Featured in the September Issue Volume 25 | Number 32wislawjournal

Paperless tips from the pros...

The most significant barrier to creating a paperless environment might be you.
Not everyone is a candidate for going paperless, said Sarit Singhal, president of Superior Support Resources Inc. in Brookfield, because ditching old ways requires commitment.

Those interested in switching must have the discipline, he said, to scan every piece of paper that comes in and store it according to a departmentwide document management system. If you won’t do that when the workloads get high, don’t bother, he said.

But for those who switch, front-end costs can be recouped relatively quickly, Singhal said. He recently worked with an accounting firm that was spending as much as $30,000 annually to store files. After comparing costs, the firm realized they’d recoup the expense of going paperless in less than two years, Singhal said.

Most law firms and legal departments in Wisconsin aren’t ready, said Shawn Olley, president of Midwest Legal and eData Services Inc., Oak Creek. But many are starting down that path.

“Paperless is the way to go,” she said. “And those who have done it, even partially, love it. No one’s ever gone back to the old system — and they’re amazed at the time they can save not looking for something.”

Thinking of making the switch? Here are some things to consider:

What you’ll need

For hardware, you need scanners, either desktop or network, and some copiers can scan as well. You also need a software package with optical character recognition, which converts document images into an editable format and indexes folders and documents. If collaboration is important, you’ll need software with that capability.

In addition, you’ll need server space or some other solution for storing the data. Online storage is an emerging solution, Singhal said, but security is a critical concern, and consumers should do some due diligence to ensure their provider has taken steps to ensure the data is secure. Dropbox, for example, is a popular option, but recently it was hacked.

What it costs

At the most basic level — a one-attorney legal department with no staff — the hardware and software costs less than $500, Singhal said. The larger the department, the more variables are presented, though, such as leasing copiers versus buying scanners.

Key factors affecting cost include the volume of documents that will be scanned and the expertise of the people scanning them, Olley said.

But probably the most important decision with regard to cost, she said, is whether to convert old documents to digital. Archiving old files can ratchet up the costs, she said.

Olley estimates it typically costs about $300 for her firm to sort through a client’s box of materials, scan what’s important and shred the rest.

Who should be involved

That depends on the size of the legal department and the company, Singhal and Olley agreed. Both said they often worked with teams consisting of lawyers, information technology and risk managers, with one person designated as the leader who would see the project through.

How long it takes

This can vary, Olley said, depending on the size of the department, how long it and the company have existed and how organized their offsite documents are.

If going paperless from the present day forward, only, the switch can be made quickly, she said. Singhal said he has seen departments make the switch in two months and up to two years for more complex systems.