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.
In part 2, I will show you how to get started using the key features of HelloFax and HelloSign.