a free version of HelloFax, but it does not allow fax receiving and limits the number of pages you can fax out.)
Another perk of HelloSign is the ability to request signatures from others (whether or not they have an account). You can mark the signature block and have HelloSign email it to the recipient, who can either sign with their finger on a tablet, upload a signature, or use a provided font to sign. This has proven invaluable when I need a document signed quickly by a client without a fax machine or service.
Other features which I appreciate in HelloFax and HelloSign are the ability to create reusable documents (for my retainer agreement, for example, or for frequently-used forms that I send to clients), and the ability to add users to your account for either sending or receiving faxes.
HelloFax does not have an app for iPad, but there is a HelloSign app. Originally the lack of a HelloFax app was a problem, because HelloSign only allows sending of documents by email. However, I learned that you can fax documents via HelloFax by using directing the email to [faxnumber]@hellofax.com.
I cannot over-emphasize the importance of a good electronic fax and signature system in part of your paperless office. HelloFax has enabled me to spend less time dealing with sending out my signed documents, and has even helped me turn around client documents (including retainers) faster than I could with fax or mail.
Before we begin: HelloSign v. HelloFax
The biggest difference between HelloSign and HelloFax is that HelloSign will allow you to send a document for someone else to sign. The signer will receive an email, and they will be prompted to complete whatever sections you indicated. This I not an option in HelloFax.
Also, HelloSign will only let you email documents, but HelloFax will let you use fax or email. (As I said in my last post though, you can work around this and fax from HelloSign by emailing to [faxnumber]@hellofax.com.)
Since HelloSign and HelloFax are linked, setting up an account with either one grants you access to both services, and you can switch back and forth from within either app. Documents from both services are also tracked in in one place. Therefore, when I am talking about one program, realize that most of what I say will apply to both.
Create an account
To start using these programs go to www.HelloFax.com and set up an account. (If you have a Google account, you can use it to sign in.)
Create your signature
You can create signature(s) in several ways:
Upload your signature from your computer
Type your signature and select a font (I use this option for my initials)
Draw your signature with a mouse or by drawing on a tablet
You can also create multiple signatures. I have one with my initials, one of my uploaded signature, and one for another attorney in my office.
Once you create your signature(s), they will be stored in your account for use anywhere you are using HelloSign or HelloFax.
Sign and Send a Document
1. Add your file
You can upload a file from your computer or import from Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, Evernote, or Skydrive.
2. Edit the document by clicking “Edit & Sign”
You have the option of entering in text, the date signed, and any of your signatures.
Drag and resize your text and signature so it fits properly.
You can also create a new signature now if you did not already.
3. Enter recipient’s fax or email address
With the free version you can only send to one recipient at a time, but with the paid accounts you can add multiple recipients.
4. Create a cover page (optional) by selecting “+Custom message” under the recipient’s information.
5. Send by hitting “Send it now”
You must have a paid account to receive faxes through HelloFax.
Click Receive Faxes on the left in HelloFax.
View the fax plans and select one that is right for you (there is a 30-day free trial so you can make sure you like it).
HelloFax will assign a fax number to you based on your location and area code.
After you set up your account, you can view your new incoming fax number in Settings. The fax number is under Fax Lines.
Now you can give out your fax number and incoming faxes will be sent directly to your email.
If you have your own fax number you can request “porting” (basically forwarding of the fax number to HelloFax) by filling out a form here. HelloFax will walk you through the rest of the process.
Requesting a Signature
1. Make sure you are in HelloSign (you cannot request a signature from within HelloFax).
2. Select Request a Signature on the right
3. Add your file
Just as with signing a document, you can upload the file from your computer or import from Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, Evernote, or Skydrive.
4. Enter the recipient’s information — name and email address
5. Edit the Document by clicking Prepare docs for signing
You can have the recipient enter text, the date signed, or a signature.
Choose what you want the recipient to fill in and drag and resize if needed.
Enter as many boxes to complete as necessary.
Save the document when done.
6. Customize the message to your recipient with a title and a brief message.
The recipient will receive information in the email walking them through how to sign and complete the document but I normally explain in the message that they can create a signature by typing with a font or signing with a mouse or on a tablet.
7. Send by hitting Request signature
8. You will receive an email when the recipient opens the document and when they sign it.
Accessing documents you have sent
You can access all of the documents you have sent by going to Documents on the right. The signed versions (whether ones you signed or ones you sent for signature) are accessible here for later reference.
There are many other options in the HelloFax and HelloSign programs, some of which may be helpful depending on your situation:
Assign a team to receive and send documents by going to Team on the right.
Create multiple fax numbers to receive faxes from (and you can customize who on your team receives which fax numbers) by going to Settings and Add a Fax Line. There is an additional charge for multiple fax lines
Gmail integration — install the app and a Sign button automatically appears next to attachments in your Gmail that will take you directly to HelloSign.
Import contacts by going to Settings and Address Book
Create reusable documents that you send for signatures often by selecting Reusable Documents in HelloSign. You can select the information that should be completed and save it to send in the future. (Great for retainer contracts or intake worksheets where the information requested is always the same).