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Computer Corner:
Baby Stepping Your Way Toward the Paperless Office
:

By Marjory Harris, Esq.


In this series, we explore organizational techniques, software and hardware that will help you clear the mess from your desk, be more productive, and cut office overhead.

This article presents a primer for setting up a paperless office.


> History of WC, Part 2
> Medical Liens
> The Doctor's Office: Acupuncture
> Ogilvie Update
> MSA Delay
> Computer Corner

If you missed previous Computer Corners:
A Case Management Adjunct
Analyze Evidence – and more – with TextMap
Be More Productive with Office OneNote
Create Your Own Medical Manager
File Utilities on Steroids
Getting on Top of To-Dos
How to Calculate Settlement Values & Organize Issues & Evidence
How to Store It, How to Find It
How to Work Faster, More Efficiently and with Lower Overhead
Saving Graces
 
If you are just out of law school, you grew up in the digital world and are not terrified by the words "paperless office." But if you have been in practice for some time and have lived in the world of files, books, and taking notes longhand on legal pads, "paperless office" may be scary indeed. You may also be scared about rising costs, lower fees, longer hours. In this article, we look at lowering overhead by taking some baby steps towards the "paperless office."
 
What is scarier? Rising costs, longer hours, lower fees, or having a paperless office?
 
Start with a motivating mantra

Sometimes it's the first step that's the hardest. I got through law school by endlessly repeating the Chinese proverb, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." I imagined myself taking step after step as I climbed the mountain of books I had to read and digest. I still find any big project is easier if I break it into little pieces, and just take that first step. Often, success with each small step spurs me on to do the entire thing.
 
The step-by-step philosophy is a powerful motivator
 
Shock yourself into it

Take an inventory of how much space in the paper-full office you presently have that you devote to managing papers. Include the file cabinets, equipment used to transmit data (printers, copiers, fax machines, scanners), the cost of supplies (paper, toner, electricity), the cost for rent, insurance, storage space, and the time spent by staff dealing with the paper. Include the hours you spend in the paper-full office managing documents.

Don’t forget the phone bills. In the digital age, reducing the phone bills coincides with reducing paper use and its attendant costs.

 
Prepare by calculating the cost of the paper-full office
 
One of the reasons often cited for going paperless is concerns about the environment, or the "green" argument. This may not impress you so much as the "green" argument about saving money.
 
Saving money is a powerful incentive
 
Prevent Disaster

One of the reasons to keep digital files rather than papers is to protect your data. Remember Katrina? It was reported that a third of the lawyers in Louisiana lost their files. Not afraid of flooding? Fires have wiped out entire law offices. You could be prevented from getting to your files by other catastrophes, such as earthquakes, crime scene investigation, pollution (look at Japan post 2011 earthquake/tsunami).

If you store your files online, they are protected by encryption and passwords, and are readily available from many locations. Even if you are traveling to a remote spot where there is no Internet connection, you could take the records with you on your laptop or smart phone.

I recommend Carbonite for backups. You can easily access your files from other locations using another computer or a free app on your smart phone. The service works seamlessly and is inexpensive. Try it for free.
 
Digital record keeping is insurance against loss
 
 
Get some necessary equipment

I assume you have a computer, the most important fixture in the paperless office. It should be fast and have large hard drives. It is beyond the scope of this article to give advice on what type, make, or model of computer to buy.

A fast scanner that can go through large stacks of paper without jamming is a wise investment. I have been buying scanners for over 20 years. Originally, I got a scanner to avoid having to do repetitive typing and to eliminate the need for a secretary. Back then, hard drives were very small and the paperless office was not really attainable.

The problems with the original scanners were bad software and jamming. Scanning could be slow and annoying. The same can happen now with cheap, multifunction machines. If scanning documents is tedious and time-consuming, your steps toward a paperless office may falter.

I prefer Fujitsu, because the scanners take up very little room on the desktop and are easy to use. The latest ones have special technology so that jamming is almost never a problem, and large numbers of pages can be scanned quickly.

Fujitsu scanners also come with valuable software, which helps make the process of scanning fairly painless. You can also scan directly into a file management program such as FileCenter by Lucion.

Currently I have a ScanSnap and a Fujitsu fi-6130 Sheet-Fed Scanner on shelves to the right of my keyboard and connected to a laptop to the left of the keyboard. I find scanning to the laptop leaves my main computer free to do other tasks at the same time. I scan into FileCenter, loaded on the laptop but showing the folders on the desktop computer. I connect my various computers on a software network and use Desktop Rover, so that one keyboard and mouse controls 3 computers (the third is for Dragon Naturally Speaking and travel).
 
Get the right stuff
 
Set Up a Digital Filing System & Backup Program

In previous articles I discussed how to store folders on a data drive. See How to Store It, How to Find It and Saving Graces. Then install Carbonite and, as additional protection, one of the Clickfree drives.
 
Organize your folders and backup automatically
 
 

Let others do your scanning

There are services that can do your scanning (see. E.g., Scanfiles, either to bring you up to date so that you can continue on your own, or on a regular basis. Another approach is to have as many items as possible come to your office already in digital format.

Digital fax: Fax is analog, a dated technology. Machines are bulky, use up a prodigious amount of toner and paper, require an expensive phone line, and staff time or your time to input numbers, supplies, check for faxes received, and weed out junk faxes. Later, the papers have to be filed, and perhaps copied and forwarded, then shredded.

Digital fax obviates this expenditure of time, money and office space. One of the most popular services is myfax.com, a low cost way to receive your faxes no matter where you are, either by email or visiting the website, and to send faxes via email or the website. The faxes come as pdf files and can be quickly stored, forwarded, inserted in to-do lists, all without paper, toner, an extra phone line, or staff time.


Receive letters, forms, reports, records and phone messages by email or online as pdf files

I encourage defendants to serve electronically by sending an email labeled “Request for Service by Fax or Email” and including copies of 8 CCR 10218, 8 CCR 10505, and 8 CCR 10507. The body of the email contains the following: “Please send all documents via fax or email and not by US Mail. I waive service by mail." See 8 CCR § 10218 (attached). Note that this does not affect your rights to 5 extra days for mailing, when applicable. See 8 CCR § 10507 (attached). §10505 (attached).”

This does not work with all defendants but still saves me a good deal of scanning.

Medical-legal evaluators have taken to faxing or emailing their reports, even without asking.

The EAMS system allows us to elect service by email. I get Notices of Application and hearing notices as soon as they are generated. If you are worried you may miss the message, just create a rule and/or alert. I can quickly send these notices to others by forwarding the email, which results in the attachment converting to the body of the message, where it is clearly visible and does not does not require opening attachments.

Subpoenaed records: I estimate at least half of my file cabinets were devoted to storing subpoenaed records. Now I order copies as CDs. When I order the records, I download them directly from the copy service’s website. If I need to send them to a client or a vocational expert, or to a doctor who is not electronically challenged, I upload to a HIPAA-compliant service, YouSendIt, and send an email advising that an email will be sent out from the service. I enclose the client password, marked in yellow, which I store on the client’s address form in my case management database. My email contains the following:


Electronic Service of Documents: Your case documents will be sent to you electronically by secure service. Please download and save the documents to your hard drive. You are responsible for keeping copies.

You will receive an email from YouSendIt [delivery@yousendit.com] (Please add this to your safe sender list) with a link to the file or files. I will separately send you your password (see below). YouSendIt is a HIPAA-compliant secure method of sending files to you that you can then download and save. For more information, see http://www.yousendit.com/solutions/secure-file-transfer

For how to use the features:
http://www.yousendit.com/support

Scanning and uploading of documents:
Please do not scan documents to tiff or jpeg format. You can upload them to my secure dropbox at https://dropbox.yousendit.com/MarjoryHarrisDropbox.

Please upload in the standard format of .pdf. You can print to .pdf using a free pdf printer such as Primo (http://www.primopdf.com/index.aspx). You can also send me documents by email or toll-free fax
(888-317-6581).

Your Password: "X”


Phone Messages in text, via email:
Consider using Ooma, a substitute for phone lines and monthly phone bills, and save a ton of money. One of the services available is transcription of phone messages that arrive by email along with the mp3 file. The small monthly fee saves me a lot of time and provides a permanent record of messages, which I save to the appropriate case folder. I read a lot faster than I can listen to the voice. The transcription is amazingly accurate, even for foreign accents. The label also contains the phone number, so if it is garbled in the message, I still have an accurate number to call.

Ooma also provides a log of all calls made or received, which is handy for those times people insist they called, left a message, and never got called back.

 
Take advantage of free scanning
 
 
Stop Lugging Files to the Board or Depos

You do not need to haul a heavy litigation bag or rolling case crammed with files to the Board, then scrounge through the documents, balancing files on your lap or the small amount of table space you may have. All you need is one small file, as I described in MSC Mess? Tame it with a low-tech paper organizer and a netbook or other small computer or smart phone, and a program that lets you see your files such as Carbonite, Dropbox or Logmein.

A small portable printer is a good idea too, so you can immediately draft or revise documents needed while at the Board (C&R, stips, order, 5-pager, informed consent). I like the Canon PIXMA iP100 Mobile Printer. In the alternative, a call to the office and a doc faxed to you or uploaded to a dropbox, or a program like Logmein pro can accomplish this task.
 
Go almost paperless to appearances
 
 
Get Files to Clients Quickly and Inexpensively

We are required to keep and store files for many years. We cannot get rid of them without concern for client confidentiality, so we need to shred or burn the documents in a protected setting. Even if we quickly deliver a file to a client when the case settles, it is not unusual to hear from the client years later, requesting copies. Storing, copying, shipping, and file destruction not only costs a bundle, it wastes time.

You can easily move files onto a CD and mail it inexpensively to the client, or upload to the secure dropbox you have set up.
 
Copy client files to a CD and give to client at end of case
 
 
Walking and Talking

Now you are almost there, but not quite. Are you still generating paper by taking notes on yellow pads, Post-its, scratchpads, or scraps of paper? Get in the habit of dictating into voice recognition software, either directly into your computer or your smart phone. Your notes will then be available when and where you need them. Visit
http://www.dragonmobileapps.com/applications.html and
http://www.nuance.com/dragon/index.htm.

Coming in Computer Corner: Using Your Smart Phone in the Paperless Office

 
Talk into text without paper
 
Marjory Harris began practicing law in 1974 as a defense attorney and later became an applicant's attorney and a certified specialist. She continues to represent injured workers at the San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and San Bernardino venues and mentors attorneys on big cases.

Reach Marjory at (888) 858-9882 or email to MHarrisLaw@verizon.net www.workerscompensationcalifornia.com

> Send in your tips for office organization or requests for solutions to office problems.