In many law practices, paper usage is still extremely high.
Although many in the profession are keen to make the switch, a lot of these firms are bound by traditions that still insist on paper agreements, like contracts and non-disclosure agreements. Naturally, there will be some legal processes where using paper is unavoidable, like when a physical signature is still required.
But for the most part, law firms have a lot to gain by reducing paper consumption.
Some of the savviest law firms are already taking note—adopting a digital-first approach that puts technology at the forefront—to save money, reduce waste, and make life easier both in-house and for clients.
Let’s look at why you should make the switch to a digital law office, how you can ditch paper at your firm, and explore some of the benefits of electronic signatures for attorneys.
Why make the switch to a digital law office?
There’s a whole host of advantages modern law firms can gain by cutting down paper and going digital. Here are a few of the most impactful.
Reduce costs and save paper
Printing, sending, and storing paper files is costly. Between toner and paper costs, mail fees, and storage, sending and receiving countless paper contracts quickly gets expensive. By going digital, you’ll reduce paper, toner, mail, and storage costs.
Streamline document creation
Document creation is an essential process at any law firm. But drafting each one from scratch takes time. By going digital, you can streamline the creation of your frequently used documents with reusable templates. Templates mean you can automate your work and save the formatting of your legal documents like NDAs, NCAs, and Purchase Agreements—and reuse them. This saves time and eliminates the headache of drafting everything manually.
Make document retrieval a breeze
Sometimes searching for the right document amongst a sea of paper can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. And every hour your attorneys spend chasing down documents is another potential billable hour wasted. With a good file management system in place, you can retrieve your digital documents in seconds—so no more late-night rendezvous with the filing cabinet.
Cut down on storage space
Physically storing all your files, documents, and contracts can take up a lot of space. Not only does keeping them on-site cost a pretty penny, it also opens you up to security risks. But if you store documents digitally, it costs less, and frees up a lot of extra room around the office. Plus, because everything’s digital, the threat of physical security breaches is greatly reduced.
Easier collaboration across teams
Physical files can only be shared in person or through the mail. Digital files, however, can be shared anywhere, anytime. Plus, if you’re using a digital storage tool, you can create “need to know” permissions for sensitive information so only the right people can access it. This makes collaboration between teams and clients much faster and easier. Plus, it eliminates version confusion, as multiple people can collaborate on the same file in real-time.
More secure documents with more oversight and access control
The threat of data breaches often puts law firms off going digital. However, the reality is that going digital actually reduces the number of risks law firms face. Digital documentation not only eliminates the threat of physical document breaches and theft, but the majority of digital document tools today are backed by enterprise-level security.
When looking at digital tools it’s all about understanding both the preemptive and reactive steps any digital tool takes. You want to ensure any software you’re working with offers strong encryption, admin controls to assign permissions. Additionally, many of the more secure tools, like HelloSign, offer tamper-proof audit trails, which means there’s court-admissible evidence that a document has been compromised—something paper-based systems can’t offer.
Faster contract signing
Collecting signatures the old-fashioned way leaves you at the mercy of the mail service. But by using an eSignature solution, you can speed up signing substantially. With eSignatures, your clients can sign tax forms like form 8821 and power of attorney forms like form 2848 in seconds from wherever they are. As documents can be sent instantly, there’s no waiting around, so your cases can move along much faster.
And because eSignature laws differ from country to country, we’ve created a legality guide that helps you check the legal status of eSignature solutions in whichever country you’re working with.
How to manage the transition to a digital-first law firm
1. Assess your firm’s needs and start planning
Making the leap to a paperless, digital law firm is a considerable undertaking, so it’s best to take it slow and start planning. First, decide on the areas where you want to reduce your paper usage and set some realistic goals. This could be anything from cutting back your monthly spending or digitizing a certain number of documents.
Now, look at ways you can achieve these goals. For example, if your office still uses paper memos—consider shifting internal communications to a tool like Slack. Likewise, try and avoid printing off and mailing out any new documents and instead look at using eSignatures to get them signed off. Start slow, and as you work towards your goals, you’ll quickly discover lots of ways you can replace paper with digital processes.
2. Implement a document management system
One of the most important decisions you’ll make as you transition to a modern law firm is where to store your data. There’s a boat-load of cloud storage options out there like Dropbox and Google Drive, as well as legal-specific document management systems, so do your research and find the one that suits you.
3. Digitize your existing processes
Now it’s time to replace your outdated physical processes and go digital. Scan your existing files and store them online, create all new documents digitally, and use eSignatures to get them signed without needing to print them off.
Once you’ve got all your older processes up to date, you can apply your new practices to all new workflows. Then, you’ll be well on your way to a digital-first law firm.
Ditch your reliance on paper
By cutting back your paper usage, you’ll be well on your way to cost savings, more efficient workflows, and much more. Remember: don’t try to do everything at once. Start slow, and before you know it, you’ll have a modern law firm that’s reduced its paper processes for good.