Paperless (Sort Of): My Two Drawer File Cabinet
When Gwynne first contacted me about posting at Small Firm Innovation, I had trouble thinking of how I was “innovative.” I don’t even own an iPhone! Frankly, at my age, I squarely straddle the fence between “traditional” law practice of the type that I performed (paper, secretary, and all) up until July 1, 2010 when I “went solo” and the pseudo-”paperless” practice management that I try to stick to now.
When I decided to take this leap (one that has been a great move for my sanity and family), I had to figure out the best systems to let me run my law practice with a staff of one (me). I rented an office at an office suites place (I simply would get nothing done working from home and admire those who can), plugged in a computer and scanner/fax/printer, hauled in the boxes from my old firm filled with books and files, and got to work. I quickly realized that paper could overwhelm me. I am in one office without a large file storage room and don’t have support staff to “file” papers or go back and forth to off site storage. Based upon many of these practical considerations, I vowed to keep my file cabinet size to two drawers.
Not exactly “paperless” but easily manageable. So far, so good.
Many of the innovations that I’ve added to my practice pretty well are moves to keep this goal in place, though they’ve had other benefits. The heavy use of a scanner for those papers that I do get (whether from Courts or from opposing counsel who don’t see the advantages of scanning and e-mail instead of snail mail), Adobe Acrobat X and Clio file storage make my practice both paperless and portable.
Life in the cloud lets me work from home (as I’ve had to several days recently due to Hurricane Irene-related home repairs), or a hotel room without hauling everything from my office to my house or being painfully out of touch. I can review documents from anywhere with my laptop or tablet, keep track of time, bill and generally run my office from anywhere with a Web connection. If I need a physical document for submission to a Court or to send to counsel from whom I can’t get agreement to exchange pleadings by e-mail (Virginia still requires written agreement before e-mail is an acceptable form of service), the PDF is there for the printing.
Paperless for me means simplicity and lack of clutter as much as environmental friendliness. As one old enough to be comfortable in the world of paper and stamps and the world of e-mail and “the cloud,” all of the other benefits of a virtually paperless law office are great but secondary for me. The automation inherent to being paperless keeps my administrative angst and overhead to a minimum so that I can concentrate on client service.
In short, a paperless law practice simplifies my life, allows me to stay a one person shop, and makes my construction law practice flexible, lower stress, and more enjoyable than it could be if I were buried in paper.
Am I totally paperless? No. However, given my paper intensive clientele (construction companies) and profession (law), I think that I’ve done pretty well with my two drawer file cabinet.